Current Risk/Action Level 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the University of Mary has taken proactive steps to ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff. Throughout the many changes to campus and our locations, a highly-qualified Emergency Response Team prepared our campus for the return of students, faculty, and staff by creating a detailed re-opening plan for safety, security, and preparedness.

As more details become available, this webpage will remain up-to-date with campus information and communication regarding COVID-19.

Campus Updates

The following information has been communicated to the University of Mary campus community.

Dear Members of the University of Mary Community:

As we are now a couple of weeks into the new semester, many of us are finally getting settled into campus and our schedules. It is truly a joy for me to walk across campus and see so many of you on campus experiencing what we strive for: an education for the whole of life. I pray your fall semester is off to a wonderful start.

Onto the main reason for my message:

As we expected, with everyone coming back onto campus, there has been a noticeable uptick in cases of COVID-19, with a number of our students currently in isolation. We have been watching our numbers very closely, especially during this time of increased infection rates in our wider community. I am thankful to be able to report that our rate of main campus community members testing positive for COVID is still below 1%. At this moment, our reports are showing 16 students in isolation on campus and 4 students isolating at home.  (The University is not tracking the numbers of unvaccinated students who are needing to quarantine as close contacts.) Rest assured, we are attending to everything carefully and with you in mind.

A reminder: residential or commuter students who test positive for COVID-19 are to notify [email protected]immediately. The University will make arrangements for you to be able to isolate on campus or provide guidance for isolating at home. Other questions or concerns can be directed to [email protected].

Some good news:  as public health guidelines have been changing, it has become clearer that surface-to-surface transmission of the virus is unlikely, even with the delta variant. For this reason, and because there has thus far not been any outbreak on campus traced to the Crow’s Nest Campus Restaurant during the pandemic, self-service dining is being reinstated at the Crow’s Nest on the morning of Saturday, September 18th. We will continue to provide extra sanitation to all surfaces in the Nest, according to our COVID protocols. It will be exciting again – after 18 months – to be able to enjoy the Crow’s Nest in its fullness, as it was designed. I think the sophomores and freshmen will be pleasantly surprised!

As we continue to move into the semester, all members of our community play an important role in mitigating the effects of COVID-19, and I encourage you to make safe decisions and attend to the safety of others. As such, there are many things you can do to help curb COVID-19 at UMary.

  • Self-monitor: For a fully-vaccinated person who is a close contact, it is recommended that he or she self-monitor for 14 days and take reasonable precautions to prevent possible but unlikely transmission of the virus, but he or she will not be required to quarantine. A non-vaccinated person is to quarantine for 10 days as a close contact, with an option to test out at 7 days if symptom-free.
  • Vaccination Availability: The CHI St. Alexius Health Clinic in the Lumen Vitae University Center will make COVID-19 vaccines available for those not yet vaccinated, as was the case throughout the spring semester. The North Dakota Department of Health also offers free vaccination clinics across Bismarck-Mandan and the state. To find a vaccination clinic, click here.
  • Respect for Persons: This Benedictine value is of particular importance for our life here at the University of Mary. I ask that we all be extra vigilant in practicing this Benedictine value, especially around the issue of masking. There are numerous reasons someone may wear a mask or need to take extra precautions, including personal health reasons, and so when you are asked to wear a mask in class or another setting, please graciously follow the direction given.

I look forward to a wonderful year, and my daily prayer is that each of you makes prudent decisions, stay healthy, and grow in wisdom. Let us continue to pray for each other, for the sick, and our many heroes in healthcare.

God bless you,

Jerome J. Richter
Executive Vice President

Dear University of Mary Students, Faculty, and Staff:

Many members of the University of Mary community have inquired about COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-22 academic year. In general, all members of our community are asked to continue to follow the principles and policies outlined in the Returning to Campus General Guidelines, Protocols, and Monitoring System, but the following points are intended to answer some of the major questions you may have about our protocols as we look toward the coming year. These points will serve as an addendum and complement to the Returning to Campus document, but we’ll ask that you continue to monitor our Risk/Action Level and follow the guidelines outlined accordingly.

You’ll continue to find the Returning to Campus document, as well as our current Risk/Action Level, at

  1. Positive COVID cases will be treated similarly to other serious, communicable diseases. The positive case must isolate for the appropriate time of 10 days since the onset of symptoms.
    • For a fully-vaccinated person who is a close contact, it is recommended that he or she self-monitor for 14 days, but he or she will not be required to quarantine. A non-vaccinated person is to quarantine for 10 days as a close contact, with an option to test out at 7 days if symptom-free.
  2. The usage of masks and other PPE is subject to the Risk/Action Level of the University of Mary.  At this time, masks are optional for students, faculty, and staff, except in medical or high-risk settings, or  in connection with programs that may be subject to external requirements (e.g., NCAA, etc.)
  3. Testing will continue to be available at the CHI St. Alexius Health Clinic on the University of Mary’s main campus, as well as numerous free options in the Bismarck-Mandan area.
  4. As in the spring semester, the CHI St. Alexius Health Clinic on the University of Mary’s campus is making COVID-19 vaccines widely available for those not yet vaccinated. We do not anticipate requiring proof of vaccination at this time; however, certain programs may be subject to external requirements. We encourage our students and their families to take prudent precautions and make wise personal decisions for their own health and that of those around them.
  5. If a student has tested negative for COVID but is still ill, we ask that the student stay home to prevent the spread of any contagious illnesses and report his or her absence to his or her professors. If symptoms include a fever or vomiting, the student should be free of these symptoms for 24 hours prior to returning to class.
  6. The mitigation factors of handwashing, personal hygiene etiquette, and cleaning facilities regularly will continue.
  7. We do not anticipate most classes will be live-streamed. Students are asked to work with their professors to stay current with their classes if they would need to quarantine or isolate.
  8. All COVID-related questions and positive cases should continue to be sent to [email protected].


Jerome J. Richter
Executive Vice President

As in the spring semester, the CHI St. Alexius Health Clinic on the University of Mary’s campus is making COVID-19 vaccines widely available for those not yet vaccinated. We do not anticipate requiring proof of vaccination at this time; however, certain programs may be subject to external requirements. We encourage our students and their families to take prudent precautions and make wise personal decisions for their own health and that of those around them.

Risk/Action Level: Having navigated the 2020/21 Academic Year with very low COVID-19 infection rates and no serious outbreaks, the University of Mary will be moving thoughtfully to Risk/Action Level  1 on May 3, 2021, while still taking reasonable precautions.

Vaccination Availability and Requirements for Fall 2021: The CHI St. Alexius clinic in the LVUC will make COVID-19 vaccines widely available for those not yet vaccinated, as was the case in the Spring Semester. We do not anticipate requiring proof of vaccination, but we encourage our students and their families to take prudent precautions and make wise personal decisions for their own health and that of those around them.

Be Alert: Unanticipated or necessary changes to the above information, along with any Risk/Action Level updates, will be posted to this page. Communications may also be sent to email accounts, but please bear in mind that this page remains the definitive source of information regarding the University’s response to COVID-19.

Dear Students of the University of Mary,

I have an important update for you on the Tuesday COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Testing Events. The last testing event of the semester will be next week Tuesday, April 13th. On behalf of the University of Mary, I thank all of you who have taken advantage of these events to help keep our campus safe. Since January 12th, we have tested on average 575 students a week, and it is remarkable that there has never been a testing event where more than a handful of positive cases have been identified, including this week’s testing event, in which we had one positive case.

This operation has been part of the University of Mary’s efforts to implement evidence-based practices to monitor and suppress coronavirus in accordance with public health guidelines.

Although we will still have the testing event next Tuesday, there will be no Universal Bucks allocations connected with testing next week. This testing is still open to all students, faculty, and staff of the University of Mary and their spouses who need or desire to be tested, but no Universal Bucks will be applied to your account for this final testing event.

Being able to host these events would not have been possible without the incredible generosity of the Department of Health and the North Dakota National Guard. When you come for next week’s event, please make sure to thank them for all their support of our community.

A blessed Easter season to you,

Jerome J. Richter
Executive Vice President

Good morning,

I am emailing you today with a very important update. We have been notified by Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health that there are dosages of COVID-19 vaccines ready for University of Mary employees identified by the state as essential critical infrastructure workers. Workers who fall into this category are listed in the attached document named “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers – Education.” 

Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health has the following drive-through vaccination clinics available for scheduling (please register for an appointment before going):








Wednesday, March 10th

8:30 AM -  12:00 NOON

Pfizer Vaccine

Register for an appointment:

Bismarck Event Center

Drive Through Clinic

Tuesday, March 16th

3:30 – 7:00 PM

Pfizer Vaccine

Register for an appointment:

Bismarck Event Center

Drive Through Clinic

Wednesday, March 17th

8:30 – 11:00 AM

Pfizer Vaccine

Register for an appointment:

Bismarck Event Center

Drive Through Clinic

Wednesday, March 17th

1:00 – 3:30 PM

Pfizer Vaccine

Register for an appointment:

Bismarck Event Center

Drive Through Clinic

Thursday, March 18th

1:00 – 3:30 PM

Pfizer Vaccine

Register for an appointment:


Bismarck Event Center

Drive Through Clinic

Please note - you are not eligible for the vaccine if:

  • You received any type of vaccination within the last 14 days of your appointment date.
  • You received a monoclonal antibody infusion for treatment of COVID-19 within the past 90 days. (You would be eligible to receive the vaccine after the 90 days, when the monoclonal antibodies are no longer present in your system.)

There is NO COST for the COVID-19 vaccine, and they are not billing insurance. Here are a few requests from Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health for filling out the registration:

  • Please do not enter any insurance information and do not scan your insurance card.
  • Simply elect the type of insurance you have from the drop-down menu then click “SAVE and CONTINUE” to move forward.

Also note those being vaccinated should review the attached vaccination clinic map and be prepared to spend 30 minutes at their appointment time. If anyone needs help completing the online registration form, please watch this tutorial video to walk through the process: Masks are required at all drive-through vaccination clinics.

The University trusts that the decision to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by its employees at this stage of availability will be informed by each person’s circumstances and in care and concern for yourself and for the entire community. It may also be helpful to note that the vaccines being administered at the clinics listed above are among those judged morally permissible in recent statements of the Vatican, the USCCB, and the Diocese of Bismarck, all of which you are encouraged to consult. A helpful guide to moral questions surrounding the vaccine can be found here.

We ask those who do get vaccinated to continue to follow the University’s Returning to Campus General Guidelines, Protocols, and Monitoring System. Although vaccinations dramatically reduce the possibility of severe infection, it is unclear if a vaccinated person can still spread the virus to others.

Please contact [email protected] with any questions.

God bless you,

Jerome J. Richter
Executive Vice President

Good morning University of Mary community,

I am writing to you today with some reassuring news. As I am composing this email, our protocols can verify only one positive case of COVID-19 on campus, which means that our positivity rate remains very low. On top of this, almost 730 students were tested this past Tuesday, with zero positives. The high number of students being tested, along with such a low number of cases, is tremendously encouraging.

The university is so grateful for those taking responsibility to help us continue to enjoy living and working together in person. We are extremely blessed to be in our current position, especially considering how many colleges and universities still are not even holding in-person classes. With so much to be grateful for, we are reminded of the importance of remaining diligent so we can stay the course! Please continue to pray for our community, and for all those who are suffering because of the effects of the pandemic.

God bless,

Jerome J. Richter
Executive Vice President

Good evening University of Mary community,

I am writing again with an important announcement. With active cases of COVID-19 in North Dakota at their lowest level since mid-August, Governor Burgum adjusted the statewide COVID-19 risk level to low/green. The change will take place on Friday, January 29th at 8:00 a.m.

While this news is incredibly encouraging as we begin to see life returning closer to normal, there is still a great need to remain vigilant on campus. It is with this in mind that the university will remain at Risk/Action Level 3.

There are several motives behind this decision, but the main two are these:

  1. The first and foremost reason is that we stand by the principles of our guidelines. The university has been blessed so far in having avoided a serious spike in cases, to the point where we were able to modify our Level 3 restrictions to allow visitation between residence hall rooms. Remaining at level 3 is the most prudent avenue.
  2. Our scholar-athletes are bound by NCAA and NISC rules, and we need to make sure that we do what we can to help them maintain their ability to compete. Our health care students are still going in for clinicals and their work in the communities, which means doing what we can to mitigate the spread on campus will in turn mitigate the spread to where these students learn and work.

We sympathize with the desire to return more and more to normal circumstances, and that day is coming, but we hope that by remaining disciplined, this trend of decreased cases of COVID-19 will continue both in our state and on our campus. Please continue to pray for those who are suffering due to the pandemic, and remember the responsibility we owe to one another to keep our campus safe.

God bless,

Jerome J. Richter
Executive Vice President

Good afternoon, University of Mary Community,

I am writing to you today with two important announcements. First, as many of you have already heard, at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, January 18th, Governor Burgum will lift the state-wide mask mandate that was put in place in November. The university will continue to enforce this mandate until it is lifted on Monday. He was able to do this because of the steady decrease in average COVID-19 cases in the state to below 5% and the decrease in hospitalizations that we have seen in these past weeks.

With the lifting of the North Dakota mask mandate, the University of Mary will return to our original policy of social distancing. Here is the policy: “Social Distancing means keeping space between oneself and persons outside of one’s place of residence by: not gathering in groups, staying at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people, staying out of crowded places and avoiding mass gatherings, and wearing a mask in situations where maintaining physical distance is not feasible.” As a reminder, we ask all members of the community to, “wear a mask in situations where maintaining physical distancing is not possible.” The university will also remain at the Level 3 Risk/Action Level. 

Although the university is remaining at Level 3, I am able to announce, also starting at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, January 18th,  we will be relaxing the Residence Life restriction to allow visitation between rooms so long as our social distancing policy is practiced. We feel it is prudent and possible to make this change because our average positivity rate on campus has been steady at less than 1% and because of our deep belief in the value of community.

If there is a measurable spike in cases in our residence halls as a result of this change, visitation between rooms will again be restricted. Please remember to observe prudent safety and sanitation protocols. And, of course, regular visitation hours in the university’s residence halls and apartments are to be observed. All other Level 3 restrictions will remain in place.

These changes are possible thanks to those of you who have done your part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on our campus and in our state. I hope and pray that this trend continues, and we can inch closer and closer back to normalcy soon. That being said, we must remain disciplined and remember our own personal responsibility to protect those around us.

God bless you,
Jerome J. Richter
Executive Vice President

Good Evening, University of Mary Community,

I pray this email finds each of you well rested from the Christmas break. I write to you today with very exciting news. As many of you have heard, yesterday Governor Doug Burgum announced that the statewide COVID-19 risk level will be lowered from high risk (orange) to moderate risk (yellow), based on active cases decreasing nearly 82% from the peak of 10,200 on November 13th to 1,915 yesterday. This means, among other things, that gatherings and some businesses can increase capacity limits.

While this is certainly an accomplishment, it is essential we remain vigilant. Although Governor Burgum will be easing some restrictions meant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, there is still a statewide mask mandate in effect until January 18th.  If you are not following the guidelines set forth, UMary personnel and faculty will kindly remind you to follow the guidelines and will require masks be worn in the classroom. As a community, if we continue to follow state directives and our own Returning to Campus Guidelines and Protocols, it is reasonable to hope that in the coming weeks, we will be able to return to our original mask protocols as outlined in our guidelines. As of now, even with this good news, the university’s Risk/Action Level will remain at the moderate (yellow) level.

To see the full article on all of the new changes from Governor Burgum’s office, please click here.

God bless you,
Jerome J. Richter
Executive Vice President

Dear University of Mary Community,

As we near the end of a semester that surely will not be forgotten, I am emailing you today with more information about the return to campus in the spring. Our main goal for the spring semester is clear: stay the course. I am proud of the way so many of you have held to the Returning to Campus Guidelines, Protocols, and Monitoring System, and it is essential that we follow these in the New Year to make sure we can continue taking classes in-person and avoid a serious spike in cases of COVID-19.

A few special requests:

  • While you are at home among loved ones and enjoying a well-deserved break, please continue to take appropriate precautions for both your health and that of others.
  • Please remember what is spelled out in our testing protocols and what you agreed to through our honor code - do not come to campus for the start of the semester if you are exhibiting any COVID-19 symptoms. Instead, please contact your medical provider to determine if a COVID-19 test is needed and whether you can safely come to campus.
  • Similar to the start of the fall semester, we encourage everyone to be tested before returning to campus. Please allow enough time between when you are tested and before you leave that you can get your test result in time for your departure (if you are being tested in Bismarck, you can anticipate waiting 3-5 days to get your results). As always, there are multiple places to get a free COVID-19 test in Bismarck. Special times and locations for college students are listed here, and many additional options in the city are listed here. Make sure to pre-register before you go.

On another very important topic, the university has noticed that during this semester of many challenges, anxieties, and frustrations, the utilization of our counseling services is down nearly 25% compared to this same time last year. If you are struggling and need assistance, please remember that you are not meant to face hardship alone, and we encourage you to take full advantage of the free counseling services available to you.  For more information about what is offered or how to set up an appointment, please click here. In addition to this, Fr. Dominic Bouck, Fr. Craig Vasek, and our University Ministry staff are well-equipped and available to offer spiritual support and guidance for students and all members of the university community. They may be reached at (701) 355-3704 or [email protected].

Speaking of priests, Fr. Bouck and Monsignor Shea will be greeting students and offering travel blessings in the Lumen Vitae Center at around 5:00 pm this evening and again at around 12:30. More info will be posted to the University’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. For those traveling in the next few days, travel safely. For those choosing to stay on campus for finals, here’s hoping you find peace and rest in the coming days. To all of you, have a blessed and beautiful Christmas break!

If anything would change between now and the spring semester, we will send you the updated information via email. So please continue to check your email throughout the holiday break.

As I have said numerous times, we have been blessed abundantly this semester, but we still need to remain vigilant. While we all hope for a return to normalcy as soon as possible, the best way to get there is to continue to pray and do all we can to keep our community healthy and safe.

God bless you,
Jerome J. Richter
Executive Vice President

Dear Students, Faculty, & Staff,

We have been truly blessed this semester with such a low infection rate of COVID-19 on campus. There has been only one week this semester where we had more than a 1% infection rate for our students on campus, and most of you have been doing incredibly well following the guidelines and protocols put forth by the university and the state. Today there are 12 total students who currently have tested positive for COVID-19, with only 3 isolating on campus. I am emailing you today to urge you to stay the course. The end of the semester is coming fast, and like always, it is critically important we stay diligent in our efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 as we are all responsible for making sure we do all we can to limit spreading the virus when returning home for the holidays. Please make sure you are closely monitoring your email next week for another email about returning to campus in the spring semester. The University of Mary remains committed to holding in-person classes, and we will be getting you more information before you return home.

As many of you already have heard, the CDC just reduced the length of days a close contact needs to quarantine. In line with our guiding principles, we first consulted with ND Department of Health (NDDoH) and Bismarck/Burleigh Public Health officials, and based on their directives and recommendations, we will follow the CDC quarantine change as stated below by the NDDoH:


“Public health experts locally and at the national level are always analyzing data and making changes as new information becomes available. As a result, the CDC issued new guidance reducing the number of days close contacts will need to quarantine following an exposure to a COVID-positive individual.

The new guidelines allow close contacts of those infected to reduce their quarantine period from 14 days to 10 days. If the close contact receives a negative result from a COVID test, they can reduce their quarantine to seven days. Residents at long-term care facilities and other congregate living settings are exempt from the new guidance and should continue to quarantine for the full 14 days.

Individuals will be able to end their quarantine after seven days if they receive a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test, are symptom free and wear a face covering; or after 10 days without being tested.

To test out of quarantine, a person can either do a PCR test or a rapid antigen test. The earliest a test should be done is 48 hours before being released from quarantine. Individuals must continue to quarantine while awaiting test results.

Individuals should continue to monitor their symptoms and wear a face covering for the full 14 days.

The NDDoH will be working to update the website and fact sheets with the new information. For more information on COVID-19, visit”

Let’s continue to abide by our protocols and guidelines, exercising intentional caution and care as we go about our lives here together. And let’s continue to pray for those in our community who are ill, as well as the many who are serving and caring for them so tirelessly. How grateful we are to all of you!

God bless you,
Jerome J. Richter
Executive Vice President

Good morning, members of the University of Mary Community,

You may have heard that Governor Burgum and the North Dakota Department of Health last night issued a new executive order about food service/events and a mandate for face coverings to address the spread of COVID-19.  Both are in effect until December 14.

I’ve spent the morning on the phone with the Governor’s office, the Department of Health, and the North Dakota University System, so as to get a clear sense for how these actions – which have the force of law – will affect our campus.  (Also, in this year in which nothing is easy, key team members at the University who assist with these decisions are out in the countryside deer hunting, and it’s not been easy to reach them!)

The Governor, as you know, has been reluctant to mandate face coverings, emphasizing personal responsibility and education.  But now, with the virus spreading rapidly and our hospitals at capacity, he believes additional mitigation strategies are necessary and is asking for our help and cooperation.  You can read the relevant documents here and here.

It may happen, depending on campus infections rates, that we may need to raise the Risk/Action Level in our Returning to Campus Guidelines and Protocols. That would mean, for instance, that students living off-campus would take all classes online and not come to campus. But thus far – and doubtless due to your good efforts – our rate of infection has been much lower than the surrounding community.  So we will keep our Risk/Action Level the same, with these modifications in light of the new legal requirements:

  1. Face coverings are required indoors all the time and also outdoors when you are less than 6 feet from a person who is not a close contact. This requirement is already in effect, as of early this morning. There are exceptions, spelled out in the mandate (e.g. while eating, in your personal residence or office, etc.).  Noncompliance is an infraction by law.  However, university personnel and students are not law enforcement; we’ll keep each other accountable, courteously and respectfully, in accord with the honor code we all signed.
  2. Starting tomorrow evening (Sunday), the main (upstairs) seating area of the Crow’s Nest will need to close between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. each day.  The Grill’s made-to-order menu – along with coffee, other drinks, and snacks – will remain open and available through the window of Susanne’s, and the lower-level of the Crow’s Nest will now be open to the Starion Living Room, for use during those hours.  Chesterton’s will also need to stop serving food and drink at 10:00 p.m., although those enjoying the space may remain past closing.
  3. From 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. each day (starting Monday), we are limited to 150 persons in the main (upstairs) seating area of the Crow’s Nest and 150 persons in the lower-level of the Crow’s Nest.  When there is no seating left, food from the main servery can be taken to other areas in the Lumen Vitae University Center or beyond in to-go containers, which will be widely available.  Please be especially careful to wear face coverings at all times in the area of the servery.

We’ll do our best to keep you informed if there are any other details to share. I’m grateful for our common efforts to keep each other safe and sustain our life together on campus.  God bless you!

In Mary,

Monsignor Shea

Good afternoon, members of the University of Mary community,

As we approach Thanksgiving Break, I have a few requests from the University of Mary as you plan for the holiday.

As Monsignor Shea wrote to each of us, we humbly ask you to stay on campus for Thanksgiving break this year.  With the current rise in COVID-19 cases in the Bismarck/Mandan area, we need to take seriously our responsibility to protect both those in our own community and those in the communities we may travel to by limiting the number of people we are in close contact with. And with in-person classes finishing on December 11, you will not have to wait long to travel to see family and friends.

If you still plan to travel for Thanksgiving, we encourage you to get tested the Monday before the holiday, and we are working with health officials on arrangements for on-campus testing to be available at that time (I will keep you updates on details as I learn more).  Getting tested at that time should allow you to receive your results before you travel, thus helping prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to your loved ones. While you are away, we also ask that you carefully monitor your health. If you are experiencing any symptoms as you prepare to return to campus, we ask you not to come back to campus until you are cleared.

If after traveling you would like to get tested for COVID-19 when you return, NDDoH is still offering free testing all over North Dakota. A list of testing sites can be found here.

For the rest who plan to remain on campus for Thanksgiving, there will be plenty to do on campus over the weekend! You can visit for more details. Also please remember to complete this form if you plan to dine on campus during Thanksgiving weekend (November 26th – 29th), so that we can prepare to serve you. 

During these difficult times we face, it is hard to imagine giving up familiar comforts like a Thanksgiving at home. However, it is important to be thankful for the many blessings we have received so far this semester, such as the ability to live, learn, and worship together in person. We remember that even in the midst of sacrifice and suffering, we are richly blessed by our Father in heaven.

God bless you,
Jerome J. Richter
Executive Vice President

Main Campus Students of the University of Mary, 

I wanted to write to all of you, students of our main campus in Bismarck, with a note of encouragement and gratitude. We have made it together – in this most unusual academic year – through what I feared would be the most difficult “act” of a four-part drama.  In the marathon between Freshman Move-in and Commencement, we are ¼ of the way there, headed towards Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We have been blessed in many beautiful and unusual ways. As many of our peer institutions are reporting staggering losses in enrollment and pandemic-related outbreaks, life at the University of Mary (so far, thanks be to God) has been steady and uneventful. But it has not been effortless! I know that all of this has been hard on you, as you grapple with all the adaptations that we’ve had to make, different modes of learning, the loss of athletic competition, diminished human contact with your professors and other students … all of it takes its toll. May the Lord, in His mercy, give us an extra measure of energy and joy for our lives here together.

I also have several items of news to share with you.  We are upgrading the campus, asking you to consider not traveling for Thanksgiving, and we will be giving the option of early departure for Christmas.  Allow me to explain how these are all related.

(1)    UPGRADES:

Partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic and our good relationship with Governor Burgum and his staff at the State Capitol, the University has received very generous funding which will allow us seriously to refresh several key instructional sites throughout campus. This technology will help to get us through the pandemic and also provide more flexible teaching capacity in years to come. There is a catch, however. All of the projects have to be completed by December 30 to receive the funding.

In order to upgrade these spaces, we will need to vacate them with enough time to do some substantive work. 


At the moment, North Dakota has a very high rate of COVID-19 infection per capita, and student travel during the upcoming Thanksgiving break represents a serious risk for community spread on our campus.  This is something we have successfully avoided thus far, but a bad outbreak would have serious consequences for us.

And so I am asking you seriously to consider celebrating Thanksgiving on campus this year. Our annual Thanksgiving Meal is open this year to any University of Mary student with a valid M-Card, on-campus or off-campus, with no need to be on a meal plan. Please visit to RSVP and for more information. Here’s the schedule:

  • The Cystic Fibrosis Association of ND hosts their annual Turkey Trot 5K & 10K races in Bismarck, beginning at 9:15 a.m. Registration information in the link, above.
  • I will offer Mass at 11:30 a.m. in Our Lady of the Annunciation Chapel. As always, Catholics and non-Catholics are welcome at Mass.
  • 12:30 p.m. is the starting time for the Thanksgiving Meal, served in the Lumen Vitae University Center. It will be fabulous, with turkey and pie and all the trimmings. We anticipate that a number of your professors and their families will also be joining us.
  • From 1:30 – 3:30 p.m., the Marauders Activities Committee will have some safe and entertaining fun planned on campus.
  • Starting at 5:30 p.m. and extending through the evening, I will host a socially-distanced Thanksgiving Film Festival on campus, with hot apple cider and popcorn. Location and film titles with starting times will be updated in the link, above.

The Crow’s Nest, normally closed during Thanksgiving Break, will be open to those with a meal plan throughout Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, during hours posted to the link, above. (We’ll be basing weekend food production loosely on the Thanksgiving RSVP numbers from residential students, so we can avoid a lot of food waste.)


To compensate for your willingness to stick around for Thanksgiving AND so that we can vacate some of our classrooms and auditoriums for upgrades, we have made the decision to finish all in-person instruction on campus for the semester by Friday, December 11Final exams will continue through Friday, December 18, but they will be fully online.

Residential students retain the privilege to remain on campus through the afternoon of December 19th, as guaranteed by your housing agreements, and you are more than welcome to stay. You may enjoy the extra peace and quiet for study and rest.  Meal service in the Crow’s Nest will continue until 4:00 p.m. on the 18th, per our meal plan agreements. Of course, residents of the apartments can choose to remain on campus right through the break. 

This plan gives you the option to be (safely) home for Christmas a bit sooner, if you choose, while also giving us time to do major renovations throughout campus.

If you have any questions about any of the items above, you can send them to [email protected], and we’ll do our best to get you some answers.

Students, I’m so proud of you and the many ways we have all come together in these tough times. You’re all very much in my prayers in the coming days, as you are always in the prayers of our Sisters. God bless you! Mary loves you! 

In Mary, 
Monsignor Shea

Members of the University of Mary Community,

Good morning. On the University's main campus in Bismarck, we have arrived to the mid-point of the fall semester without a significant spike in COVID-19 infection, despite the fact that infection rates in the surrounding community and throughout North Dakota have been steadily rising. This is surely the fruit of fervent prayers for protection, careful policy decisions, AND thanks to all of you. Your steadfast efforts to demonstrate care and consideration for each other and our community have been truly beautiful. Thank you, and let’s keep it up.

I am hearing that large numbers of you have chosen this year to remain on campus for the upcoming break, as we do not have classes on Friday. This is a wise and prudent course of action. The Crow’s Nest will remain open for you (although from Thursday evening to Sunday evening we will move to a 7AM - 7PM schedule), and you’ll have some quiet time to study and rest a bit.

For those of you who choose to travel in the next few days, I would humbly but sincerely ask you to take good care. Be mindful that your responsibilities in our honor code for social distancing and contact tracing extend to this weekend. IF you should develop any symptoms between now and Monday, PLEASE do not return to campus. Rather, as you have promised, confer with a health care professional and follow their instructions for testing and quarantine. And bear in mind, of course, that COVID-19 can be asymptomatic or have a long incubation period. The caution you bring to your return to campus next week will be a key factor for us.

Free testing is still available throughout North Dakota, including several sites in Bismarck/Mandan. Visit this website for more information.

Again, the numbers in our surrounding community and throughout North Dakota have been spiking for several weeks now. Our local hospitals are reaching their capacity. A corresponding spike on campus next week may necessitate moving the University to a higher Risk/Action level, either for a time or for the rest of the semester, and this would have a significant effect on our life here together. So I am asking you - our students and all of our employees - to be considerate and mindful of this in the choices you make in the coming days.

In the meantime, do find some space this weekend to rest your minds and hearts. You are in my prayers, as ever. God bless you!

In Mary,
Monsignor Shea

Good morning,

I am emailing you today with four very important updates regarding our return to campus and COVID-19 preparedness. 

#1:  Testing Protocols Attached

The University’s strategy for testing students, faculty, and staff prior to returning to campus is attached to this email. These protocols, which follow CDC recommendations, include vital information on who should be tested and where free testing is available. Please read this document right away to ensure that you understand both the importance and reasoning behind the University’s approach to testing. 

#2:  Specific Testing Recommendations – Times & Sites

As you will see in our testing protocols, we are encouraging all students, faculty and staff returning to campus to get tested for COVID-19 approximately four days prior to coming on campus, so that you will likely know your results prior to your arrival. This is called “entry testing.”  (Those being tested outside of North Dakota may have longer wait times for testing results; consult your medical provider or local health department.) 

While this does not eliminate the risk of COVID-19, it will help minimize the probability of those carrying the virus unknowingly in turn spreading it when they arrive. We have to work together to do everything we can to minimize any community transmission on our campus during the first few weeks of the semester, then continuing to monitor the situation and address any outbreaks in a continual way afterwards.

There is a lot of information in the protocols about when and where you can be tested, but listed below are some specific arrangements arising from our partnerships with Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health, the North Dakota Department of Health, and the North Dakota University System.  There will be additional test kits available for UMary students and employees (don’t forget to pre-register here!!!):

Special Event for UMary Employees returning to campus for the Corporate Faculty meeting on Thursday, September 3: 

  • Testing Monday, August 31 from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm at NDDoH, 1720 Burlington Drive

Special Event for Freshmen and Transfer students coming for orientation and move-in on September 5:

Special Events for Upperclassmen returning to campus for the start of classes on September 8: 

  • “Drive through” testing Thursday, September 3 from 9:00 am – 12:00 noon at the Bismarck Event Center (route map)
  • Testing Friday, September 4 from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm at NDDoH, 1720 Burlington Drive 

#3:  Care19 Alert Contact Tracing App – Now Live!

The new Care19 Alert app is now available for download. As mentioned in the Returning to Campus Guidelines, Protocols, and Monitoring System, contact tracing is a prime method for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 on campus. I encourage all of you to download the app to assist us in better protecting ourselves and each other. After you download the app, remember to select “Affiliates” and choose “University of Mary Students, Faculty & Staff.”  Just as before, we ask anyone who does not download one of the Care19 apps to keep a daily journal of any close contacts one may have had.

#4:  Clarity of Thought around Social Distancing, Contact Tracing, Close Contacts

It is of the upmost importance that each of us practice social distancing upon our return to campus so that we can continue our lives together, our studies and our work at Mary.  We will not be able to do it if we do not all work together.  If you fail to practice social distancing and then test positive, contact tracing will require all close contacts (those who have been within 6 feet of you for more than 10 minutes) to quarantine for 14 days.  If you do not practice social distancing and test positive, please understand that you could disrupt numerous persons’ work and study because they have been a close contact with you. 

If you have any questions, you are still most welcome to submit them to [email protected], and we will respond as soon as possible.


Members of the University of Mary Community:

The difficulties we’ve been through together these past months – especially any heartbreak or disappointment we’ve experienced alongside the students entrusted to our care – do not discourage us.  No, they inspire us with hope and resilience.

Now, as a new academic year draws near, we burn yet more brightly with that hope.  That’s because we always trust that new, unexpected graces lie in wait for us, even amidst the setbacks.  This is a blessed pattern in human life, and it’s how our souls grow strong.

I mention this because today holds another setback for all of us.  Please see the message below from Dale Lennon, our Director of Intercollegiate Athletics.  We are so grateful for his steady hand.  Let’s consider ways in which we can support and encourage the scholar-athletes of our fall and winter sports.  Let’s also join together in praying for and lifting up our coaching staff, especially Dennis, Sarah, Craig, Korie, Michael, and Julia.  Their leadership and striving have been great, shifting today into a very particular care for the members of their teams.  We’re on their teams, too.


In Mary,

Monsignor Shea



University of Mary Community,

Today, the NSIC made the announcement to cancel the 2020 fall athletic season and championships, suspending all scheduled competition in all sports through December 31. This decision was reached after months of painstaking discussion and research into the best options available for providing a safe environment for our scholar-athletes to prepare and compete. Examining various season scenarios and how each model fit into the competition guidelines mandated by the Sport Science Institute (SSI), we finally exhausted all efforts to achieve a sense of a normal fall athletic schedule. Therefore, with deep regret, I support the cancellation of the fall season and the suspension of our winter sports until January 1.

While I’m disappointed with this necessary outcome, I want to be clear that this decision has been made to best ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in Marauders Athletics. As Director of Athletics, I vigorously pursued the opportunity to compete until we no longer had another option.

The safety and well-being of our scholar-athletes was the driving force in our decision to cancel fall competition. Provisions are in place to assure that athletes will not be put in a compromising situation of having to make participation decisions that make them uncomfortable. Therefore, all athletes have the choice to ‘Opt Out’ of the fall workout phase and retain their athletic scholarship for the year. In fact, all athletic scholarships will be honored if the athlete remains academically eligible and a full-time student. Athletes will also retain their year of eligibility for another season.

It is also important to recognize that our coaches and athletes did an amazing job in their preparation for fall competition. I have no doubt that if we would have had the opportunity to compete, our football, volleyball, soccer, and cross-country teams would have made the UMary community proud of their performances. I am very gratified by how we prepared this summer and kept the focus on getting better while adhering to all of the safety restrictions that were enforced. Our Strength and Conditioning staff along with our Sports Medicine Department exceeded my expectations in creating a safe and productive training environment for all our athletes.  Thank you to all of you for meeting the challenges and moving forward despite the disruptions to normal training patterns.

I would also like to thank our Marauders fans and alumni for supporting our coaches and athletes through this difficult time. The UMary athletic community is strong and generous. I am confident we will get through this with a renewed appreciation for the opportunity of competition and a sense of belonging to a purpose that is larger than ourselves.

Looking forward, I have no doubt that we will come out of the pandemic with a better appreciation for the value of sport. Our strategic athletic plan, “Greatness through Virtue,” emphasizes that while the object of sport is to win, the true purpose of sport is whole person development. The hardships endured, the opportunities lost, and the realization that sports are also vulnerable to circumstances out of our control have strengthened our understanding that the lessons learned in competition help prepare us for the challenges of life.

Go Marauders!

Dale Lennon

Members of the University of Mary community:

The Board of Directors of our NCAA conference, the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC), met for nearly two hours this morning – joined by all of our Athletic Directors – to determine a direction for fall sports.  This was a question of urgency, as normally our football players would be returning next week, followed closely by volleyball and soccer.  That’s also the same time each year when Dining Services and Residential Life begin to ramp up.

The decision was taken to delay the return of scholar athletes to our campuses and, correspondingly, to both shorten the seasons and decrease the number of intercollegiate competitions.  As such, our football players would return for practice on September 2, with all other scholar athletes arriving the following week with the rest of our students.  The first games would be scheduled for September 26 (when Marauders football are scheduled to face the Winona State Warriors).

This means the busy August we had been planning for, with our campus beginning to come to life again, isn’t in the cards.  However, it does allow us to focus solely on a safe, unified reopening for the entire university community.

The Board agreed to strict confidentiality until this afternoon, to allow the NSIC central office time to prepare a press announcement.  We are writing to you now because the news is about to break, and we wanted you to hear about this from us rather than in the media.  I’ve asked Dale Lennon to provide his own thoughts, below.

Two last things from me:

  1. Let’s do what we can to rally around our affected coaches and scholar athletes, as they have been dealing with so much uncertainty, and this will doubtless be a disappointment for them.  They need our prayers and support.

  2. The NSIC Code of Ethics lists as a punishable misconduct violation any negative public comments regarding a conference decision of this kind from anyone formally associated with Mary.  Let’s allow Coach Lennon, who has shown such strong leadership in this regard throughout the pandemic, be our spokesman about this significant, NSIC decision.

Thanks so much.

In Mary,

Monsignor Shea


From Dale Lennon, UMary Director of Intercollegiate Athletics:


Good afternoon,

The NSIC’s delayed start announcement will give our fall sports the best opportunity to experience a truly competitive championship season during this Covid-19 pandemic crisis. While a reduction in the number of contests is not ideal, it still meets the recently adjusted NCAA maximum/minimum eligibility standards for championship participation. More importantly, the delayed start will give us the ability to implement updated safety measures that will focus on the scholar-athlete’s health and safety during practice and competition. There is no greater concern within our Athletic Department than creating a safe environment for all members of our athletic community. Thank you for your support in this difficult time.

Go Marauders!

Dale Lennon

Dear Students,

I’m writing to you this morning, together with all of our new and returning students, to share with you the University of Mary’s plan for your return to campus. The Emergency Response Team I appointed in March – chaired by Executive VP Jerome Richter and General David Anderson – has been working hard these past months to provide a comprehensive, well-researched, common sense, and updateable set of procedures and protocols to guide our common life together as classes resume.

The plan is attached to this message, and the most recent version will always be posted to  Please read it carefully and please share it with your parents and loved ones.

The email address for our COVID-19 Task Force, [email protected], is still active and available for any thoughtful questions or concerns you might have.

Look for two other messages, which will arrive to your email address soon:

  1. Later today, you should receive information from the president of our student body, Benjamin Helget, about an honor code and an essential agreement for which we will need both your careful understanding and your signed consent in order to come to campus.
  2. Next week, you’ll receive information and instructions from Safe Colleges about “COVID-19 Training and Tracking” online courses designed for you. 

You can really help us by completing these documents and online courses without delay, because in August we will need to follow up with those who haven’t.  That will divert a large amount of the very time and energy we are wanting to use to get campus ready for your return.

Writing those words “for your return,” fills my heart with unspeakable joy and anticipation. 

I watched again this morning the video we made for you back in April, and it still captures just how we feel.  The University of Mary was made for students, and until our students return home to our residence halls, classrooms, chapels, athletic spaces, satellite campuses, labs, and the Crow’s Nest, your absence fills every minute of every day. 

We miss you so much.  A candle burns brightly in the Grotto for you.  We’ll see you soon!

In Mary,
Monsignor Shea

Dear University of Mary Community,

I hope each of you is enjoying the end of the Easter Season and the beginnings of summer amidst these bizarre times we are living in. As we have seen Governor Burgum relaxing the restrictions initially put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, we feel this is the time to follow the guidance of the state’s “ND Smart Restart Protocols” and begin allowing supervisors to prudently decide which of their employees currently working remotely can return to their offices on campus to work based on the needs of the department and of the university. With supervisor guidance, employees who have been furloughed to a specific percent can return to work the hours they are allowed. Those who are at a high risk of contracting the virus, such as older adults and any who have serious underlying medical conditions, are still encouraged to stay home and should communicate with their supervisors to decide how to best move forward. Also, anyone with extraneous circumstances, i.e. childcare concerns, please also visit with your supervisors to determine the best way to accommodate this. 

Out of respect for one another, all employees returning to campus must adhere to the guidelines set forth by the ND Department of Health included below:

  • Practice social distancing by avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people and maintaining distance (at least 6 feet) from others when possible. This is especially important for necessary in-person meetings.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or to use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Masks or cloth face coverings are encouraged but not required for returning to work on campus.
  • If you are sick, please stay home and continue to work remotely. Inform your supervisor if you have a sick family member at home with COVID-19, and please contact a medical professional to determine if it is safe for you to return to work.
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided at or near the entrances to facilities and in other appropriate, high-use areas.
  • Disposable cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer are available upon request as needed. We ask each member of the community to be cautious of using a co-worker’s phones, keyboards, etc.
  • Contact tracing is essential for the University of Mary to have students return in the fall. Please refer to the “Contact Tracing Responsibilities” section at the top of page 6 in the attached Return to Campus General Guidelines and Protocols for a full explanation of your responsibilities.

***The University of Mary’s current General Guidelines and Protocols document – a document which will be in continual revision - is attached for more thorough direction regarding the above guidelines.

At this time, the university will not require any screening or mandatory testing to return to campus. However, keep in mind this may change in the future. Also, please note that Dining Services on campus have been temporarily suspended, so please prepare appropriately. All non-essential travel on university business is still suspended. The university is still closed to the general public, and we humbly ask you to consider alternatives to having guests or deliveries come to campus.

The Emergency Response Team is currently developing comprehensive guidelines for the return of students in the fall which will elaborate more on the steps we need to take to welcome our students back. While these guidelines will almost assuredly affect our day-to-day work lives and may cause inconveniences, our primary concern is the care of our students, and part of this care for students requires safe and effective business operations on campus.

God bless you, and let’s continue to pray we can all see each other in person soon.

Jerome J. Richter
Executive Vice President

The University of Mary is in the business of teaching, preparing, and caring for all of its students. Today, the private, Catholic university in Bismarck announced its plans for a safe, secure, and timely fall start at its Bismarck campus this September.

Before the COVID-19 Pandemic even hit the United States, and at the behest of its President Monsignor James Shea, University of Mary became one of the first universities to assemble an on-campus COVID-19 Emergency Response Team (ERT) to assess daily and hourly developments related to the virus domestically and internationally and adhere to regulations set forth by the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDOH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The 10-member ERT is now a permanent entity on campus chaired by Executive Vice President Jerome Richter and assisted by retired Brigadier General Dave Anderson, coordinator of Military Student Services at the University of Mary, and a member of the new, five-member North Dakota Ethics Commission (NDEC).

“We feel very confident in the staff and teams we’ve assembled on campus, and also our relationships, partnerships and connections with government agencies, health care facilities and the National Guard within the capital city, to implement our plan for our fall semester ‘opening,’” said Richter. “The spread of the COVID-19 virus has reminded us all that there are no certainties, no guaranties. But at the same time, it’s already taught us a great deal in humility and preparedness — day-to-day procedures, provisions and protocols that we all need to practice and make routine as our new normal. Overall, Bismarck is one of the safest communities in the country. Burleigh County has proven to be very vigilant and proactive in this pandemic fight. And more specifically, our expansive and wide-open campus located south of town uniquely gives our students the much needed open space for a safe learning environment.”

North Dakota is the only state in the nation that now exceeds the contact tracing requirements of the CDC, with plans to soon have twice the recommended number of public health workers identifying new cases and slowing the spread of the disease. Contact tracing is an integral part of the process of supporting patients and warning contacts of exposure in order to stop chains of virus transmission. Leading that statewide effort is an expert team of disease control investigators, and working in collaboration with the team is two-time graduate Vern Dosch, former CEO and founder of National Information Services Cooperative (NISC). Unfortunately, many other states, even the most rural, are struggling at this time with adequate levels of contact tracing.

Another person providing leadership for North Dakota’s overall response to COVID-19 is Brigadier General Bob Schulte, who also serves as professor of Physical Therapy at the University of Mary. Dr. Schulte works with experts from the NDDOH and North Dakota National Guard who lead North Dakota’s charge for comprehensive testing. In terms of COVID-19 testing, lab readiness, and tracing, the university’s premier status in the health sciences — along with its nationally-ranked nursing department – places the school in a very strong position. Mary’s fully-staffed student health clinic on campus is a satellite of CHI St. Alexius Medical Center, which has now partnered with Mayo Clinic to pioneer plasma treatment for COVID-19.

Having a fun and vibrant community in a rural area outside a community like Bismarck has its perks. The University of Mary is uniquely positioned high atop the banks of the Missouri River, overlooking the majestic river valley, from the same vantage point that Lewis and Clark once did. The University of Mary is one of only a handful of campuses across the United Sates to offer 24/7 dining with its Crow’s Nest Restaurant that seats over 600 people: so there is less crowding at peak times, allowing students to eat wherever they wish, whenever they wish, without space issues. With large-sized classrooms, but a small 14 to 1 student-to-faculty-ratio, the University of Mary doesn’t have huge, crowded, elbow-to-elbow learning quarters with large auditorium-style classes of 200 to 300 students, that could otherwise cause safety challenges.

Since February, when the virus spread through northern Italy, University of Mary’s COVID-19 Task Force, and later its ERT, implemented a strategy for the closure and removal of University of Mary students from its Rome Campus; students on its main campus south of Bismarck were able to isolate and adapt quite quickly and effectively before the complete shutdown; while not always ideal for learning, the school’s long history of online programs and an already vast integration of some of its daily coursework through online platforms, provided Mary’s world-class faculty with robust, flexible, and rapid integration and implementation of its comprehensive curriculums through the virtual platform to close out the spring semester and school year.

That quick action proved valuable for the preparedness of the University of Mary then, and moving forward now, said Shea.

“Our strong online capabilities, remote location, on-campus health care services, and spacious campus with overflow residence hall capacity, give us the capabilities to quarantine students, if needed, for a mandatory period of time, while still allowing them to learn online, before transitioning back into the classroom,” added Shea. “Also, we learned that we were able to maintain residence life as we did without an outbreak among our students and without community transmission traced to the University of Mary, is a testament to the outstanding work of our Emergency Response Team, our Residence Life staff, Dining Services, our faculty, and to the prudence and the cooperation of our students. Probably we had some divine protection, too! But we did it all without missing a beat and helped keep our students, faculty, staff, North Dakota, and the most vulnerable in our communities — safe.”

In March, at the recommendation of Governor Doug Burgum and the North Dakota Department of Health, the University of Mary fieldhouse was transformed into a Tier-3 field hospital and continues to be equipped and on standby to assist the state medically, if ever needed in the near future.

Barring any unforeseen interruptions, or any state or federal mandates related to the pandemic – and constantly monitoring any changing circumstances – the University of Mary is planning for a September 5 Freshmen Move-in followed by in-person classes starting on Tuesday, September 8, 2020.

Today (Monday, April 27, 2020), the University of Mary is sending emails to eligible students and degree candidates about emergency financial aid grants for expenses related to food and housing because of disruption caused by the pandemic.  We are also communicating information on certain fee refunds and other critical information.  All students are sincerely asked to monitor their email addresses to receive this timely information.  Forms must be submitted by May 11, 2020, in order to allow the University to consider the needs of all students equitably.  Questions can be directed to [email protected].

Thank you.

COVID-19 Taskforce

Members of the University of Mary Community:

On this Monday afternoon, following what would have been our Commencement 2020 weekend, I send you greetings from a very quiet campus.

The last of our remaining residential students from the Spring semester have either departed campus or have moved to the apartments.  As such, the University of Mary is no longer in a congregate living situation as defined by the ND Health Department.  That we were able to maintain residence life as we did without an outbreak among our students and without community transmission traced to the University is a testament to the outstanding work of our Emergency Response Team, our Residence Life Staff, Dining Services, our Faculty, and to the prudence and the cooperation of our students.  Probably we had some divine protection, too!

  • Alex Cournoyer and our Residence Directors were on the front lines of getting a thousand students checked out of our residence halls and caring for those who remained.  They were outstanding, rolled with the punches, inspired confidence, and kept it fun for those in their care.  They are a great testament to the depth of our mission.
  • Our professors adapted tirelessly and cheerfully to the online modality, such that the negative feedback we have received is a whisper compared to what we are hearing about from our peer institutions.  Bravi … e grazie!
  • Chris Mongeon and his staff went way beyond the call of duty in the quality and variety of food they provided to our students, and they helped to make them feel at home over the Easter weekend.  For Easter Sunday, they had prime rib and lamb chops for lunch and then a full turkey dinner in the evening.  And I will never forget eating boeuf bourguignon from a plastic container on a random Tuesday evening.  On the last day, a young man from Los Angeles wondered aloud to me if it would be better for the Crow’s Nest to remain closed if we’re capable of having this kind of food available for pick-up! 
  • Jerome Richter, General Dave Anderson, and the whole Emergency Response Team talked through every contingency and provided a solid plan that allowed us to navigate uncertain waters with confidence.  Their work was so impressive.  At this time, I am directing them to shift their focus with a view towards formulation of a comprehensive plan for the safe and timely opening of our campus in September. Please give them your full support as they move forward energetically on this front and pray for them, that they may be given the wisdom and fortitude to make good provision for all circumstances.  Also, if I could beg you, please pray that it will indeed be possible for us to open the campus again for the Fall 2020 Semester.

One final matter today:  as part of our care for students, we are sending out emails this afternoon regarding emergency financial aid grants and some refunds.  Jerome Richter wrote to you about this on Friday.  We are also informing all students about critical resources available to them and inviting them to let us know if they find themselves in a situation of immediate hardship because of the pandemic.  I imagine that our students, especially those closest to your service as a faculty or staff member, may turn to you with questions about these forms and the process for receiving grants or refunds.  In order to avoid any confusion and so that the University is able to respond to all concerns consistently and with one message, please refer to the following verbiage that you may use in responding to our students:

The University has done its best to put clear information about refunds and emergency grants in the forms accessible to you at  If you have carefully reviewed and completed the forms and still have questions and concerns, Karrie Huber (our Director of Financial Aid) and her team are available to you.  Contact them at (701) 355-8142 or by email at [email protected].

Thanks so much.  You and your families remain in my prayers.  Enjoy the beautiful weather!

In Mary,

Monsignor Shea

Members of the University of Mary Community:

I pray all of you and your families are well.  Next week the University of Mary anticipates being able to communicate with eligible students and degree candidates about emergency financial aid grants for expenses related to food and housing because of disruption caused by the pandemic.  At that time, we will also be communicating information on certain fee refunds and other critical information.  We would ask our students please to be alert and to monitor their email address, as this is our official mode for communication.  Faculty and staff who have received related questions are encouraged to ensure that students are aware of this announcement about forthcoming information.  Thank you so much. 

With prayers and warm wishes especially for our seniors and degree candidates,

Jerome J. Richter,
Executive Vice President

These early springtime weeks after Easter mark the season of Commencement at the University of Mary, when our campus should be bursting with joyous new life and the arrival of family and friends from across the nation and around the world to celebrate with our graduates.

But it’s quiet here these days, and we miss our students. It reminds us that a university isn’t first of all a business or an institution. We are a community – an “alma mater” – a family for growth and nurture in the great enterprise of education. We exist for the sharpening of the mind and the deepening of the heart. It’s what we do. It’s who we are. We exist for you.

And so we miss you very much.

The distance between us is necessary, but it is merely physical. The University of Mary is always with you, and always will be. When those first Sisters came to Dakota Territory in 1878, they brought with them the indomitable Christian spirit, a courage which down all the centuries has taught us to confront challenges and overcome them—together. We know it won't be long before the laughter of our students will once again echo in the residence halls and the Crow’s Nest, the noble and happy striving of athletic competition will resume, the chapels and classrooms and laboratories will again be full, and our professors and students will once more meet each other face to face

Even now, in less visible ways, our life together continues and Mary continues to serve our students. Until we are together again, a candle burns brightly for you in the Grotto. You and your families are always in my prayers.

In Mary,
Monsignor James P. Shea

[Video by Tom Ackerman, photos by Jerry Anderson, conceptualization of the UMary alma mater – “Standing on the Bluffs of the Missouri” – by Dr. Tom Porter.]

Members of the University of Mary Community,

The sun is setting over the Missouri River, and I’ve just returned to my office from the Lumen Vitae University Center.  It’s suppertime for the small band of students left on campus, and we waited at the window of Susanne’s to pick up our orders from the Grille or sample the Hoisin pork with Asian garlic noodles.  The temperatures should reach 60 degrees within a day or two.

Now that the dust has settled a bit from the drama of last week and online courses are all underway, we have all had a chance to catch our breath and consider what the coming months may have in store.  There’s a whole lot of uncertainty about that, of course, but I spent a good bit of the day on the phone with state and federal officials to gain a clearer sense for projected timelines and how things may unfold.  I’ve also had the benefit of huddling quietly with President’s Council to seek their wisdom.  (We did keep good space between us.  In fact, two VPs were on video conference from home.)

Taking all things into account, and based on what we have learned, I’m able to share a few updates with you:


It’s become clear that we can’t hold Commencement as scheduled next month.  The CDC’s 8-week prohibition on mass gatherings and large community events of over 50 persons is still projected to be in effect, even if the national “15-day pause” is not extended.  We’ve received many messages from 2020 graduates hoping that our annual Commencement Exercises might proceed as planned.  Those set to graduate have already experienced so much disruption, and I know that

But the obvious situation on the ground is such that, while this is a sad and difficult decision, it’s not a tough call.  A month from now we can’t host an event that typically draws so many thousands of people into one place.

Commencement also marks the crowning event of the year for me and for our faculty and staff.  Both the graduates and the University do so much hard work to get to that day, and it’s a bitter disappointment that we cannot mark the occasion with the usual festive rites of celebration.  Under the circumstances, here is the course we have chosen:

  1. Those set to graduate will, of course, have their degrees conferred upon completion of program requirements.  It’s just that this will happen by mail and without ceremony.  The Office of the Registrar is tracking this, will provide excellent service and mail out diplomas, and they are prepared to answer questions.

  2. At 2:00 pm on Saturday, April 25, 2020, I will plan to host a livestream to offer some words of encouragement and a blessing for those who would otherwise have been in cap and gown at the Bismarck Event Center at that hour.  It will not be anything like a “virtual graduation,” but we hope it gives the University a somewhat intimate and personal opportunity to express how proud we are of our graduates and their achievements.

  3. Rather than tentatively scheduling a diminished ceremony at a later time, we will hold a combined Double Commencement on April 24, 2021 … almost exactly a year later.  We will provide a special-edition honor cord for all of the 2020 graduates to wear with cap and gown as they walk across the stage and receive their hoods and plaques.  And – for the benefit of both classes celebrating their graduation – we’ll amp up the celebration party on campus afterwards with a live band, lots of festive food and drink, and a massive fireworks display.

To all of our graduates:  I’m so proud of you, and I’m really sorry.


Year Round Campus

It also gives me no pleasure to share with you that we are going to have to re-vamp the YRC experience for this summer.  The information we are receiving about when we may be able to resume housing large numbers on campus is not encouraging.   Doing so by the May 11 launch of the summer term looks very unlikely, and it does not work for us to try to patch together the rich and formative residential experience we dream of offering for YRC Fellows half-way through.

As such, the residential component of the program and the YRC Seminar are suspended for this year’s Fellows.

The promise of reduced time to degree completion, a core component of the program, is still possible.  YRC Fellows and others can still take a full load of classes through the summer.  But these courses will now be online, and the Deans of the University are working carefully to select the faculty who can truly deliver the most enjoyable and enriching online experience.

In these uncertain times, we also want to take special care that we are doing what we can to offer a wide range of our talented faculty the possibility of doing some extra teaching in the summer term. Of course, all of this depends upon summer enrollments and may require some moving and shifting, and we ask for patience as we work to move the summer semester online

This also serves as an invitation for any members of our community, even those who are not YRC fellows, to enroll in classes this summer.  Registration is now open, classes begin May 11, and the experience will be robust and engaging.  If you are interested, contact your academic advisor or the Dean of your School and we’ll get you connected to the classes you need.


Non-Residential Academic Programs

We have had quite a few questions from non-residential programs that offer instruction in the summer (like Physical or Occupational Therapy) or from blended programs that are mostly online but have summer institutes on campus (like Bioethics or the Ed.D.).  Of course, we want to resume in-person classes when we’re able, but we’re just not sure now when that might be.  Count on your program directors to keep you informed, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!



The suspension of University-sponsored or grant-funded travel has now been extended to the end of May.  Those seeking exceptions should consult with their Vice President or the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics.  International travel sponsored by the University is on hold at least until July.


I wish I had more cheerful news for all of you today.  But my mind and heart have been filled these past days with the 46th Psalm, prayed so often by our Sisters

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. … For the Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.

The Lord is with us, for sure.  Stay well!

In Mary,

Monsignor James Shea


Good Afternoon University Faculty and Staff,

I am emailing you with a Monday update on the COVID-19 situation. We continue to adhere to the protocols provided to us by the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDOH) to protect our community. Attached you will find the “Guidance for Congregate Living Settings and COVID-19,” released officially by the NDDOH on Friday.  Monsignor had obtained an advance copy that we had already been working from, so we were “ahead of the ball.”  I want to thank General David Anderson and the rest of the Emergency Response Team for their great assistance, counsel, and wisdom.

Updates from Emergency Response Team:

Just under 100 students will be remaining on campus. These students will be moved into either Greg Butler (women) and Hillside (men), and those in the apartment community will remain in their apartments.

Roers Hall will be used as the facility for self-isolation (or quarantine, if that should happen).

  • The main doors of Roers will not be used by anyone in isolation or quarantine. Until further notice, the NW door (which enters directly into the 2nd floor corridor) will be used by anyone in isolation or quarantine.  We will disable all M-Card access for all others and post a sign to the door.
  • To continue to provide hospitality to our students on campus, we have prepared Dining Services to be able to take care of anyone in self-isolation or quarantine.
  • We have worked out an agreement where Kyle Darras at the University of Mary Student Health Clinic will continue to serve us well by staffing the clinic Monday – Thursday. After hours and all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Kyle or another licensed nurse practitioner who has been briefed on our situation at the University will be on standby for phone consultations with students who may be experiencing symptoms.
  • All students remaining on campus had personal training sessions with Monsignor and have signed a release agreeing to aggressive social distancing practices and the protocols for dining now that the Crow’s Nest has been closed by the Governor’s executive order last week.
  • All students remaining on campus have been registered for the Attendify app, which allows us to communicate with them rapidly.  It also allows them to ask us questions and communicate with each other.  We have put resources on Attendify for what precisely to do if they have symptoms, the social distancing protocols they agreed to, dining information, spiritual and mental health care, and much more.

From 10:00 am - 10:30 am every day, Monsignor, Father Shea, or Father Vasek will celebrate Mass by livestream from Benet Chapel.  All are welcome to participate at  The videos will also be archived to our Youtube channel under “Holy Mass in the 2020 Pandemic.” All prayer intentions sent to [email protected] are being printed and placed at the foot of the altar. 

For Faculty and Staff mail service will now move to a once-weekly delivery.  If particular mail is needed more frequently, you may call the mailroom at 701-355-8378 to coordinate an earlier pick-up.

Let us continue to pray for one another, our students, and especially for those most directly affected by the pandemic. 

God bless you,

Jerome J. Richter

Executive Vice President

Members of the University of Mary Corporate Faculty and Staff,

Eight days ago I sent a letter to you and to our students about the developing COVID-19 pandemic. It seems like that was such a long time ago!

In that first letter, I said that we would be cancelling our scheduled meeting for Monday and conveying the content of the letter by email. Well, it turns out that I cannot keep that promise to you, because none of the agenda items have been left intact. These circumstances have touched nearly every aspect of our life at Mary.

The tenacity and integrity of our community in these times has been astonishing! I’ve been spending 18- hour days at the university, but I know many of you are up before me and finish your work after me each night, along with caring for your families and attending to all the many cares and anxieties we are all facing. There is a human cost to that, I know.

Let me express to you a grief that I trust God will one day turn into a blessing. But it is a grief that has been growing deep within me:

It has been so perplexing to spend many, many hours pouring enormous amounts of energy struggling through a decision and all its details, only to find everything suddenly shift under our feet. For a long time I’ve thought that it is really good and humbling for us occasionally to crash up against our limitations. But to have it happen all day, every day, is a stern test of simple human resilience. I know many of us have been feeling this way.

It tries your soul.

And there has also been this grief in the way that our students, especially our seniors, have had their lives upended even while we – with all of our capacity and talent and devotion – cannot protect them from that. Cancelled athletic seasons, concerts, plays, awards banquets, annual traditions of college life … and the closeness of maturing friendship and their common life together in Bismarck, Rome, or Arizona … it has all come to an eerie and seemingly empty halt.

Still, we relentlessly trust that Providence is at work in all of this, for their good and our good. It has been amazing and beautiful to read the warm and grateful comments that students have left on their departure forms, notes left in our office, or the many public and private messages we have received through social media. They are a testament that, in the midst of it all, our students do feel well cared-for, and that is surely central to our mission. For that, I am so very grateful to you.

Instead of our original agenda for last Monday, I am able to share with you a few nitty-gritty updates:

  • As the dust settles on campus, it looks like we will have about 130 students left in our residence halls. They have identified to us that they do not have other viable options, and we have reassured them of our commitment to care for their needs as best we can. The ND Department of Health has been very helpful, providing us with clear guidance for congregant settings during the pandemic, and I am meeting with all of the remaining students and residence life staff in small groups later today to impress upon them the importance of these common measures, for the safety of all. The Emergency Response Team has also been preparing our protocols and procedures should anything develop, also identifying our resources and reserves of assistance.
  • Our last Mass on campus for the foreseeable future was held yesterday, with many tears. We will be livestreaming Mass each day at 10:00 am from Benet Chapel, beginning this morning. Follow “University of Mary Ministry” on Facebook or Instagram to access the daily link. We will also post and archive each of the Masses on our UMary Youtube channel soon afterwards. Do you have particular prayer intentions you would want us to hold in prayer, especially during the daily Mass? Send them to [email protected], and we’ll print them out and place them at the foot of the altar, remembering you and your needs each day.
  • We are still in the full swing of recruiting for our 2020 freshman class, and the admissions team brought in ten more deposits this week! We are also gearing up for our first “virtual SOAR” this week: I’m very proud of Chip Hinton and his team, as they do so much to keep our eyes on the bright horizon of the future.

Everyone, this is a season of unanswered questions, and I’m sure you must have many. We are doing the best we can to keep up, and we don’t have all of the answers. But we welcome your questions. Teaching faculty can be in contact with their respective Deans and with the Office of Academic Affairs. Others can reach out to their supervisors. Failing that – or should you get a challenging question from a student or parent – [email protected] is still being manned by our COVID-19 Task Force.

I’m praying for all of you, and I’d humbly also be grateful for your prayers for me.

In Mary,

Monsignor James Shea


Good afternoon, Students of the University of Mary:

In the midst of this busy day of transition, I just wanted to take a moment to check in with all of you and provide a brief update:

  1. You may have heard that the first evidence of a case COVID-19 in North Dakota resulting from community spread has just been confirmed in Mandan, the city just across the river from our main campus.  This means that the person diagnosed had no history of travel and no contact with anyone confirmed to have the disease.  This, along with the two cases diagnosed yesterday in Bismarck, is a sobering cause for concern and a reminder of how important it is for us painstakingly to observe social distancing protocols.
    In the last 24 hours, everything I shared with you in my letter on Sunday has become yet more urgent for us right here in central North Dakota.  For those still on campus or who are hoping to remain on campus, this is a concern you should share with your families as an update, and it is really important for you to be following all CDC guidelines without fail as long as you are here.
  2. We received word this morning that the Diocese of Bismarck is suspending all public Masses until further notice.  We will have Mass today at 4:30 pm.  Tomorrow for the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Masses will be at 9:00 am and 12:00 noon, all in Our Lady of the Annunciation Chapel.  These will be the last Masses on campus until circumstances change.  Father Shea and I are discussing ways to provide spiritual care for our students in the days and weeks to come, to include the possibility of livestreaming Masses for you from Benet Chapel.  Stay tuned.
  3. For those of you traveling from campus yet today, especially by car, please take good care.  There is a weather advisory today and tomorrow, which we shared with you through the UMary app and social media.  Please do not place yourselves at risk should conditions become dangerous, especially if you were considering travel by night. Carefully monitor the weather and road conditions, which you can find at
  4. The COVID-19 form can be found at  This information and instructions were sent to you yesterday by email and on the UMary app.  In order to make plans for the care of all of our students, we require your response by the end of the day.  Thanks so much.

As ever, I’m praying for you.


In Mary,

Monsignor James Shea


Dear Colleagues:

The pace of COVID-19 transmission across the country demands that we move faster to assure social distancing in alignment with public health direction for reducing the rate of virus spread.  The most recent confirmed case, in Morton County, is the first known case in North Dakota of community transmission. 

A number of our employees have already been working from home.  The university remains open, but we need to move in the direction of a more comprehensive remote work protocol. 

I would ask that supervisors work with your vice president or athletic director on plans to transition all or some of your team members to working from home.  This way, we will be putting the process in place should the need arise for more universal implementation.

We understand that there is work that absolutely must be done on site.  The vice presidents and Coach Lennon have been updating their lists of essential employees whose work can only be done on site.

All employees who are working on site are expected to very carefully observe social distancing protocols and all recommendations of the CDC to do our best to minimize exposure, especially as we will have a small community of students living on campus.  We do not want a case of community spread to arise on the campus due to employee travel back and forth from Bismarck/Mandan.

All employees working from home do so with the understanding that we may need to bring them back to campus or ask them to take on new or different duties as our response to the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

So many of our students bid a tearful farewell to campus this morning and are on their way home.  Let us accompany them with our prayers.

God bless you,

Jerome J. Richter

Executive Vice President

Members of the University of Mary Community:

In the last days, the ND Governor’s office and both Bismarck and Burleigh County have declared states of emergency relative to the spread of the coronavirus.  These are actions taken to prepare our state and local communities for the earliest evidence of community spread of the virus.  The first diagnosed case of COVID-19 in North Dakota came through out-of-state travel. Since then, two additional cases have been confirmed.

The University of Mary already has an Emergency Operations Plan in place and, as you know, a COVID-19 Task Force and President’s Council have been working on operational decisions and strategic communication for our community. 

 As an added measure, I yesterday appointed an Emergency Response Team.  The responsibility of this Team is to meet and prepare for the possibility of a confirmed case of COVID-19 on our campus or an outbreak of cases in Bismarck/Mandan.  This team has been in contact with and is receiving up-to-date briefings from the ND Department of Health, the North Dakota University System, and the COVID-19 State Unified Command of the Division of Emergency Management (the latter of which has the most current national intelligence on the spread of the virus).  We are coordinating and planning in this way for your safety and the safety of our community.

The Emergency Response Team is being chaired by Jerome Richter as Chief of Staff, assisted by General David Anderson and other members of the University of Mary community.  Please give them your full support and continue to look for updates on

In Mary,

Monsignor James Shea


Members of the University of Mary Community,

I have some difficult news to share with you.

I’ve personally spoken twice earlier today with the ND Department of Health to confer and seek clear guidance.  They have been really helpful, noting that the actions we have taken and communicated meet or exceed all guidance/directives that have been offered by them or by the Centers for Disease Control.  We specifically discussed the low risk of community spread of the virus in small classroom settings, which we have implemented.  We had their “blessing” for our plan, along with their commitment to work with us moving forward.

All along, our intention has been to preserve your experience of education and community in the midst of rapidly changing circumstances.  So long as we could attend to both your flourishing and your safety, this has been our guiding principle. 

But I’ve just spoken with the Health Department again, and new federal directives in development will make it impossible for us to continue with in-person classes.  I’m very sorry about this, and I know it will be a bitter disappointment for you – our students, faculty, and staff.  We have been surprised by how few of you thus far have chosen to transition to online instruction.

But anticipating the possibility that travel between states may soon be restricted, it seems important to act on this new information with enough time for students to return home, if they wish. 

Our final day of in-person classes and regular campus schedule will be tomorrow, March 17, and the remainder of the week will be reserved for travel and to allow our faculty the chance to transition all of their classes to a fully online format for the rest of the term

Classes will begin again on Monday, March 23, now continuing into what had been scheduled for finals week.  And so the last day of the term will be April 23.

Residential students wishing to remain on campus as they complete their courses online will need to inform us of this intention using a form that will be provided to all students. We will circulate that form so that you have it sometime tomorrow.

I am also concerned for any of our students who are now placed in a situation of exceptional hardship, and we are considering how we might best be there for them at this time. 

I’m sure that there will be many questions as we navigate the days ahead, and we will do our best to answer them as they arise.  These have been difficult days for all of us, I know.

In the midst of it all, we are seeking the face of God and His providential care for all of us.  Please know this for sure: with all of my heart, I am holding you in my prayers.

In Mary,

Monsignor James Shea


Dear Students of the University of Mary,

I want to write to you personally about everything that has been happening these past days. You have been steadily on my mind and in my prayers.

We have set upon a course, for the moment, which offers you the choice to remain on campus with each other and continue your education here. With that choice comes a serious responsibility for each other, and that is central to our Benedictine value of Community. Circumstances are fluid, and things may change, but our hope is that we can safely make it together to April 17, the end of the spring semester.

The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through our country. If you were all home for Spring Break, as is the case right now at many universities, it would probably be imprudent to have you return to campus from so many places. But because you are here, the opposite may be true. The spread of the virus depends upon the movement of people.

It also depends upon the gathering of people.

And so I am asking you:

  1. Please radically restrict your movement.
  2. Please practice social distancing.

Cancel your travel plans. Do not go into town unless you really need to. Be more alert to your surroundings and interactions and hygiene than before, especially in public places. Give each other a lot of space. For the time being, stop hosting visitors on campus in the residence halls.

This may seem drastic and unnecessary to you. You are probably young and healthy, and you are hearing that this means the symptoms will be mild for you, even unnoticed.

But consider these things we have been learning:

  1. The coronavirus is highly contagious.
  2. The way it has spread in other parts of the world indicates that, by now, everyone should assume the virus is present in their community even if there have not yet been reports of the disease.
  3. The disease caused by the virus is considerably more deadly than the ordinary flu, especially for the elderly and those with existing medical conditions.
  4. If it spreads too quickly, it will overwhelm our health care system. We have to work together to slow the spread of the disease so medical science has more time to develop solutions.

These facts mean young and healthy persons with mild symptoms or no symptoms are actually a very serious risk to others, because they can be the most effective in transmitting the disease to the vulnerable without realizing they are infectious.

Remember all the times freshman year I told you that college is not the end of childhood but the beginning of adulthood? The essence of adulthood is having the capacity to take responsibility for others.

All of this is not about self-protection, and the last thing I want is for you to be afraid or to turn in upon yourself in anxiety.

This is about love, and love casts out fear (1 Jn. 4:18).

Love is the reason we are changing our behavior.  There are vulnerable people around us who are at grave risk. This is a chance for us to make choices not simply to protect ourselves, but to care for others who are depending upon us to protect them by our choices.

At Mary, we say that we stand for Life. We fight for those who need us, even if we cannot see them. Students, this is a concrete chance to come together and do just that. In this uncertain hour, we can act and do good.

  1. Please radically restrict your movement.
  2. Please practice social distancing. 

Let’s do our best to get to April 17 together.

Have courage, brave students!  And thanks for receiving these requests from me in the spirit of affection for you with which I write them.

In Mary,

Monsignor James Shea


Dear Students,

In the letter Monsignor Shea sent to you earlier today, he asked you to:

  • Radically restrict your movement (to include cancellation of travel plans and to refrain from going to town unless necessary)
  • Practice social distancing

I am emailing you this evening, with additional important information about how we, as a community, will need to work together to do our part in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus in our community. Towards this goal, effective immediately, it is important for all of us to comply with each of the following:

  1. Avoid activities where involving large groups of people - small groups (no more than 30 people) are permissible on campus using the following protocols:
    1. No one present is sick or has any reason to think they have been exposed to the coronavirus
    2. All shared surfaces are disinfected before and after the meeting or activity
    3. All participants wash their hands thoroughly (more than 20 seconds) upon arrival and upon returning to their student residence
    4. Food and drink are served individually
    5. Try maintain a distance of least 3-6 feet between participant and as much distance as possible should be maintained between participants and their belongings
    6. Avoid touching (e.g. hugs, handshakes, etc.)
    7. Think prevention when sneezing or coughing (use tissues or your elbow to prevent the spread of germs)  
    8.  Where possible, classes with more than 30 students will be moved to larger venues where the distance between students can be increased 
  2. Until further notice, refrain from hosting off-campus guests on campus and in the residence halls:
    1. We live in an age where technology will enable us to remain in contact with off-campus friends – please let your friends from off campus know they should not come to campus to see you  
    2. Also, effective immediately, the Overnight Guests policy in the Residence Halls (page 33 of the Student Handbook) is suspended until further notice – meaning no overnight guests will be allowed
  3. Focus on staying healthy
    1. Get some exercise and spend time outdoors - Student Recreation & Wellness will be announcing ways for you to exercise (plans include an early start to the summer bike program and there are plans for some contests for walkers
    2. Eat healthy and get adequate sleep
    3. Use this time to maintain an active spiritual life by reading Scripture and praying
  4. If you feel sick or learn you have had contact with someone who is ill, do not go to the clinic – instead call the clinic or your medical provider and follow their instruction
  5. If you feel anxious – or if you have a friend who feels anxious reach out to a friend, residence director, instructor, advisor, or coach and remember, professional counselors at CHI St. Alexius Health are available 24/7:
    University of Mary students and their dependent children are eligible for free and confidential counseling (up to five sessions) provided by licensed mental health professionals. You may meet in person with a counselor at their location in downtown Bismarck (1310 East Main Avenue) or you may opt for online sessions using the HIPAA compliant ZOOM video service. You may make an appointment by calling 701-530-7195 or 800-327-7195. They also offer a 24/7 crisis line at the 701-530-7195 number. 
  6. Please continue to monitor the university’s COVID-19 site at for updates. Questions may be submitted to the [email protected] address.

The Student Development Team will update you about activities and protocols via the University of Mary APP as more information becomes available. In the days to come let’s make it our priority to care for one another and let us pray as a community to our God, who in his love and care for us, tells us to call on Him in times of trouble (Psalm 50:15).

Social Distancing and Prevention Poster


God Bless,

Dr. Tim Seaworth, Vice President for Student Development

Members of the University of Mary community,

In his letter on Thursday, Monsignor Shea announced, among other things, “Athletic travel will proceed according to the guidelines of the NSIC/NCAA and with additional institutional precautions.” There have been quite a few developments since then, and it is important to bring everyone up to date.

Over the past 48 hours, the University’s athletic community has experienced unprecedented safety decisions that have shut down all internal operations involving student athlete participation and competition. Legislative rulings from both the NSIC and NCAA have established the guidelines currently being followed within our athletic department. These guidelines include:

  • The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) announced the suspension of all athletic activities for each of its 16-member institutions. This includes all travel, competitions, practices, countable strength & conditioning, and meetings/film review (all countable athletically related activities - CARA). The suspension will remain in effect until March 31, at which time the NSIC will re-evaluate the status of the situation.
  • NCAA President Mark Emmert and the NCAA Board of Governors canceled the 2020 Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships in all three divisions.
  • The American Collegiate Hockey Association announced it has canceled the 2020 National Championship Tournament which was set to begin in Frisco, Texas on March 19.
  • The Division II Administrative Committee adopted emergency legislation to establish a temporary recruiting dead period in all NCAA Division II sports, effective immediately.  The dead period will remain in effect at least until April 15, at which time the Administrative Committee will re-evaluate the status of the situation.

The NSIC and NCAA legislative actions have affected all of our athletic programs regardless of in-season or off-season status. It is especially disappointing for our athletes and coaches who were at the end of their seasons and prepared to compete in their National Championship tournaments – we sympathize with these athletes, and I would ask that all of us join in offering them appropriate encouragement and moral support. The ‘What If’ will always haunt these athletes. This historical legislative action was administered only because of the necessity of circumstances for the well-being of all Americans, and is truly an invitation to Virtuous Sacrifice on all of our parts.

The Athletic Department will continue to monitor and evaluate the status of spring sports potentially restarting their seasons. Training rooms, weight rooms and athletic facilities will be available for voluntary use only through the spring semester for our athletes. Athletic programs will continue to monitor the academic progress of their Scholar-Athletes as usual and can offer academic assistance where needed. Father Vasek, our athletics chaplain, will also be available to visit with any athlete upon request.

While these are truly challenging and uncertain times, I am confident that the actions in place, will allow our community to remain strong and safe. We will strive to practice the virtues of Prudence in our leadership, Courage in our resolve, Temperance in our choices, and Justice in our decisions.

God Bless!


Dale Lennon                                                                           Jerome Richter

Director of Athletics                                                               Executive Vice President

The following resolution was adopted by the North Sun Intercollegiate Conference Board of Directors on Thursday evening upon the recommendation of the conference’s athletic directors:

NSIC COVID-19 Athletic Activities Suspension

The NSIC has suspended all athletic activities effective immediately through Tuesday, March 31st. Non-conference competitions already travelled to are left to institutional discretion up to March 16th, at which time all athletic activities must cease.

During this time, no athletic activities may occur. This is to include competitions, practices, countable strength & conditioning, meetings/film review, etc.

There will be no off campus in-person recruiting contact and evaluations, institutional policy will dictate on campus recruiting contacts and evaluations. Correspondence via text and telephone calls remain permissible if otherwise permitted per the sport’s respective recruiting calendar.

The suspension ending on March 31st was determined after evaluating conference handbooks to meet sport conference championship qualification. 

Reevaluation of the remainder of the academic year schedule will occur through the duration of March with an announcement following a Board of Directors decision.

 A. Prevention Plan
  1. Concerned employees who consider themselves at risk may reach out to HR to discuss opportunities and develop a plan.
  2. Please take ownership of your work space and regularly clean/disinfect your area – phone, keyboard, chair arms, etc.
  3. Employees unable to report to work due to their own or a family member’s COVID-19 confirmed illness will have use of any accrued PTO or Extended Sick Leave (ESL). The prerequisite of using 3 PTO days before ESL will be waived. Employee is obliged to inform their supervisor in the event of any absence.
  4. Employee absences due to their own confirmed illness or the need to provide COVID-19 related support at home during this time will be excused.
  5. Employees unable to report to work due to a COVID-19 daycare or school closure that requires them to be home with their children may work remotely, if feasible. If remote work is not an option, the employee will have use of available leave balances, including ESL.
  6. Supervisors are encouraged to review all positions to determine remote work feasibility and request the appropriate technology support needed to accommodate eligible employees.
  7. Supervisors should consider cross-training of essential business functions.

 B. Containment Plan

  1. Employees with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater are required to stay home.
  2. Employees absent for three or more workdays will need to provide a medical return to work release. The Campus Health Clinic is available to provide this determination.
  3. Consider alternative work arrangements (remote work arrangement).

C. Additional Measures

  1. Recruiting: Until further notice, hiring managers shall use technology for interview purposes before having a candidate travel to campus from outside of the Bismarck-Mandan area.
  2. The Campus Health Clinic is available to provide return to work determinations when an employee has been out for 3 or more days.
  3. Please respect each individual’s right of privacy. Keep any medical-related information confidential.

This document may be revised and amended at the discretion of the university. Any revision or amendment will constitute a new document and supersede any prior document.


Bonnie Dahl, Director of Human Resources

Dear Colleagues,


In time of crisis, it is common to experience stress and anxiety as we all do our best to care for family members, friends and the students we serve. President’s Council has asked that I be in touch with you to remind you of the following resources:

  1. If you are at an elevated risk for the COVID-19 virus due to other medical conditions and/or age, please contact me to explore how we can work together to find options to help keep you well.
  2. Confidential counseling (three free sessions) is available to you or any immediate family member through the University of Mary’s Employee Assistance Program through CHI St. Alexius Health. You may meet with a counselor from the privacy of your home using the HIPPA-compliant ZOOM program. 701-530-7195 or 800-327-7195.
  3. Spiritual support is available through University Ministry. Please stop by the Saint John Paul II Center for University Ministry, located in the Benedictine Center for Servant Leadership, or call 701-355-3704.

We are a community. If you need assistance, please let me or your supervisor know how we can help!


Best Regards,

Bonnie Dahl, Director of Human Resources

Dear Students,

In a time of crisis, like the one we are now experiencing with COVID-19, things can change from day to day. There is uncertainty and we all share concern for those who will be most affected. We all react differently to this type of stress. It is not uncommon to experience anxiety or to worry about family, friends and ourselves.

I would like to remind you that in times like this it is good to seek support from family and friends. It is always better to face challenges together than alone. It is also wise to seek professional support if the stress or anxiety you feel persists.

Please keep in mind the following support that is available to you:

1. University Ministry

Located in the Saint John Paul II Center for University Ministry within the Benedictine Center for Servant Leadership our chaplains, Father Robert Shea and Father Anthony Baker are available to pray with you and for you. University Ministry will continue to offer daily Mass and prayer. You may contact them at 701-355-3704.  Our chaplain for Marauders athletics, Father Craig Vasek, is also happy to hear from any of our scholar athletes who are seeking spiritual care.  His number is 701-355-5168.  You can also send a message to [email protected] to connect with any of our available spiritual resources.

 2. Counseling Services through CHI St. Alexius Health

University of Mary students and their dependent children are eligible for free and confidential counseling (up to five sessions) provided by licensed mental health professionals. You may meet in person with a counselor at their location in downtown Bismarck (1310 East Main Avenue) or you may opt for online sessions using the HIPAA compliant ZOOM video service. You may make an appointment by calling 701-530-7195 or 800-327-7195. They also offer a 24/7 crisis line at the 701-530-7195 number.

We are a community. If you need support you may also reach out to your instructors, advisors, coaches, residence directors. We are here for you – make the call!


God Bless,

Dr. Tim Seaworth, Vice President for Student Development

As the University of Mary, along with the external community, transitions to the use of technology and online resources in response to the COVID-19 emergency, it is important for students to be mindful that all University of Mary policies for students are applicable in the online, virtual environment. As stated on page 4 of the University of Mary Student Handbook (in the second paragraph under the heading “Description”):

University of Mary Students are responsible to access a current copy of the Student Handbook and are subject to comply with the policies, regulations, and procedures it contains. This expectation includes all undergraduate, graduate and special admission students as well as students enrolled online, at the university’s distant sites and campuses, and those enrolled at the main campus.  


You will find a copy of the Student Handbook here:


When interacting with others in an online environment, it is important to continue to practice the Benedictine values of Respect and Community. It is not acceptable, and the university will not tolerate bullying, harassment, or discrimination. Students who are targeted as well as those who observe any such behavior are encouraged to report it to the appropriate university officials. In addition to the policies contained in the Student Handbook Each student is responsible to be familiar with and abide by each of the following policies:   


If you are the target of prohibited behaviors or if you know of someone who has been targeted, you are encouraged to make a report. You may do so online, or you may contact a university official.

If you would like to file an online complaint, The Conduct Grievance Board oversees the investigation and resolution of complaints alleging misconduct identified in the Sexual Misconduct, Discrimination and Harassment, Hazing, Retaliation or Title IX Policies listed above. A description of the Conduct Grievance Board as well as information about how to file a compliant may be found at:

The Executive Vice President, Mr. Jerome Richter, chairs the Conduct Grievance Board and you may contact him at [email protected] or at 701-355-8072. 

For all other types of student misconduct, you may make a report to the Director of Student Life, Sarah Eberle at [email protected] or at 701-355-8126.


Accommodations in an Online Environment

I would also like to take this opportunity to advise students that it is possible you may need an accommodation in an online environment that you do not need in a classroom setting. Should you need this type of assistance or have questions, please contact Dr. Lynn Dodge, Student Accessibility Services Coordinator at 701-355-8264 or at [email protected]

To all members of the University of Mary Community,

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I would like to take a moment to share preventative steps being taken by the Office of Physical Plant to help keep our community safe.

  1. Hand sanitizing pump bottles have been placed in the following locations on campus:
  • Lumen Vitae Atrium / Bookstore
  • Crow’s Nest Campus Restaurant
  • Marauders Cove
  • Gary Tharaldson School of Business lobby
  • Welder Library circulation desk
  • Casey main entrance
  • School of Education reception desk
  • Business Office reception desk
  • Admissions reception desk
  • Student Development office
  • Hospitality Center reception desk
  • Wellness Center desk
  • Chesterton’s counter
  • Bismarck-Butler Center reception desk
  • PT building on Rosser.
  1. Sanitizer dispensers and/or sanitizing wipes will be installed in the fitness center, weight room, and athletic training rooms.
  2. Custodial staff are disinfecting frequently touched public surfaces (classroom tables, door handles, handrails, drinking fountains, toilets, sinks, etc.) on a daily basis, M-F.
  3. Frequently touched public surfaces in residence halls and dining centers are being disinfected daily, 7 days a week. This is occurring on an enhanced schedule from the usually scheduled cleaning rounds.
  4. For additional protection, the following extra measures are being taken within the Crow’s Nest:
    1. All patrons are required to use hand sanitizer when entering the Crow’s Nest (sanitizer dispensers have been installed at the entrance).
    2. All tables will be disinfected between each use.  Patrons should take care not to be seated at a table that has not yet been cleaned. 
    3. Patrons will be reminded not to bring cups, plates, etc. back to the servery, but instead to use clean dishes on each trips.
  5. Cleaning supplies (disinfectant, rags, gloves, and safety data sheets) are being provided in all RA offices for use by students and/or RAs.
  6. Refresher training will be provided for all Physical Plant staff on safe work practices and OSHA requirements related to the current concerns.We are taking additional steps to protect all of our employees, providing both for their safety and the safety of our students.
  7. Please wash your hands frequently with soap and water and observe all other preventative measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and the ND Department of Health.  Continue to monitor

If any additional or specialized cleaning is requested, please submit a work order to the Office of Physical Plant at, or contact the Office of Physical Plant at 355-8310 with any questions or concerns.


Luke Seidling, Director of Physical Plant

Dear Faculty and Staff,

The University of Mary thanks you for your understanding and attention as we navigate through the quickly-changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic. We wanted to offer a clarification about something Monsignor Shea mentioned in his letter to the community yesterday. Following guidelines issued by the government and advice from legal counsel, the university is immediately suspending all university-sponsored and grant-funded travel until the end of the semester. All non-essential travel on university business is suspended. This includes faculty and staff travel to conferences, meetings, and other professional development opportunities.

We would expect that most or all existing travel reservations would have been made through our account with Corporate Travel Planners. We have notified them to be ready to assist you with the refund process. Call them at 833.708.0730 if you have travel within two weeks in need of cancellation. If the travel is to take place after March 27, email them at [email protected]. We are finding that airlines and hotels are providing enhanced flexibility with cancellations and refunds in light of these circumstances. If you have any questions about any other existing reservations, please consult with your respective vice president or the athletic director.

As you know, the university has a duty to provide a safe work environment for all our employees, and this is a duty we take very seriously. That duty also extends to the students who are remaining on campus, in our classrooms, residence halls, and other facilities. For this reason, the university strongly discourages all employees working on our main campus from traveling beyond the Bismarck-Mandan community for personal reasons through the end of the semester. We are seeing that the situation on the ground could rapidly evolve during the course of even a short trip. Because of our legal obligation to all employees and students and our legal right – in light of these circumstances – to impose reasonable, fact-based restrictions when there is a threat to the health and safety of others, please know that any elective travel for personal reasons could prevent your ability to physically return to campus.

We appreciate your flexibility and understanding as we continue to monitor this fluid situation.


Dr. Diane Fladeland, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Jerome Richter, Executive Vice President

Dear Members of the University of Mary Community,

As you know from previous communications, the university has been closely following events and public health recommendations surrounding the outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The health of our students, faculty, and staff is a top priority at Mary. So is our educational mission. There has been an increasing sense of tension between these priorities as concern about the coronavirus has escalated over recent days.

The first case of COVID-19 in North Dakota was confirmed late last night. Even though it was diagnosed in a part of the state distant from our main campus and was contracted through out-of-state travel contact, this news obviously merits our attention and our careful, steady consideration.

As the final weeks of the spring term draw near, our current intention is to continue to offer in-person classes for our students and a rich experience of community on our campus through the end of the semester. Nevertheless, given all that we know and what we can anticipate based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we need to proceed with an abundance of caution and provide, as best we can, for rapid changes in circumstances. We are taking into account a number of clear factors:

  1. COVID-19 appears to pose the greatest risk to older adults and those with underlying and chronic health conditions. The CDC and the ND Department of Health has emphasized the need to avoid non-essential contact with elderly populations.
  2. Although the health risks seem lower for younger, healthy adults when they contract the virus, they can still serve as carriers of the virus to more vulnerable individuals.
  3. Large gatherings of persons in close quarters pose an increased risk.
  4. Limiting exposure to oneself and others by limiting unnecessary movement, personal contact, and travel can mitigate risk.

With all of this in mind, I am able to share with you the following information:

  • For the time being, our students are most welcome to remain on or commute to our campus for classes to finish out the semester. We will continue to monitor this developing situation, and we are providing clear instructions for such students so that their experience can be as safe as possible for themselves and others, with minimal disruption.
  • Those students who believe that they would be safer somewhere other than our campus are free to make arrangements to that effect. These students should consult with each of their individual professors. They will be accommodated to the extent possible in completing their courses online through (Canvas LMS). For any of the small number of courses that cannot be completed in this way for curricular reasons, completion of the course and the awarding of credit will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Residential students on a meal plan who choose to depart campus will receive a partial credit in their student account at the beginning of their next enrolled semester. The credit will be calculated based on the remaining weeks in the semester minus an amount for fixed costs which are, by nature, irrecoverable by the university. For legal reasons, I am told that we are unable to issue refund checks in this amount, but it will decrease the costs of the next semester. An exception is those who are set to graduate next month, who will receive a check upon completion of their final course.
  • Professors who, for any reason, believe themselves to be at greater risk are encouraged, at their discretion and in consultation with their Dean, to arrange to offer the remainder of their courses for this semester online. I would ask our students to be respectful and understanding of this personal decision.
  • Administrative and support staff, along with those employees of university partners who serve on campus, should stay in close communication with their supervisors and use their best, prudent discretion. Anyone who considers themselves at greater risk should consult with HR to determine an appropriate plan.
  • All classes and scheduled gatherings of more than 30 persons will be under review in an effort to find alternative arrangements, if possible. Those responsible for such classes or gatherings should write to the contact email at ([email protected]) for direction. One of the great advantages of being a smaller place under these circumstances is that the number of such classes and gatherings is manageable. The Office of Academic Affairs will excuse student absences related to illness.

We cannot at this time anticipate all of the changes to the calendar through the end of the semester or to upcoming travel plans, but I am able to inform you of the following:

  • The Rome Maymester has sadly been cancelled. Enrolled students should be in contact with the Office of Global Studies and with their academic advisor. Capacity will be expanded in the 2021 Maymester and even in each of next year’s semester-long programs to accommodate, as possible, those who wish to reschedule this experience. Those unable to reschedule who also need the core course offered during the Maymester, Benedict, Yesterday and Today, should consult with their advisor as soon as possible to survey their options.
  • All university-sponsored travel through the end of the semester is suspended, with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis. Athletic travel will proceed according to the guidelines of the NSIC/NCAA and with additional institutional precautions. All university-sponsored international travel is suspended through the end of May. International travel departing in June is now under review, with a decision forthcoming by April 1.
  • The Vocations Jamboree next week, which is always a happy gathering with representatives of religious communities and service organizations from every corner of the nation converging on our campus, can no longer prudently be held. We had considered cancelling the Expo and proceeding with the keynote presentation, but that would involve a large gathering of students in the MAC, joined by many guests from surrounding communities.
  • All campus Masses are being moved to Our Lady of the Annunciation Chapel, allowing participants more space between each other. The Lenten season has meant that Our Lady of the Word and Benet have been overflowing, with too many people in close quarters. For this same reason, through the end of the semester, we will be adding a 9:00 am Mass on Sundays and a 4:30 pm Mass on Wednesdays. The Sign of Peace and the distribution of the Precious Blood have been suspended, and priests are greeting people after Mass without the shaking of hands. If you’re experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms, your university chaplain has asked that you please do not come to Mass.
  • The Corporate Faculty and Staff Meeting on March 16 is being cancelled, with the intended content of that meeting conveyed by email next week.
  • The upcoming Spring Theater production, Pirates of Penzance, slated for March 20-22, has been cancelled, as has the upcoming Spring Choir and Band Concert on Sunday, April 5. Additionally, the Office of Student Development will be considering whether to continue or cancel other student activities on a case-by-case basis.
  • The Leadership Awards Banquet on March 31 will now be a simple ceremony, held in Founders Hall, live-streamed for family and friends who would have wanted to attend.
  • The 2020 President’s Club dinners, scheduled for next month, are being cancelled for the safety of our donors and friends.
  • The last day of the term will be April 17. Final exams will be held online or before that date at faculty discretion.
  • A decision about Commencement 2020 and surrounding activities will be made by April 1. For now, this culminating event in the university’s life remains on our calendar as scheduled.

The University of Mary remains open. University housing, computer labs, food service, the health clinic, university ministry, counseling services, and all other aspects of the university’s main campus remain open. The university’s COVID-19 webpage,, will continue to be our primary source of information and updates related to university operations.

I would earnestly ask those remaining on campus and continuing to attend classes in-person to observe very carefully all of the recommendations of the CDC websites and the ND Department of Health. Those links are available at I would also offer the following guidance:

  • Please reconsider any out-of-state or any unnecessary travel until the end of the semester. This includes Easter travel. We are planning a full range of services on campus for the Sacred Triduum and will schedule a special Chapel of the Word for Easter. Special meals are also being planned so we can share fellowship together while reducing the risk of transmission of the virus to or from campus. If you do travel between now and the end of the semester, please inform your Resident Director and keep a careful record of those you come into contact with while you are away.
  • Observe additional sanitation protocols in heavy-use settings (the Crow’s Nest, fitness center, Welder Library, etc.). We will try to make abundant hand sanitizer products available in such spaces. This is also a good time for us to give each other a little extra personal space, modeling some of that stoicism of North Dakota’s German-Russian and Scandinavian heritage.
  • Please refrain from visiting Annunciation Monastery through the end of the semester. You can bet that the Sisters are praying for us, and their hospitality is unfailing. This is not a request that comes from them but from me, as an expression of extra love and care for our Sisters, some of whom would be at high risk were they to contract the virus.
  • If you are receiving Holy Communion at Mass, please be very mindful as you are receiving. We use large hosts and try to be careful, but it is helpful when those receiving by the tongue are very still, avoiding quick movements, and when those receiving by the hand hold their hands high and flat, not cupping them. If you have any concerns about contracting or transmitting something through the receiving of Communion, consider making a Spiritual Communion.

The spread of the coronavirus may necessitate changes in the way we interact, but it does not change what we do. The University of Mary will continue to operate and will continue to provide the highest-quality education possible to our students, and University of Mary employees will continue to serve those who have been entrusted to us.

This is a new and difficult challenge not only for our community at Mary, but for the broader community in Bismarck-Mandan, North Dakota, our country, and our world. We will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation with local, state and federal public health officials. And we remain united in prayer for protection, and for healing for those who are already affected.

In the meantime, please carry on with your work and your studies. Do so with care for yourself and for those around you and continue to adhere to all the recommended preventative measures. But do not retreat from your commitment to your education and to the important work you do every day.

In Mary,

Monsignor James P. Shea


Greetings to all University of Mary Community Members, 

Amid concern about the COVID-19 virus, the University of Mary is taking proactive steps to address any situations that might arise that would impact our students, faculty, and staff. The health of our students and employees, as well as, the larger community is a high priority for the University of Mary.  A task force has been created and is working  to develop a plan to meet whatever challenges we may face as a community.

As noted in Dr. Fladeland's March 3, 2020 email, the University of Mary has already taken the precautionary step of returning Rome campus students to their family homes where they will be in isolation for 14 days as recommended by the CDC. After ensuring that they have not been exposed, they will have the option to finish their semester by working online or at Mary College at ASU in Tempe.

Academic Affairs is prepared to ensure students are able to complete courses online if necessary. Following guidelines from the Center for Disease Control, we will have protocols in place in the event any student or employee becomes ill with the virus. Our Human Resources Department is prepared to implement policies for employees in the event of an illness. Our athletic department and others responsible for events are monitoring travel restrictions and are prepared to  respond appropriately with cancellations, if needed. The plan created by this task force will be the model for future health concerns, including the annual flu season.

As of now, we are taking precautionary measures within the residence halls, classrooms and offices to help students, faculty and staff remain healthy. Hand sanitizers will be provided throughout the university, and  bathroom signs will reinforce the need for diligent hand washing practices as one of the best ways to prevent spreading germs of all kinds.

Anyone who develops symptoms should stay home and contact medical providers by phone. We will continue to communicate with the entire community as we move forward. The following email address, [email protected], has been set up for you to send your questions if you are not able to find the information on the COVID-19 webpage,   As is always the case for any media contacts, please direct any inquiries to our Media Relations Specialist, Tom Ackerman, in the Office of Public Affairs at [email protected].

Members of the task force cover a wide range of areas at the University of Mary and are listed below:

  • Dr. Alyssa Martin (Academic Affairs)
  • Alex Cournoyer (Residence Life)
  • Kyle Darras (CHI St. Alexius Health)
  • Bonnie Dahl (Human Resources)
  • Janel Sailer (Financial Affairs)
  • Brenda Nagel (Public Affairs)
  • Dale Lennon (Athletics)
  • Jerilyn Stocker (Community Relations/Events)
  • Luke Seidling (Physical Plant and Facilities)
  • Latifah Kraemer (Student Development)
  • Dr. Diane Fladeland (Academic Affairs--Task Force Co-Chair)
  • Dr. Tim Seaworth (Student Development--Task Force Co-Chair)

Good morning, members of the University of Mary Community, Board of Trustees, and Annunciation Monastery,

It’s been a harrowing two days since we announced the closure of our Rome campus. We’ve moved quickly since then to evacuate our students amidst reports that some expatriates in Italy were waiting many days before even reaching their respective airlines to arrange their travel. To intensify matters further, the American Embassy in Italy issued a statement notifying us that Americans returning home would be screened before boarding their planes and denied travel should their temperatures or health seem suspect, all the while suggesting that further travel restrictions were imminent. With that urgency in mind, we were able successfully to leverage a combination of travel partnerships, airline connections, frequent flier miles and corporate flier miles to secure flights home for each of our students and returning staff as early as Thursday, with our last students and staff departing in the early hours of this morning. In the meantime, Italy announced that it was mandatorily closing all its institutions of higher education.

Thus, we’re happy to report that as of 7:37am CT today, the last travelers of our students and staff departed Europe and have either arrived home safely or are midway over the Atlantic, set to arrive later today. They will spend 14 days in self-isolation before reuniting in Arizona, with flights already arranged for them. 17 of the 25 have chosen to go to Arizona. Our Arizona staff has been busily and excitedly arranging a warm (and sunny) reception for our students in Tempe. Upon arrival on March 20th, they’ll depart for a Southwest excursion to the Grand Canyon and resume their studies at Mary College at ASU.

Our Rome staff—Dr. Lombardo, Dr. Alessandra Franco, and John Dinkel—along with Madelyn Dinkel, Fr. Dan Eusterman, and Fr. Brad Sjoquist, are to be commended for their handling of the situation, along with their tremendous care for our students as they were so suddenly uprooted from an experience they’ve been looking forward to since before they started at Mary. Thank you for your prayers and support as we repatriated our Rome community. Know that our students and staff are safe as we continue to monitor the situation abroad.

In Mary,

Monsignor James Shea


University of Mary relocates Rome program to its Arizona campus 

As positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to make global headlines, the University of Mary is thankful no cases have been reported on or close to our Rome Campus in the Monteverde Nuovo neighborhood of the Eternal City.  The university has been carefully monitoring the situation on the ground in Italy, and all recommended measures have been taken to ensure the safety of our students. As early as last week, we informed the students that they were free to return to their homes in the United States, at their own discretion and in consultation with their families, and that those who chose to return would be able to finish their studies for the semester via technology.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has now upgraded its former Level 2 Travel Alert for Italy (“Practice Enhanced Precautions”) to a Level 3 Travel Warning (“Avoid Non Essential Travel”). Relatedly, the U.S. Department of State has now issued a Level 3 Travel Advisory (“Reconsider Travel”) for Italy and a Level 4 Advisory (“Do Not Travel”) for certain areas of Northern Italy.

In light of this, and not wanting our students to be in a situation where they are unable to return home, we have taken the decision to bring our Rome students back to the United States.  We will begin working with them immediately on travel arrangements, maintaining operations of the Rome Campus until the last student has safely reached America.

We recognize that this is a disappointment for the students, who have grown so close to each other as a community during these past weeks abroad and who have looked forward for so long to this opportunity to study in the Eternal City and to travel throughout Europe. 

Spring semester Rome students will return to their permanent place of residence to reside with their families for a transitional period of two weeks, so that they can recover from jet lag and so proper health screenings can take place.  The university is unable to accommodate returning students on our Bismarck campus.  The option will remain for them to complete the remainder of the semester’s classes in an online format so our students do not lose the academic progress they have made.

However, from about March 20 the operations of the Rome program will relocate to the University of Mary’s campus in Arizona. Returning students who have been screened by a qualified physician will have the choice to spend the final five weeks of the semester there.  Premium housing has been arranged within walking distance of our Arizona campus, there is ample classroom space at our facilities there, and a hiking trip is being planned to Sedona and the Grand Canyon.  While our Rome students will not be taking classes at Arizona State University, as the students who are part of the domestic exchange do, they will be finishing University of Mary classes together in-person and through teleconference technology.

The university anticipates making a decision about the Maymester session of our Rome program by the end of next week.

The University of Mary asks for prayers for the safe return of our students to their families and homeland while expressing deep gratitude to our staff and faculty in Rome and Bismarck who have shown them such care.


The North Dakota Department of Health reminds all of us of the importance of practicing everyday preventive actions:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces daily
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick


CDC Coronavirus Website

CDC Frequently Asked Questions

Seasonal Flu vs. Coronavirus

Coronavirus Symptoms

ND Dept. of Health Coronavirus Website

Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks


If after you've reviewed the resources available on this website, you still have questions, please email [email protected] and a member of our task force will be in touch.

For media inquiries, please contact Tom Ackerman, Media Relations Specialist, at [email protected]