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Care: Responsibility for or attention to health, well-being, and safety.
– Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Since July, a diverse group of Upper Iowa University staff  members spanning across Fayette Campus has quietly served on the front line to better assure the safety of students and the entire Campus community during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

UIU CARE team members, joined by Fayette Police Chief Ben Davis, are volunteers who directly address any health and safety issues that could potentially impact Campus. Among the group’s first tasks was creating the Fayette Campus CARE Plan. The 13-page document describing the protocols, policies and processes designed to help students remain safe and healthy was first provided to students last August ahead of their arrival to Campus and again during the move-in process.

Now numbering approximately 20 members, the CARE Team evolves with each new need or concern. The volunteers not only serve as a planning committee but also spearhead the hands-on assistance required by students impacted by COVID-19. Faculty and staff members have provided daily check-ins, care and assistance to Peacocks in quarantine and isolation, including help with moving, delivering meals and packages, running errands, and providing technology assistance, personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies.

“Serving as the go-to resource for students, the CARE Team’s skillful guidance played a major role in UIU’s successful return to face-to-face classes this past fall,” UIU President William R. Duffy II said. “There have been times when tough individual choices had to be made, but it has always been while keeping the safety of our Campus and local community in mind.”

CARE Team member and head athletic trainer Matt Rueckert believes that the team’s primary challenge is the ever-changing information and scenarios as a result of an unpredictable pandemic and dynamic Campus.

“It seems that we run into a different scenario almost weekly,” Rueckert said. “Trying to give the best advice while staying consistent in our message has been a struggle at times, but the team has overcome any issues by working together and always looking out for the best interest of the masses. Our decisions are not always the most popular, but the team’s attention to detail, persistence and thoughtfulness kept UIU moving forward without a shutdown this past fall.”

CARE Team member/Assistant Dean of Student Life Daryl Grove noted that noncompliance and short lapses of judgement were learning opportunities for the Campus community.

“Collectively, the honor system and Peacocks looking out for each other and the greater good of Upper Iowa University has prevailed,” Grove said. “Care plans and procedures exist within all modalities, making us even more poised to continue providing quality educational opportunities accessible through varied delivery methods to inspire success and empower lives through 2020 and beyond.”

Communication is a critical component of UIU’s response to the pandemic. Students are asked to use an app to conduct daily screenings. A COVID-19 dashboard detailing positive cases and on and off-campus isolations and quarantines is updated daily on the UIU website. A stream of emails and announcements have also been sent to students, faculty and staff.

“An untold amount of time, effort and care went into making sure our students continue to have the safest and most positive experience possible during a pandemic,” CARE Team member/Director of Academic Success Amy Tucker said. “By putting in countless hours to help students to move, adjust courses, provide and deliver meals, and keep open a steady line of communication, the CARE Team, and others who have provided a hand, helped the University maintain a face-to-face format this past fall. I would like to share extra kudos to UIU’s dining service provider, Aramark, for the amount of coordination, extra work and effort they have provided, which has been especially instrumental in the CARE Team’s efforts.”

In addition to praising the CARE Team and all the faculty and staff who supported this group’s hard work and dedication, Duffy reserved special praise for one important stakeholder.

“I would like to especially thank the students for doing their part in the University’s success during this pandemic,” Duffy said. “We can design all the safety plans and procedures we want, but if the students didn’t buy into it, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

#PeacockStrong is more than just a hashtag, it’s a movement, a value and a culture. To be #PeacockStrong is to have the strength and tenacity to do what’s best for all, even when it may be uncomfortable or inconvenient. As a member of the UIU family it’s up to all of us to protect not only ourselves, but our fellow Peacocks; all students, staff, faculty, friends and family. Health and safety guidelines have been put in place not to restrict your experience at UIU, but make sure it remains possible.

Daryl Grove, Assistant Dean of Student Life
Matt Rueckert, Head Athletic Trainer
Stephanie Herman, Aramark Manager
Jesse Pleggenkuhle, Director of Facilities Management
Amy Tucker, Director of Academic Success
Jordan Hay, Residence Area Coordinator
Crystal Cole, Director of Counseling and Wellness
Mike Van Sickle, Editorial Services Director
Sarah Swanson, Assistant Athletic Director for Internal Operations
Ben Davis, Fayette Police Chief
Jake Bass, Coordinator of Student Activities
Mark Danker, Development Officer III
Karl Easttorp, Executive Director of Communications and Marketing
Julie Games, Advancement Operations Manager
Ryan Goodenbour, Graduate Assistant – Student Life
Nicole M. Kuhn, Executive Assistant to the VP for External Affairs
Carson Parker, Graduate Assistant – Men’s Basketball
Anne Puffett, Director of Career Development
Mike Schrock, Director of Prospect Development
Morgan Thias, Communications and Marketing Specialist
Brenda Luzum, Executive Director of Alumni Development
Edyta Cichon-Barche, Coordinator for International Student/Scholar Services
Beth Petsche, Director of Graphic Services