Campus Operation Update from President Bullock

Feb 23, 2021

Dear Members of the University of Dubuque Community,

We are off and running in our spring 2021 semester! I am mindful of the fact that I’m using the word “spring” somewhat hopefully. It has been a record-breaking cold February, with plenty of snow. I am always so very grateful for our grounds team and housekeeping team, especially this time of the year; they do a terrific job keeping our campus safe and looking good in these very challenging conditions.

Today I want to share with you updates on a variety of items across campus. Although it has been a challenging year, we have a lot to be thankful for and to celebrate.

I want to offer a special shout-out to the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force. This group of extremely gifted colleagues has helped all of us to navigate these challenging times for nearly a year. I am pleased to report that our mitigation and safety protocols are working on campus and at our LIFE sites. Among those protocols is regular COVID-19 testing on campus. Through Education Test Iowa and Smeltzer-Kelly Student Health Center, we have administered nearly 1,700 tests this semester and maintained a less than 0.8 percent positivity rate.

We continue to practice UD’s mantra to help mitigate the spread of the virus: Practice common sense – good hygiene, social distancing, and wear a face covering for yourself and for others. It has afforded us the privilege of gradually spending more time together. We have begun to enjoy gathering for men’s and women’s basketball games, wrestling matches, and volleyball competitions. Thank you — all of you — for doing your part to make our being together possible! 

I encourage you to follow UD’s mantra wherever Spring Break (March 1-5, 2021) may take you. When students and employees return to campus, please utilize campus resources for getting a COVID-19 test. You can find more information on COVID-19 testing at

To find more ways to keep our campus safe, please visit

Despite restrictions related to the pandemic, the Office of Admission, coaches, faculty, and staff continue to recruit our entering classes in our college, graduate, seminary, and LIFE sites. Overall, we expect enrollment to remain strong. We’re grateful for enrollment increases in our graduate programs and seminary. As some of you may remember, we did not increase tuition, room, board, and fees for traditional undergraduate students for the 2020-2021 academic year. We have limited our increase to 1% for the 2021-2022 academic year. This kind of fiscal control is unusual during this time, and it is a reason why we are one of the most affordable universities in the country.

We expect to receive a distribution from the most recent CARES Act funding, a portion of which, subject to federal government rules, will be distributed to students. My hope is that students who receive these funds will seriously consider applying whatever they receive to their educational loans. Applying $1,000 now to an educational loan will save $1,718 in principle and accrued interest over 20 years. Applying $2,000 now will save $3,439 in principle and accrued interest. Parents and guardians, please take note!

Smeltzer-Kelly Student Health Center has been active. In addition to administering COVID-19 tests to students, health center staff have provided exceptional care for our students in its first academic year. To complement our extensive health-related offerings including physical and brain health, we now have the capacity to test and treat students who are challenged with ADD, ADHD, and other areas of health management. Over the summer, we hope to complete the lower level of the health center to include additional offices and a group therapy room. We want to thank Barbara and Jack Smeltzer, along with our other investors, for making this dream of a health center a reality. 

As you know, I have long been concerned about health conditions such as anxiety and depression that arise from prolonged periods of isolation combined with the bombardment effect of incendiary and often insensitive social media postings. We have thankfully seen an increase in the number of students seeking assistance in learning how to manage their brain health challenges. You are not alone. It takes courage to seek support, and we are here to assist you in your health journey. 

We anticipate holding three in-person commencement ceremonies for our undergraduate and graduate students on May 1, 2021, to accommodate health and safety protocols. Graduates will be assigned a ceremony time and be given wristbands for up to six guests. Seminary will hold commencement activities virtually. Visit for updates. 

We are working on launching a new UD website this semester. As part of our new branding campaign initiated during the 2018-2019 academic year, Tom Hogan, senior associate vice president for enrollment – university relations, his team, and our partners Little and Co. have been developing our new website, updating our technology and social media presence, and advancing our digital marketing capabilities. We appreciate all the hard work by the website team as well as the campus community as we work through updating departmental information. This is most certainly a team effort!

I am pleased to report the completion of Opus 97 (John and Alice Butler Pipe Organ) in John and Alice Butler Hall at Heritage Center. University Organist and Professor of Music Charles Barland gave us a sneak preview of this wonderful instrument in late January. He will hold an organ recital that will be livestreamed at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 6, 2021. Please visit for more information. 

I would like to use this outlet to give thanks to God for the life and ministry of Rev. Durwood (Woody) Busse who recently entered the Church Triumphant at the age of 91. Rev. Busse (C’52, MDiv’55) and Barbara Skaife Busse (C’57) received the Alumnus and Alumna of Distinction award in 2018 during Homecoming. The Busses had an extensive career as missionaries in the Presbyterian Church (USA), mostly in Iran and Pakistan but with regular contacts in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. We often say that the core of UD’s Mission is nurturing a life of significance in contrast to one of prestige. Truly, Rev. Busse and Barbara Busse represented that Mission!

Over at least the next two years, we will be initiating work on the renovation of Severance Hall, Van Vliet Hall, Aitchison Hall, and, hopefully, Alumni Hall. Severance Hall was built in 1912, Van Vliet Hall was built in 1926, and Alumni Hall was built in 1907. Aitchison Hall, which was built in 1962, is the junior member of this collective project. These buildings continue to look beautiful and are extensively used; however, they need updates in plumbing, wiring, heating and cooling, insulation, accessibility, roofing, and tuck-pointing. Once completed, our entire campus will be effectively new and in good shape to serve the next generation of students.

I am so grateful for the leadership provided by our Office of Advancement and Alumni Engagement. Even in the midst of diminished travel due to COVID-19, they have been able to reach out and touch more alumni and investors than ever. Much of our current support continues to come in the form of investments for additional student scholarships. We were privileged to have received some significant additional support prior to the end of the 2020 calendar year. I anticipate that our Board of Trustees will soon be considering a campaign to further strengthen the University’s endowment. This campaign will be looking for support from all of those who love this Mission. It will focus primarily on student scholarships and additional extensive investments to support and enhance student learning. This kind of endowment strength and support will be critical as we move into a post-COVID-19 environment as, without question, college preparedness has significantly regressed during the pandemic. Please reach out to a member of our Advancement Team at 563.589.3158 or visit to learn more about giving options and opportunities.

I am really amazed, but not surprised, by how well our campus community has managed to address the daily challenges related to this moment in our history. 

We are in amazingly good shape, thanks in no small part to our committed cadre of faculty and staff colleagues, a supportive Board of Trustees, and engaged alumni and friends. I am grateful that we could find a way to keep our faculty and staff levels steady. In fact, not one position on our campus has been eliminated because of COVID-19.

Our students continue to inspire me. This year has not been an ideal experience for any college student, but, importantly, at UD, it has been a face-to-face experience for those choosing to exercise that option. That is the most important achievement of all, in my opinion. We are not yet out of the woods, but we can now see a clearing through the trees. As we begin a new academic year in August 2021, I am hopeful that most of these challenges will be behind us, and we will start to live into that new post-COVID-19 “normal,” whatever form that may take.

Finally, I want to encourage us to live with courage and without fear. Though it may sound cliché, during this time I have learned to do my best to embrace each day: enjoy its happiness, address its challenges, and be thankful for the gift of life and the privilege of learning — in community. It’s also important that we go the extra mile in supporting each other. It’s easy to become discouraged and depressed during challenging times, especially when it’s minus 30 degrees!

But spring is coming; that’s the promise. And with spring, will come new hope and opportunity, a new graduating class, and the finalization of plans for a new school year.

Mancherlei Gaben Und Ein Geist (Various Gifts and One Spirit), 

Rev. Jeffrey F. Bullock, PhD
President of the University