Two college students (a white woman and Black man) smile for an outdoor portrait. They point toward each other. They wear sunglasses and black and gold UMBC t-shirts.

UMBC announces return to vibrant on-campus community for Fall 2021

This week, UMBC announced plans to reopen the campus for the Fall 2021 semester, providing most courses and campus services face-to-face or in a hybrid format.

“I cannot wait to walk across campus and to again see it busy with students, faculty, and staff,” said President Freeman Hrabowski. “It will be very special to reclaim the vibrant campus community life that we have all missed.”

He and Provost Philip Rous have cited ongoing progress in COVID-19 vaccine access and updated public health guidance as key factors in the university’s planning.

University president in suit poses for a selfie with two student leaders in black t-shirts with UMBC logo.
President Hrabowski with Orientation Peer Advisors, summer 2018.

This news comes just over a year after UMBC temporarily moved most teaching and learning, community building, research, and other operations online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know that our students really miss seeing their friends on campus. And they miss being able to go to in-person events and connect with their professors face-to-face,” says Nancy Young, vice president for Student Affairs. 

“We’ve discovered innovative ways to help Retrievers find community and stay connected online during the pandemic,” she shares. “At the same time, we know how meaningful it will be for returning students to connect in person once again, and for incoming students to have opportunities for in-person experiences.”

Two young adults and one middle-aged adults stand outside, giving thumbs up signs. A person wearing a Retriever mascot in UMBC jersey joins them.
Nancy Young (center) with SGA President Mehrshad Devin (left), Communications Director Calista Ogburn (right), and True Grit on campus in July 2020.

The COVID-19 Planning Coordinating Committee has been working with faculty, staff, and student leaders across the university to plan for a fall that offers opportunities to live, learn, and work on campus, with appropriate safety measures in place. Plans also take into account the diverse needs and individual health concerns of UMBC community members.

Classes, housing, and events

Course registration is now open for both undergraduate and graduate students. Most courses will be offered in-person or in a hybrid format. The university will continue to make additions to the Schedule of Classes over the coming months.

UMBC is preparing to reopen residence halls at up to 95 percent occupancy. More information about housing spaces, rates, and adjustments to meet public health guidance will be available soon.

Two young woman sit in a dorm room, working together.
UMBC students in on-campus housing.

The university is planning a full Fall 2021 calendar of on-campus events open to both residential and off-campus students.

Professional portrait of a middle-aged black woman with short hair. She is smiling and wears a navy blazer and three strands of pearls.
Yvette Mozie-Ross. Image courtesy of Mozie-Ross.

“We are excited to be able to return to offering a fully immersive on-campus experience this fall,” says Yvette Mozie-Ross ’88, health science and policy. She serves as vice provost for enrollment management and planning.

“These experiences help to enrich the academic and social life at UMBC for many of our students,” says Mozie-Ross. “We are also excited to carry forward all that we learned during the pandemic about ways that online learning, support, and community-building resources can complement on-campus courses and services.”

Facilities for recreation, well-being, and learning

Middle-aged man with short, dark hair stands at a podium. The podium has a UMBC Athletics logo, as does a banner behind him. He wears a suit with yellow and black tie.
Brian Barrio, 2019

Over the past year, UMBC fully renovated the Retriever Activities Center (RAC). The updated space will offer expanded recreation facilities. These include a track, cardio-training, weight-training, spinning, group exercise space, and basketball courts.

The building really has been transformed,” says Brian Barrio, UMBC’s director of Athletics. “There will be something for everyone’s recreational or fitness needs. It is really exciting.”

A brand new student well-being facility is under construction next to Erickson Field. It will soon house UMBC’s health, counseling, restorative services, and spiritual resources.

The university continues to thoughtfully plan for the reopening of additional facilities and community spaces, including the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery, The Commons, performance spaces, and other gathering spaces.

UMBC Albin O'Kuhn Library in springtime
UMBC Albin O. Kuhn Library in spring 2019.

Ongoing focus on safety, flexibility

“We look forward to a much more active on-campus community this fall,” says President Hrabowski. “At the same time, we know the pandemic is not over. We must continue to be as flexible as possible.”

UMBC will continue to rigorously follow local, state, and federal public health guidance. This includes safety measures regarding testing, symptom tracking, mandatory mask wearing, hygiene, ventilation, physical distancing, and space occupancy, as required. 

Young white woman with blonde hair sits in front of a building, typing on a laptop. She wears jeans and a flowy patterned shirt.
Katherine Poteet ’21, global studies and political science, by the library, Fall 2020.

The university strongly encourages all students, faculty, and staff to seek vaccination for COVID-19 once they are eligible. Campus leaders note that current public health guidance indicates increased vaccination will enable more expansion of in-person activities.

Middle-aged black man with glasses and a face mask receives a shot from a medical professional wearing protective gear. He wears a blue and white dress shirt and dark slacks.
Pres. Freeman Hrabowski receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. He participated in the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Moderna vaccine trial, 2020. Photo courtesy of UMB.

“We are constantly following the science and public health guidance,” says Young, “and the science says that the more vaccinated our community becomes, the more open we can be.”

“We have been thrilled to hear about expanding access to highly effective COVID-19 vaccines,” she shares. “It’s really been a game-changer for us, to be able to look ahead with optimism for seeing each other again soon, on campus.”

Knowing that individual community members have different situations and concerns, UMBC will continue to emphasize flexibility and responsiveness in meeting diverse student, faculty, and staff needs. 

Community members with questions about COVID-19 and the Fall 2021 semester can contact covid19@umbc.edu.

Featured image: UMBC Orientation Peer Advisors in 2018. Photos by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC unless otherwise noted.