Return to Campus Plan for Fall 2020

Messiah University is preparing to welcome students for an in-person, on-campus start in August 2020 with flexible learning options, health and safety protocols and student care and support.


FAQs for students and families

FAQs for undergraduate students and families

Residence Life and Housing

New and returning residential students were sent an email to sign up for a move-in slot according to the following schedule:
Aug. 19 (Multicultural and International/TCK students only)
Aug. 20-23: All other first-year and transfer students
Aug. 22-24:  Returning upperclass students
The Welcome Week/move-in schedule of events will be updated at as soon as it is finalized. 
What are the residential policies/ expectations for students related to COVID-19 health and safety this fall?

Messiah’s committed to the health and safety of our students and our campus community. Students living in on-campus housing will have the expectations and guidelines related to life together in the season of COVID-19 thoroughly reviewed and explained to them during Welcome Week and orientation.
Student visitation will look different for fall 2020. Federal and state guidance on reopening safely instruct institutions to limit visitors and non-essential personnel in residential spaces. The University will be using a phased approach to visitation will occur to better ensure the health and safety of all.

For the first two weeks of classes, there is no visitation. Students must not enter a floor or apartment or house if they do not reside there. If the campus remains free of COVID-19 cases after two weeks, visitation will resume with modified parameters outlined below.
  1. Residential students may visit fellow residential students. Both the hosts and visiting residential students must wear protective cloth masks during the duration of the visit.
  2. Until further notice, no off-campus visitors are permitted in university residences, including commuters and student family members.
  3. Residential student visitors cannot have had COVID-19 symptoms nor been exposed to someone with the virus within two weeks prior to the visit.
  4. Residential student visitors must remain a Falcon Wingspan apart and should not share furniture together with another person at the same time (futons, couches, chairs, room beds, etc.). Furniture should be cleaned and disinfected immediately after use.
  5. Residential student visitors are not permitted to be in floor lounges.
  6. No floor bathroom use by residential student visitors. Residential student visitors may use the public restrooms located in the main building spaces.
  7. There is a maximum limit of three individuals in a traditional residence hall single or double room; four individuals in a traditional residence hall triple room.
  8. Residents in apartments are limited to three additional residential visitors at a time with the ability to maintain a Falcon Wingspan apart. As always, no visitation in bedrooms by the opposite sex.
  9. Each special interest house will be provided with a maximum occupancy related to residential student visitors.
  10. Resident assistants are considered essential personnel and will perform walking rounds throughout floors and buildings, per usual, but wearing protective cloth masks as they do. Adjustments may be made as necessary for health and safety reasons. Other authorized campus employees will also be permitted access to residential spaces on an as-needed basis with health and safety requirements in place.
If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the campus community, visitation may be restricted or eliminated to mitigate the spread of the virus. If this occurs, applicable guidance will be communicated to residents in a timely fashion.
Residential undergraduate students should only leave campus only when necessary.* The more residents who travel off campus, the greater the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and introducing it to our campus community. If students are aware of exposure to someone with COVID-19 while off campus, they should contact the Engle Center to inform them and receive guidance.
*Note: Students may leave campus for off-campus jobs, internships, clinicals, practicums, etc. Students may also travel to church, for groceries, supplies, services, etc., if the locations they are visiting are practicing CDC COVID-19 best practices, i.e., requiring masks, social distancing, etc. Students should not travel during the fall semester to CDC COVID-19 “hotspots.

You may request this by submitting the Early Arrival Request Form which is located on the page left hand side under “Forms”

New first-year and transfer students should email Returning/upper class students should fill out the exceptions request form (link was included in the move-in email students received on or after July 17).

Messiah’s move-in procedures will look different this year due to our COVID-19 safety and health precautions. Some details are still being finalized, but here is what we can currently confirm:
First-year students
  • You will check in Hitchcock – instructions for the day and orientation will be provided then.
  • Students are allowed two guests to assist in moving in and only permitted in residential spaces for no longer than one hour
  • ·Masks are to be worn at all times
  • Students will be receiving an individualized email that gives them the specific day and time they are to move in.
 Returning/upperclass students 
  • You will drive through/pick-up a welcome envelope that includes your key. Follow signs, but pick up will likely be in the High Center parking lot.
  • Are allowed one guest to assist.
  • Guests are only permitted to be in residential spaces for no longer than one hour.
  • Masks must be worn by all parties.
  • Students will be receiving an individualized email that gives them the specific day and time they are to move in.
Here is a list of common questions about the move-in process.

Please see this helpful move-in guide on the Residence Life website:, which includes a packing list.

Note: in addition to the regular packing list, all students should also bring a thermometer and multiple washable face coverings for fall 2020.

Due to the change in our fall semester schedule, our housing office is still finalizing all individual assignments so that everyone can be housed on campus. Being on the waiting list means only that students need to wait for longer than usual to be housed, but they will be housed in campus housing.


First day of classes is Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. Last day of in person classes is Thursday, Nov. 24.  Finals will be online starting Tuesday, Dec. 1 and finishing on Friday, Dec. 4.  Check the registrar website for the detailed schedule on finals

No, this year there is no fall break. This is designed to help mitigate the spread of COVI-19 by minimizing the travel that typically occurs by students and employees over fall break.

Below is a summary of the undergraduate course models that Messiah will be using this fall. Read the full undergraduate academic plan for fall 2020.
  1. Enhanced face-to-face (F2F); Lecture-based classroom
    This version of course delivery looks and feels very much like a traditional lecture classroom, but includes synchronous participation from remote students.  Classroom technology makes it possible for remote students to hear and see at least the most critical elements of the classroom presentation/discussion and to interact with the instructor or peers.  Course pedagogy is generally the same as it would be for a traditional lecture course delivery.
  2. Enhanced face-to-face (F2F); Activity-based classroom
    This version of flexible course delivery makes use of what some call a “flipped classroom” pedagogy.  Direct instruction is generally asynchronous and moved in advance of the class hour and delivered via recorded mini-lectures, focused readings, or brief “primer” assignments.  The class time is then devoted to activities such as problem solving, discussions, reviewing paper drafts, etc.
  3. HyFlex
    The HyFlex strategy effectively blends elements from the two prior course delivery strategies to provide options for the student and for content delivery.  Students who can attend class F2F do so, while students who cannot attend the physical classroom time can participate either synchronously or asynchronously using materials available online that are functionally equivalent in content and rigor with what will be done in the classroom. While this option provides flexibility, it also entails significant investment in and changes to course design, preparation, and delivery. 
  4. Online
    A small percentage of courses may be identified by the institution as needing to be delivered entirely online.  While this will not be the norm, this will a supported modality in that limited number of cases.  For courses or sections that will be delivered entirely online, the university will work with the faculty member to set up the course in a standard online format with a template that is compatible with the templates designed for the three faculty options above.
  1. Residential Student: The residential student resides in campus housing and participates in the on-campus and in-person educational experience.  While this residential and academic experience will have necessary modifications for health and safety, in-person attendance in academic courses and campus activities (within safety and health constraints) will be the expectation and the norm.
  2. Commuter Student: The commuter student resides off campus locally (within 50 miles of Messiah University) and must fulfill one of the following criteria: living with a parent(s) or immediate family member(s), is married, is over 23 years old, or is classified as having independent status by the Office of Financial Aid. While there will be necessary modifications to campus life for health and safety reasons, in-person attendance in academic courses and campus activities (within safety and health constraints) will be the expectation and the norm.
  3. Fully Remote Student: The fully remote student resides off campus for the duration of the fall semester and does not travel to campus for academic courses or campus life activities.  The student regularly participates in courses with the expectation of regular remote attendance in synchronous course sessions.  A student who begins the fall as a Residential Student or a Commuter Student may, with approval, make a one-time decision to switch to “Fully Remote Student.” Once a student chooses this option, that status will be maintained for the duration of the fall 2020 semester.  The student may not switch from Fully Remote to either of the other two categories during the semester.

All those services will be available to students.  Information on accessing them will be provided at the beginning of the academic year.

Murray library will be open for students and employees only.  The group study spaces will be set up to meet socially distancing guidelines.  Operational hours will be posted.

Where feasible furniture has been set up to allow for social distancing.  New room capacities are posted in each space.  In situations where 6-foot spacing is not feasible, such as in, laboratories or studios such as film that require closer proximity, increased PPE, such as glasses/goggles, lab coats, and gloves will be used. In addition, some professional organizations in these areas have published recommendations for mitigating risk that can be incorporated as well.

Faculty are working with the various agencies to ensure that placements are made.   You can contact your advisor directly for details related to your particular situation.

Read more about off-campus placements

Yes, within safety guidelines.  Events will be live-streamed and where possible there will be a small audience.  Rehearsal will take place in a socially distance setting.

Read more about perfomances

The Bookstore is set up for online ordering.  All books must be purchased online; the Textbook Annex will not be open for in person shopping. You are encouraged to order your books early and have them mailed home.  If you cannot ship them home, there will be a pick up location at the Annex to pick up books.

Cocurricular programs

The Division of Student Success and Engagement is preparing to welcome back our undergraduate students with a meaningful, modified offering of cocurricular programs, services and facilities designed to protect their health and safety during the challenging circumstances of COVID-19. 

Read an overview of how Messiah University will facilitate counseling services, chapel and campus ministries, athletics (including access to the fitness center and gyms), academic support services and career and professional development for students.

Tuition, fees and refunds

Messiah has invested significant resources into providing a high-quality enhanced educational model that flexibly offers the majority of our coursework both face-to-face and remotely. The University is pleased to be able offer students these highly flexible course offerings in uncertain times, but they do entail substantial investment in and changes to course design, preparation, technology and delivery. 
While we have not passed these increased costs onto students, we are also not able to offer reduced tuition for our fall 2020 classes. All of Messiah’s courses are adaptable to a rapid transition to online, if the University needs to respond to public health directives, as well as a pivot back to Enhanced Face-to-Face/HyFlex courses. This enables Messiah to provide quality, sustainable academic instruction to its students so that they may complete their credits and course load throughout the ongoing adjustments related to COVID-19.
Messiah University is absorbing significant costs to implement a comprehensive approach to safely reopening our campus, diminishing the spread of COVID-19 and developing a high-quality enhanced educational model that flexibly offers the majority of our coursework both face-to-face and remotely. While there will be no fees or additional charges billed to students for these measures, there will also be no accommodation for refunds to students due to the announced change in the fall 2020 semester schedule.
However, if further government directives require Messiah to move all of its fall coursework online earlier than expected, senior administration would review and consider issuing credit to students for room and board. Any university calendar adjustments during this challenging time have been made, and will continue to be made, specifically with the needs and safety of our students, their hometown communities, and the greater Messiah community in mind. 

Commuter students

Commuter Student Services will continue to operate out of the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Programs located on the upper level of the Larsen Student Union. In late July, commuter students will receive an email with start-of-the-semester information for both returning students and incoming new and transfer students.

The Charles Frey Commuter Lounge located in the lower level of Mountain View Residence Hall will remain open, but with a reduced maximum occupancy due to COVID-19 health and safety parameters. To create additional space for commuter students, the rear, lower level of Hostetter Chapel will function as an annex to the Commuter Lounge. Details about the use of both spaces will be communicated via email and during orientation (for new and transfer commuters). Commuter parking remains unchanged.

Dining Safety

The Dining Services team is excited to welcome our students to campus and will work tirelessly to ensure that each campus restaurant is a safe, healthy, inviting and quality dining experience for our students and guests

Campus cleaning

Facility Services has developed a campus wide plan to address cleaning and sanitation in compliance with CDC guidelines, including:

Campus deep cleaning

In preparation for the fall semester, Messiah staff have been deep cleaning and disinfecting all areas of campus, focusing additional resources on high-traffic and common-use areas. Teams are installing protective Plexiglas and other safety shields, increasing hand sanitizing stations, thinning out furniture/seating and adding signage to help with social distancing. Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols will continue throughout the fall session in compliance with all state and CDC guidelines to help protect our campus community. 
Residence hall cleaning
All residence hall buildings will be professionally disinfected before students return. Campus staff will be assigned to full cleaning bathrooms, hallways, lounges, kitchens, stairwells and public areas of residence halls once daily. Additional hourly sanitizing will be applied to high-touch areas. Residence Life will assign each student their own sink, commode, and shower in the bathrooms. Students will be provided supplies and ask to help wipe down their assigned bathroom facilities before and after use. Campus staff and student employees will be assigned bathrooms to full clean such that residence hall bathrooms will be cleaned and sanitized seven days per week.  
Addressing other potential health risks

The following additional steps will be taken to reduce the spread of illness:
  • Classrooms will have sanitation spray and wipes so students and faculty can wipe down space between uses.
  • Reduced amount of employees and students allowed in campus vehicles
  • Campus water fountains will be temporarily turned off in compliance with PA Department of Health
  • Hand sanitizer will be placed at building entrances
  • Cleaning supplies will be available on each campus building floor
  • Increased HVAC coil/duct cleaning and filter changing 
  • Installation of Plexiglas shields at main interaction points where six feet of distance is not feasible

Student employment

Yes, students may work off campus if their employer is following CDC best practices for COVID-19 safety, i.e., wearing masks, social distancing, appropriate hygiene precautions, etc.

Messiah is offering on-campus student employment program this fall. Your workstudy supervisor will reach out to you as you return to campus to work through the details of your work/position.

Each department will be communicating directly to you regarding this schedule.

Campus Healthcare and COVID-19 Precautions

Yes, all Messiah students and employees will be expected to consistently wear masks. A reusable, washable cloth mask will be provided to all community members in August. Everyone is also expected to acquire their own additional masks so that masks can be maintained in a clean and useful fashion. Note: bandanas and scarves are not acceptable for masks. Community members may choose to wear a face shield instead of a mask (face shields are the only alternatives permissible instead of masks). Additionally the College will provide disposable masks in areas where routinely applying a new mask may be most appropriate.

Yes, all students and all employees who are on campus will take their temperature at least daily. Employees need to record their temperature before coming to work (no more than one hour before reporting to campus). This is to be recorded daily on the Falcon Health COVID-19 Check In app, which is accessible from the FalconLink portal.

The Engle Center functions as a full-service medical center/urgent-care center, right in the middle of campus. Undergraduate students who have chronic medical conditions see the nurse practitioner, who helps to regulate their medications, orders tests and coordinates with home health care providers and specialists. Those who have urgent health care needs such as abdominal pain or cough can often be seen the same day.  
The Engle Center is equipped and practiced in ordering, scheduling and following up on radiology tests such as chest x-rays and CT.  The center also offers 12 lead EKGs, rapid strep tests, rapid flu tests, mono tests, phlebotomy, immunizations, a full service travel clinic and many more services, such as suturing and medication supervision.
The Engle Center medical staff are serving as the coordinating hub for COVID-19 symptom prevention, screening, testing, quarantine/isolation guidance, contact tracing and medical care—including serving as the University’s liaison with government and health care authorities.
The Engle Center medical staff have privileges to the UPMC/Pinnacle system via PINNACLE LINK online and as such, the preference is to refer to and utilize UPMC/Pinnacle facilities as often as possible.  With the established privileges, the Engle Center medical staff is able to access a student’s records in real-time – seeing when they have been admitted, any labs that have been completed, any radiology reports and when a student is discharged.  This access to complete information is greatly facilitates effective follow up with students once they’ve returned to campus.  
While the Engle Center is able to call ahead to any emergency room, privileges with UPMC/Pinnacle allow our medical staff to easily send any pertinent records ahead of the referred student, including their medical history, any medications they’re taking, etc.   In addition, the Engle Center maintains a large network of specialists (cardiologists, infectious disease specialists, allergists, ENTs, etc.)  to whom students are regularly referred. The Engle Center is fully practiced in making these referrals when a patient’s condition warrants a next level of care. 

Yes, the Engle Center is prepared to reduce the risk of exposure by facilitating a telehealth option for students.  The Engle Center will utilize, a free and secure telemedicine solution to provide our patients with synchronous remote visits when an in-person visit is not feasible, practical or safe.

Messiah’s testing program has two branches. First, prior to opening, the University will test certain student populations who are at greater risk for exposure to the virus and planning to be in-person this fall, such as student athletes. Secondly, the Engle Center is prepared to do PCR testing for students and employees throughout the semester due to symptoms or exposure. The University is closely following the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) Guidelines. For those who test positive, we contact the DOH immediately according to HIPPA guidelines, and follow the appropriate contact tracing and notification protocols.  
Messiah did research and consider the value of testing all students and employees prior to their arrival to campus. However, the most recent CDC guidelines indicate that pre-campus testing is less effective in the reduction of COVID-19 than a comprehensive quarantine protocol and a daily required self-monitoring/reporting for the entire campus community—combined with a robust on-campus testing protocol for any student or employee who is at high risk because of symptoms or exposure. Accordingly, this is the testing strategy and protocol that the University has adopted for the fall. However, we are following the CDC guidelines carefully and will adapt as needed throughout the semester.
Students and employees are asked to follow the below quarantine and best practices before the start of the academic year. 
Undergraduate Residential Students
All undergraduate residential students are being asked to commit to a 14-day self-quarantine prior to coming to campus. We recognize that asking students to quarantine at home is an inconvenience.  However, it will only be through embracing these types of inconveniences in a fully committed joint effort that we will be able to have a successful and healthy semester together on campus. With that understanding, we are asking undergraduate residential students to:
  • Stay home unless absolutely necessary. The best way to keep our campus COVID free is to stay home for 14 days prior to your arrival. This means avoid going to school, work, public areas, or attending large gatherings. If you need medical care, call your health care provider.
  • Wash your hands often and practice good hygiene.
  • Arrange for routine medical appointments prior to self-quarantine.
  • Avoid public areas including grocery stores, malls, theaters and large public gathering spaces.
  • Monitor your temperature daily and watch for symptoms.  If symptoms develop, call your health care provider BEFORE seeking in-person care.
  • Do not use public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • Postpone any travel.  
  •  If you must leave your home for any reason, wear a mask, practice strict social distancing and be vigilant in hand-washing.
Questions? If you have questions or are unable to self-quarantine for two weeks prior to your arrival, please reach out to Kevin Villegas ( or Kris Hansen-Kieffer ( to discuss your individual circumstances.  
If a student’s journey to Messiah requires air, bus or train travel they must take extra measures to remain safe and healthy while traveling (retaining distance from others, washing hands frequently, not touching face, wearing a mask at all times. 
International travel: Please note that students traveling from outside of the U.S. should plan to arrive to campus five to seven days early. Upon arrival these students will receive instructions related to temporary, on-campus quarantine and COVID testing will occur. The test results will be reviewed by the Engle Center who will give further direction based on results. Messiah will cover the cost of the initial COVID test. If test results are positive for COVID-19 or test results are delayed for any reason, quarantine may be extended. 
Undergraduate Commuter Students

All undergraduate commuter students are expected follow COVID 19 health and safety best practices in anticipation to the start of the semester and throughout the semester.  This includes:
  • Wash your hands often and practice good hygiene.
  • If you must leave your home for any reason, wear a mask, practice strict social distancing and be vigilant in hand-washing.
  • Arrange for routine medical appointments to occur more than 2 weeks before your arrival on campus.
  • Avoid public areas including malls, theaters and large public gathering spaces.
  • Monitor your temperature daily and watch for symptoms.  If symptoms develop, call your health care provider BEFORE seeking in-person care.
  • Do not use public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • Postpone any travel.
Residential Graduate Students 

All residential graduate students (regardless of where they have been living prior to the fall semester) are expected to follow COVID-19 health and safety best practices in anticipation to the start of the semester and throughout the semester. This includes:
  • Wash your hands often and practice good hygiene.
  • If you must leave your home for any reason, wear a mask, practice strict social distancing and be vigilant in hand-washing.
  • Arrange for routine medical appointments to occur more than 2 weeks before your arrival on campus.
  • Avoid public areas including malls, theaters and large public gathering spaces.
  • Monitor your temperature daily and watch for symptoms.  If symptoms develop, call your health care provider BEFORE seeking in-person care.
  • Do not use public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
If a student is traveling to Pennsylvania from a CDC-warned state or other hotspot, then they should plan to quarantine in Pennsylvania for no less than 14 days before their first visit to campus. For example, if the first in-person class is held on Aug. 24, they should arrive in Pennsylvania and begin self-quarantine no later than Aug. 10.
If you have questions or are unable to self-quarantine for two weeks upon your arrival, please reach out to Rob Pepper to discuss your individual circumstances.

Yes, isolation will be utilized for patients who need to be truly isolated, i.e., those who are COVID positive or are presumed positive (awaiting test results). Those in quarantine would be those who need to monitor symptoms. Isolation and quarantine housing for undergraduate students has been identified (Smith Apartments A/B and Climenhaga Homestead) and will be staffed for monitoring if ill students take residence. Isolation and quarantine for commuter and on-campus graduate students will occur in their regular residences.

Commuter students will be sent home for the required period of time.