Many students and faculty will return to campus this fall, but life at Perkins will look quite different. Like most educational institutions, Perkins School of Theology has adjusted its schedule and programming this fall in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Perkins faculty and administration have worked tremendously hard over the summer to come up with a plan that we believe will be hospitable and attentive of the health concerns of students and faculty while allowing students to continue to learn this fall,” said Hugo Magallanes, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

Courses taught at the Dallas campus will be offered fully online and in the Hyflex format, a combination of in-person and online; the Houston-Galveston program, normally hybrid, will move entirely online. The academic calendar has been adjusted to discourage students from traveling, and many events have been cancelled or moved online.

Dallas Campus

Following SMU’s recommendations, the decision was made to offer Dallas campus courses in the Hyflex format, combining in-person and online options in both synchronous and asynchronous manner, as well as some fully online courses.

Each HyFlex course will be taught face-to-face and online by the same instructor at the same time. Students may choose to return to campus or stay home. Those who attend in person will be in their assigned classroom but with reduced seating capacity.

Inside Higher Education describes the HyFlex model “as perhaps the most flexible and for many will be the most attractive. It is also possibly one of the more difficult approaches for faculty.” All Perkins faculty have undergone training in the HyFlex or online teaching approach from SMU.

Inside Higher Education also notes that this approach often requires “real-time in-class help (a TA or course assistant to manage the online students), an intentionally designed classroom and a great deal of patience from both the students and faculty.”

Houston-Galveston Program

Perkins School of Theology’s Houston-Galveston Extension Program will be taught entirely online during this semester. Since the fall of 2018, Houston-Galveston students have reported to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and to Houston Methodist Hospital to attend many of their classes. (The hospital provided classroom space, along with tech support and meals, for the two one-week sessions in which students gathered in person every semester.)

“Given that most of our students must travel from other areas to attend classes in Houston, we felt that online-only was the safe option at this time,” said Magallanes, who is also Director of the Houston-Galveston Extension Program.

Calendar and Events

To discourage students from leaving campus and then returning from other parts of the country, holidays and breaks have been suspended for the Fall 2020 semester. Classes will be held on Labor Day and there will be no fall break in October. After Thanksgiving, all classes will be online so that students do not travel around the country or overseas and then return to campus with possible infections. Most universities in the U.S. this fall are following this practice.

Many events that take place each fall have been cancelled, postponed or moved to a virtual format.

SMU held its university-wide commencement on August 15; however, Perkins 2020 graduates will be recognized by Perkins at the school’s May 2021 degree conferral service.

The Houston Lay School, originally scheduled for Saturday, August 22, was cancelled. Organizers hope to hold the next lay school in person in August 2021.

The Fall Convocation, featuring author Tod Bolsinger and gospel icon Kirk Franklin, will take place virtually November 15-16.

View the Perkins Fall 2020 Academic Calendar here.

Additional Safety Measures

Other safety measures that will be in place this fall include:

*Smaller numbers of students will be in physical classrooms to maintain safe distancing.

*Students will be required to wear masks while in class or at other in-person gatherings.

*Classrooms across the university have been assigned to maintain restricted capacity.

*Martin Hall, a former Perkins residential hall located within the Perkins campus, has been designated as the isolation site for students with COVID.

*All faculty are prepared to pivot quickly to online, should a university-wide lockdown occur.

“There are still many unknowns,” said Dean Craig C. Hill.  “We expect the fall semester will demand patience and flexibility from all of us, but I am confident we are up to the task.”