Message from the President - COVID-19 Update

Dear Graceland Faculty and Staff Friends,

Well, what a few weeks it has been for the Graceland University community, the nation, and our world! We have clearly been in crisis management mode and have made hundreds of decisions in the past weeks to be stewards of safety and health while providing a quality educational and student experience given the changes required from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Faculty have been remarkable in moving their courses online and learning new tools quickly to make it happen. They have worked long hours in ensuring we deliver quality and have been so generous in their care of students who need our attention and love. I am inspired and thankful for their work with students and for Graceland! The Graceland staff has done an equally amazing job at moving most core operations to a remote work environment while maintaining the service, quality, and efficiency we need to keep things going. The staff are caring for students and their families in new and different ways and learning many new processes and doing whatever it takes to ensure students, families and all of us get the help they need.

I am overcome by your dedication and am grateful for all the support you have given students, each other and Graceland during this crisis.  I am thankful for each of you.

We are anchored to our mission and values and have used the following framework for decision making in response to COVID-19-related issues:

  • Health and Safety of Students, Faculty, Staff and Communities 
  • Quality Online and Other Student Educational Experiences 
  • Student Engagement and Experiences 
  • Sustainability of Graceland, especially the Lamoni campus (enrollment, financials, etc.) 

Below are some of the changes made in the last 10 days across the University. They are for you as faculty and staff so you have information. Some of this content is also included on the COVID-19 Graceland website. Please let me know if you have any questions or need clarification. 

Movement of Face-to-Face Courses to Online Learning

  • The first weeks of online learning were successful on both campuses. Faculty have been working hard in moving their courses online, putting in long hours, and learning new tools to make it happen. I am inspired and thankful for the way they have reached out to care for our students and worked hard to maintain Graceland’s academic experience.
  • Academic deadlines were changed to allow students the flexibility in making some choices given the new online learning environment.
  • We have been working with regulators to ensure our students can fulfill student teaching and licensure requirements so their jobs searches will not be delayed.
  • Clinical experience for our nursing students is especially challenging and most of our MSN students will need to take incompletes since they cannot fulfill preceptor requirements because of hospital restrictions due to the virus. Additionally, as practicing nurses, they are being called upon to work more hours in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Graceland is proud to have so many students fighting on the front lines against the virus.
  • The executive council hosted a student Q&A and have been soliciting students’ opinions on a variety of topics. Most are positive about their classes so far, but clearly would prefer to be in person.

COVID-19 Response and Action

  • Our Crisis Management Team continues their work and is working daily with the Executive Council.
  • Lamoni campus continues to have zero reported cases of the virus to date, but a case was reported yesterday in Harrison County, which includes Eagleville and Bethany. Our Independence campus also does not have any reported cases of the virus. We did share via email that a student was being tested and that we followed our policies and procedures set forth to us by the CDC and the Iowa Department of Public Health. It was a good test of our procedures which we found to be strong and clarified one timing issue with the Health Department. Should we have a case we have an immediate “go” plan. 

Staff and Operations

  • To limit the risk to our staff, and thanks to our Information Technology Services team, most employees are working remotely. We are collaborating regularly using Microsoft Teams and Zoom and have centralized all communications to ensure a consistent voice.
  • All university purchasing cards with the exception of VPs and a few others have been disabled and spending is being monitored carefully by the Executive Council and Business Services group. Priority spending will be on driving enrollment and revenue for the next two months.
  • A hiring freeze is in place although we may make an exceptions for critical positions. Hiring freezes are routine at virtually all universities now and I have talked with over 40 college presidents in the last weeks who are all taking a similar step.

Stimulus Packages and Opportunities (State and Federal)

  • We have been following legislative activity and intensely lobbying for students in higher education over the past weeks. We are now analyzing opportunities and have an estimate of the impact of the stimulus on Graceland (Lamoni).
  • I am meeting with Iowa private college presidents weekly for information sharing and solidarity to work with legislatures to benefit students and the critical role of private higher education and rural communities.

Housing and Facilities

  • Residence Life is serving 84 students on the Lamoni campus. Sodexo is providing grab-and-go meals for those students and our housekeeping team is cleaning regularly.
  • Most Lamoni classrooms have been cleaned and locked and students are being directed to the Library, Shaw Center, and Helene to use computers and for changes in venues from their rooms. We will likely restrict access more heavily in the next week given that the public is exercising more and more in outdoor spaces which is difficult to control.
  • Finishing touches are being put on Newcom Student Union with the crews adjusting to best practices for social distancing. Dave Schaal and the Student Life team hope to be moved in by early April.
  • The Independence Campus is closed, and two people are on-site each day for deliveries, and needed on-campus work.

Commencement Postponed

  • Due to travel restrictions we postponed commencement to be held the Sunday morning of Homecoming with options of attending any other ceremony next year. Students were relieved and thankful. 

 Events and Camps

  • All campus events have been cancelled for the spring. All external camps have been cancelled by the clients with the exception of Spectacular in late July. We suspect that will be visited by the Spec team and us in the next month. 


  • The #Grateful4Graceland Day of Giving was postponed and will be replaced with a Day of Gratitude in late April. A request for giving on top of normal giving was made to help address our students’ needs as a result of this crisis. Thank you for considering how to help students through Graceland.

Enrollment (Recruitment and Retention)

  • I have much to say about enrollment and retention efforts and will send that in another communication this week. It is a chaotic landscape now more than ever.

We’ve learned much about Graceland, ourselves, our strengths, our gaps and I am sure that learning is just at the beginning. I have learned that:

  • the spirit of community runs deep at Graceland by witnessing the efforts of students, faculty, staff, board and alumni and friends;
  • we can be more agile and move quickly when we allow ourselves;
  • our care and love for students is a core strength; and
  • we truly believe in our values of learning, community and wholeness.

Our entire community is now moving its attention to address the known and unknown challenges and new ways of being as a result of this crisis. 

Thank you for reaching out to support the university during these challenging and turbulent times. I am grateful for Graceland’s community that surrounds us and embraces us in all aspects of our experience.

Stay well and safe and while we need to keep our physical distance please stay close as a Graceland community member by engaging with us on social media and keeping in close touch with your colleagues!

President Draves
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