Chancellor Li hosts town hall on return to campus


Grace Bellinghausen

Chancellor Joanne Li, Vice Chancellor for Student Success Daniel Shipp, and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Success Cathy Pettid discussed the return to campus during a panel Monday. Photo by Grace Bellinghausen.

UNO’s new chancellor, Dr. Joanne Li, Ph.D., joined a panel of university leaders to answer students’ questions regarding the return to campus last Monday at Milo Bail Student Center. 

Chancellor Li, Vice Chancellor for Student Success Daniel Shipp and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Success Cathy Pettid outlined their commitment to focus on students’ overall wellness by creating an engaging communal environment in the coming year. 

“Wellness is on everybody’s mind,” Pettid said. “Music and clubs create wellness, intellectual wellness, and of course Mental health counseling, which students can access for free and in the H&K building.” 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, UNO’s main priority is keeping students safe and in school. The university announced an indoor mask mandate during the first week of classes, and unvaccinated students living on campus are required to be tested regularly.

“We must do our part so all of us can be protected, do not let this divide us.” Li said.

The Delta variant has proven to be more dangerous for younger populations. About one-third of hospitalizations occur in people 18-39, the core demographic of UNO students. According to the Douglas County Health Department, nearly 55% of county residents are fully vaccinated.

These statistics have not stopped UNO’s senior staff from working to improve the facilities available for students.

Shipp said there are accommodations available to students with children, including a safe space in the women and genders equity center where they supply rockers, toys, supplies, or anything a parent may need.

Chancellor Li said she wants the university to be an understanding, safe place for all students, especially considering the level of diversity on campus.

“UNO is special because we have a diverse student body,” Li said. “Stretching their resources to ensure the needs of their students are met, requires a lot of data and analytics. But you are not a number, you are an individual. No matter your sexual orientation, non-traditional status, or wealth. We need to take charge, to learn that everyone is part of the UNO community, we are here because we want to take charge.”

The university is also looking into ways to improve sustainability on campus. Green spaces, clean water and clean air are all essential parts of wellness, which have been the priority for students as they return to classes.

Shipp said UNO’s goal is to improve its national rating in sustainability to take the university to the next level.

“Environmental wellness is the eighth dimension of wellness, so we are introducing composting on both Dodge and Scott campuses,’” Shipp said.

The panel was open to questions and comments from students, many of whom voiced their struggles with online learning and mental health.

“I hear you, I understand that it is very difficult. We hear you, even I got depressed,” Li said. “If you stay home and cannot be inspired, you cannot learn. We are trying everything at UNO to make sure we can keep students on campus this year, but we will continue to follow guidelines.”