UNO opens the school year with a campus forum, welcoming new teachers and explaining new policies


Jared Sindt

UNO will be going through some changes this year. Photo courtesy of Andrew Smith

UNO Chancellor Joanne Li hosted a fall campus forum to discuss changes in staff and new policies on Tuesday, Aug.17.

“This past year has been a tough year for most people,” Chancellor Li said. “There is a special meaning when we emerge from a crisis; with every challenge comes opportunity.”

She then transitioned into some of her own struggles with taking up the new position as Chancellor.

Chancellor Li explained that there was almost no staff when she became chancellor, and her first mission was to find someone to market the UNO story. The Chancellor announced that Makayla McMorris would be the Chief Communications and Marketing officer to help fill this role.

Many current staff at UNO were given new duties and promotions as well. Examples include Bob Harvey, who will serve as Executive Assistant in the Office of the Chancellor, Charlotte Evans, who will serve as Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief of Police for UNO Public Safety, and Victoria Kohout, who will continue as Director of State and Community Relations but will work closely with the Office of the Chancellor with community education, outreach and advancement activities.

Chancellor Li also said there are more positions still being sought out. Positions that still need to be filled are Chief Diversity Officer, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, and Vice President for Advancement and Executive Director of Alumni Relations. All positions are currently being searched for by UNO staff.

“We need people to understand, for every metropolitan district they deserve a first-class public university,” said Chancellor Li.

The Chancellor went on to explain her decision for the current policy on masks at UNO, with the policy stating that only unvaccinated will be required to wear masks via honor rule.

“Traditional operation will begin in the fall, take what you know as traditional, put it in the cupboard and lock in,” Chancellor Li said. “We are getting ready for some form of in person operation, but there are a lot of unknowns.”

Everything about the current policy on masks is subject to change. With the delta variant spreading around and COVID-19 numbers rising, the university should be ready to wear masks at any time.

“I believe vaccination is the most successful way to compete with the virus and its delta variant. We take care of our people,” Chancellor Li said. “Our job is not to make people feel bad, but comfortable in what they do. Ask with civility if you want people in small groups to wear a mask, have faith in what I decide right now.”

The forum discussed other topics as well. Programs and new services that will be provided highlighted the end of the forum.

Drop-in wellness checks for staff will be a new focus at UNO to combat mental health. This program will be offered Wednesday night for students.

The events of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests were brought up as well to support these movements. Omaha’s class of 1954 came back to campus to celebrate the Black Studies program.

The forum also highlighted the success of some of UNO’s programs. Examples included the insight program, which received the Nebraska systems largest grant in history of 36 million over the course of 10 years, and the Samuel Buck Institute, which received over 500 pieces to build onto the artwork of Holocaust survivor Samuel Buck.

The forum showed the UNO community that the chancellor is focused on UNO’s future, and that students should be ready for anything the university throws at them.