Messages from the President - 2020

USA President Tony Waldrop’s messages to the University community are posted below and on the University’s Facebook page, You can also follow him on Instagram (USA Waldrops).

August 7, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

It’s been a busy week. Testing began for students who will soon be arriving to campus, hundreds of students and parents logged on to a virtual town hall, and medical teams at University Hospital stood ready to provide care as two astronauts splashed down nearby in the Gulf of Mexico.

On Wednesday, I participated in a South Strong videoconference to provide information and answer questions for students and their parents. There were over 375 participants who sent in more than 100 questions, many of them about testing. As a reminder, all students who plan to come to campus are required to be tested for COVID-19. Students can be tested by their own medical provider, provided a nasal PCR test is done within 14 days of arriving on campus, or at no cost at one of more than a dozen sites across the state. The Mobile location is at the USA Mitchell Center.

Students are receiving appointment invitations from the GuideSafe entry to campus program based on their planned arrival date. For more information, visit the Information for Students section in South’s campus reopening plan. You can access the town hall video on the University’s Facebook page.

Expertise from USA Health played a critical role in drafting the campus reopening plan. It’s just another example of how the region’s only academic health system is impacting the lives of people in our area. That expertise is also why NASA designated University Hospital as a hospital for care if needed when the two astronauts returned to Earth on Sunday, landing safely in the water off Pensacola, Fla., after reentry by the Dragon Endeavour.

During this pandemic, USA Health is not just treating those with the virus. The health system and the University also are researching how we handle this virus in the future. There are 16 externally funded COVID-related research projects underway at the University and USA Health from federal, private and foundation sponsors, with more than a dozen other proposals submitted and pending funding.

With all that is going on, it reminds me of our adeptness to rise to our challenges, and to be thankful for members of our Jaguar family – to the healthcare and research teams combating this insidious virus, faculty and staff who are working diligently to welcome back students, and students and parents for placing your trust in us.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

July 31, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

The academic year is fast approaching, and University administrators, faculty and staff continue to get ready to welcome back our students. There are many details, so I wanted to take this opportunity to write to you about a few new initiatives, and reiterate some of those already announced.

All information can be found on the University website at

Much work and resources are being directed at keeping students and employees as safe as possible, including:

  • Free COVID-19 testing for students. An email went out earlier today instructing students about how they can get tested at the Mitchell Center, at other locations around the state or by mail for out-of-state students. There are special instructions for students under the age of 20 and those who live in certain states. The COVID-19 tests are part of the GuideSafe entry to campus program, provided by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and supported by CARES Act funding through the State of Alabama. If you are a student who will be on campus for classes or activities, this testing is required.
  • Health screenings for students and employees. Students and employees on the academic campus have been asked to complete a health screening before returning. This soon will be replaced by the GuideSafe Healthcheck program that will include similar questions. More information will be forthcoming. USA Health employees already are screened each workday and will continue using the system already in place.
  • An app-based exposure notification system. As part of GuideSafe, students and employees will be encouraged to download an application that, through Bluetooth technology, will alert you if someone you were near, who has the app, tests positive for COVID-19 within 14 days. It will also work the other way: People near you with the app will be notified if you test positive. This will be done anonymously and through encryption – your name and other identifying information will not be shared. More information about this program will be relayed when the platform becomes available through GuideSafe.
  • Contact tracing. Students and employees are required to report positive COVID-19 test results to the contact tracing team, which will notify on-campus contacts who have had close contact with the person tested. Isolation or quarantine may be needed. For students, faculty will work with those in isolation and quarantine to help them with course completion. Employees will need to work from home, when possible, or use time off through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act or sick leave. At USA Health, employees should continue to follow the procedures detailed on the USA Health website.
  • An emergency sick leave donation program. While the University offers generous sick leave benefits, I recognize that some employees, especially those who have had to take time off for a serious illness, may have limited hours from which to take. That is why the University has created a temporary program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic through which employees can donate sick leave to a bank that employees with little to no sick time left can access, subject to certain limits and with the approval of Human Resources. This program will run through at least the end of the year, and any unused sick time in the program will be distributed back to employees who donate proportional to the amount of time donated. This program for academic employees is modeled after a similar one announced in May for USA Health employees.

These initiatives are in addition to the guidelines, including the masking and social distancing requirements, laid out in the initial release of our campus reopening plans earlier this summer.

Students with questions may contact USA OneStop at In addition, each student was invited by email to a town hall Zoom meeting scheduled for next week. Employees with questions may contact Human Resources at

As we face the challenge of a lifetime, we must take innovative and extraordinary steps to open our doors. I want to thank each of you for your flexibility and continued commitment to our missions of education, healthcare, research and service.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

July 29, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff:

It’s not too late to stand up and be counted. The 2020 Census questionnaire takes just a few minutes to complete. Your participation helps determine political representation, regional planning initiatives and federal funding for critical needs including healthcare and education.

Each decade, the United States Census Bureau launches a massive effort to count everyone in the country. This task is mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Participation is required by law, and people can respond by mail, by phone or online.

The census counts people based on where they lived on April 1, 2020. That means college students should be counted where they lived at the time of the census on that day – not in their hometowns.

Earlier this month, Governor Kay Ivey said about 60 percent of households in Alabama had responded to the census, adding that the state is at risk of losing representation and critical federal funding without maximum participation.

The U.S. House of Representatives is reapportioned every decade, based on census data, and Alabama can gain or lose seats based on those numbers. Also, state officials redraw congressional and state legislative districts to account for population shifts reflected in the census. Census data helps guide billions of dollars in federal funding to programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, each vital to the operation of USA Health.

If you have not responded to the census, or would like more information, visit

There’s still time. It only takes a few minutes. Stand up and be counted.

Tony G. Waldrop, Ph.D.

July 24, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff

We recently lost two distinguished and remarkable leaders in America’s civil rights movement – Rep. John Lewis and the Rev. C.T. Vivian. I remembered John Lewis earlier this week on my social media account, recalling how fortunate we were to have him speak at our 2015 Fall Commencement.

C.T. Vivian, too, has a connection to South. In the 1960s, Vivian developed an educational program that helped hundreds of students attend college on scholarship. That program was the foundation for Upward Bound, a U.S. Department of Education program hosted at USA and many other universities that helps prepare high school students for higher education.

Lewis and Vivian sat at lunch counters so communities of color could receive equal treatment, and they stood against violent mobs to show us that the promise of freedom is a promise we make to all people. Their selfless determination helped change the course of our country; now it up to us to uphold their legacies.

As Lewis told our graduates, “I didn’t give up when it was my turn, and I kept the faith you must have now in yourselves because it is your turn. Remember, we are depending on you.”

This week, I also want to let you know that the University Committee on Reopening Campus continues to work through the many aspects of bringing our students and employees back to campus with the appropriate health and safety processes in place. The committee met three times over the past five days to address specific elements of academics and student life, and we will meet as often as needed to ensure that we are prepared for your return. We will communicate important developments and decisions to the USA community as additional facets of our plans are finalized.

As you all are aware, the growing spread of COVID-19 in our city and region continues to be of concern. Each time the reopening committee meets, we review a set of considerations developed by USA Health that keep us updated about the health status of our region and inform our reopening decisions. One key element of this list is our ability to provide essential services such as student health, dining services, campus police and environmental services. We will continue to review this list at each meeting to ensure we are fully prepared to deliver these services as we reopen.

I’m pleased to let you know that this week we added Dr. Julie Estis to our reopening team as our COVID-19 Response Coordinator. Many of you already know Dr. Estis through her roles as director of academic enhancement and associate professor of speech-language pathology in the Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health Professions. In her role as response coordinator, Dr. Estis will responsible for coordinating the institution’s COVID-19 response across divisions, and collaborating with experts in USA Health. She will help organize and execute our reopening plans, including specifying goals, initiatives, timelines and responsible parties. The logistics of reopening involve offices throughout the campus, and Dr. Estis will help us stay on track and be consistent in our plans and actions.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

July 17, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

In previous emails, I have written about the need and responsibility to wear masks and maintain social distancing. Our University community has a role in helping to control this pandemic, and I want to take some time to detail another major effort we all will share in: contact tracing.

Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their contacts (people who may have been exposed), and working with them to interrupt disease transmission. For COVID-19, this includes asking people who test positive to isolate, and asking their contacts to quarantine at home voluntarily.

The University Committee to Reopen Campus has approved a contact tracing procedure that prioritizes both privacy and public health, and the University is training nearly a dozen employees who will step into their new roles as contact tracers on Monday.

These are strong steps toward reopening our campus and providing as safe an environment as possible. They were drafted following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and with assistance from the Student Health Center and USA Health, which has been at the forefront for contact tracing in our area.

At USA Health, employees should continue to follow the procedures detailed on the USA Health website.

On the academic campuses, students, faculty and staff are required to self-report a positive COVID-19 result to the contact tracing team, and employees also must report to Human Resources. Supervisors have the additional responsibility to report cases they learn about from employees, and all faculty and staff must report cases they learn about from students. For information on these procedures, please see the Human Resources website. Information also appears on the USA reopening website under Information for Students, Information for Faculty and Information for Staff.

The contact tracer assigned to a case will ask the person with the positive test a series of questions to determine who that person has had close contact with, and who may be exposed. Generally, this will follow CDC guidelines on contact tracing — people within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes. For on-campus contacts, the tracer will ask these people to quarantine. For potential exposure outside the University community, cases will be forwarded to the Mobile County Health Department for follow-up.

At no point will the University tracer disclose the name of the COVID-positive person to contacts who may have been exposed, and measures will be taken to protect the infected individual’s information.

For students who need to isolate or quarantine, faculty will work with you to offer academic support for course completion.

Please take time to read the policies and procedures on the websites listed above and understand your responsibilities. Students with questions should contact USA OneStop at; employees should contact Human Resources at

Our contact tracing protocols are a critical component of our plan to welcome students, faculty and staff back to campus this fall and provide as safe an environment as possible. Thank you for your commitment to the health and safety of our community.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

July 10, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

At the corner of Springhill Avenue and Lafayette Street, just a few blocks from the Strada Patient Care Center, work crews are clearing out the last of the debris from USA Health’s old Springhill Avenue Campus. To the north, the Fanny Meisler Trauma Center is nearing completion at University Hospital. To the south, USA Health’s partnership with Mobile Diagnostic Center has led to a new clinic that is under construction on Old Shell Road near Florida Street.

Such is the changing landscape of healthcare in south Alabama.

While we all are facing the challenges of the novel coronavirus, USA Health also is focused on our future and is delivering the unparalleled expertise of academic healthcare to our region. The last several years have brought infrastructure growth and new service lines, adding more than a dozen primary and specialty care locations in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

The latest major project is the planned rise of a free-standing emergency department across from campus at Old Shell and Hillcrest roads. In addition to the convenience for patients of a west Mobile emergency department, the facility will help in the training of our students who are pursuing careers in healthcare.

You can read more about the free-standing emergency clinic, the Fanny Meisler Trauma Center and the Mobile Diagnostic Center building in the latest issue of South Magazine.

Excellence in healthcare, as you know, is one of the University’s five priorities. Another is global engagement. The pandemic is bringing new challenges to both.

For Global USA, closed consulate offices, tighter borders and canceled flights present some uncertainty for international education. Earlier this week, a new federal policy was announced that would require international students to take at least one non-online class or risk losing their visas.

USA’s reopening plan allows for most classes to be in a blended format, with online coursework and some in-person instruction. International students enrolled in at least one of those classes should not be affected by the new policy, and we are working with our students who have questions to ensure they meet requirements.

Another change for fall semester relates to study abroad programs. The University is suspending full-semester study abroad for fall and will make a decision in November about spring semester study abroad. In the meantime, virtual experiences will be available.

International students bring immense value to our campus and enrich the educational experience for everyone on campus. As we prepare students for a global workforce, it is imperative that those born in the United States experience the culture and viewpoints of our international students and scholars.

If there’s one truth this pandemic has shown, it is how connected we really are. And it will take all of us working together to defeat it.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

July 2, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

As you may have heard, the City of Mobile yesterday approved a requirement that masks be worn in public areas where social distancing is not possible.

This action comes as reopening plans across the nation are met with record COVID-19 cases that, if not mitigated, threaten unnecessary sickness and economic fits and starts. It also comes at the urging of healthcare providers in Mobile County, including leaders at USA Health. We have been strong collaborators with the city and county in combating the novel coronavirus, including the operation of a testing site at the Mobile Civic Center where, combined with an earlier location, more than 7,500 people have been screened for COVID-19.

USA Health leaders also have been active in educating the community on prevention. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Chang this week reiterated through local media outlets that wearing facial coverings, maintaining social distancing and vigorous hand-washing are the three best ways to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The City of Mobile is not alone in its action. Masking is increasingly gaining support among state and local governments. Wearing masks, along with social distancing, is a critical component of our campus reopening plan. It will also be important as we head into what is normally a busy Independence Day holiday. As you celebrate, please be mindful of your health, and that of others, by following Dr. Chang’s advice:

  • Wear a mask or cloth face covering when you’re not in your home. Wearing a face covering can prevent you from infecting other people and may also have an impact on you becoming infected.
  • Maintain appropriate social distancing from others who don’t live with you.
  • Avoid large gatherings where social distancing can’t be maintained.
  • Wash your hands before handling food, after sneezing and coughing, and after using the restroom.
  • Always cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Maintain your overall health by eating properly, getting regular exercise and enough sleep, and continuing your scheduled health exams and appointments.

This holiday marks the first stage of building a new nation with America's Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The patriots were not declaring themselves free from governance, but instead were declaring independence from a distant and nonresponsive monarchy.

It was the beginning of a social contract for this country, a formal notice that the colonies would form their own government in support of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As we continue work on that social contract, the well-being of the nation and its people requires commitment from all of us.

Tony G. Waldrop, Ph.D.

June 26, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

A few weeks ago, I communicated with you about the highlights of the University’s academic plan for reopening. Today, after diligent and careful work from the University Committee for Reopening Campus and its subcommittees, the University has released additional major components of its reopening plans.

A great deal of thought and discussion went into drafting the reopening plans, with University leadership and USA Health experts working to provide a blueprint for the fall semester. We have worked to prepare for the many logistical challenges of this pandemic while mapping a course that allows us to respond quickly should health conditions on campus, or in the region, warrant.

Students, parents, employees and visitors may access the University’s reopening website for information on schedules, processes and procedures. Included are the approved reports from each of the subcommittees, as well as key reopening dates and answers to frequently asked questions. The guiding principle of our plan is to provide a safe learning and working environment for the University community.

We all will need to adjust to new ways of operating. In addition to changes such as a revised academic calendar, social distancing and masking, our plans call for a staggered move-in to residence halls, take-out options for dining, some blended classes that include online instruction, COVID-19 screening and testing, hand sanitizing stations and protective barriers for offices. Employees will return in stages with guidance from their direct supervisors.

We are keenly aware that the evolving nature of this pandemic means that we must be prepared to shift into an online mode of instruction or take additional preventive measures if needed. While we have every intention of providing the best on-campus experience possible under the current circumstances, we will continue to make decisions with the health and safety of our community at the forefront.

What will not change is our tradition of Jaguar pride and the welcoming spirit of our University community. It will take a commitment from each of us, and our collective efforts, to make this plan a success.

I look forward to seeing you all on campus.

Tony G. Waldrop, Ph.D.

June 19, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

We are on the cusp of summer, which officially begins tomorrow, and while the temperatures in Mobile have been seasonably warm, the humidity has been unexpectedly low, making for pleasant mornings and evenings. I’m sure the humidity will be with us soon, so I encourage you to enjoy this good weather while it lasts.

We continue to make progress toward our expected reopening of campus. This week, select groups of employees will begin to receive health screening surveys from USA Health, which will help us determine if any member of our community needs to be referred for COVID-19 testing before they return to work on campus. We are being very cautious in our approach by asking employees to return over time in small cohorts, and encouraging those who can work remotely to continue doing so for the time being.

As you know, some of our student athletes have already returned to campus, and this week we also welcomed our new medical and nursing students and physicians-in-training to the health campus for their clinical education. All of our students will receive some additional training because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as we continue our mission of preparing and educating the next generation of healthcare providers for all the challenges they will meet in their careers.

Although our incoming freshmen would ordinarily be attending in-person orientations right now, I’m very encouraged by the response to our virtual orientations, which began on June 9. To date, every session has been full, and our newest Jaguars have been busy connecting through social media and learning about South.

I want to close by noting that today is Juneteenth, a date that commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. I encourage everyone to learn more about the history and importance of this date, and to reflect on what each of us can do to contribute to the ongoing national conversation on race and racism. A good resource to start with is the new “Talking about Race” portal on the website of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

I hope all of you will have a safe and enjoyable weekend.

Tony G. Waldrop, Ph.D.

June 12, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

This week, 75 of our Jaguar student-athletes arrived on campus for strength and conditioning training in preparation for football season. Meanwhile, our third-year medical students returned to clinical activities at USA Health facilities. For these football players and physicians in training, the return includes the familiar, but also new ways of operating due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That will be the case for all of us.

The University Committee for Reopening Campus continues to review and approve plans for the return of students, faculty and staff. I expect these plans to be published on the University website later this month, along with a list of answers to frequently asked questions.

There are some details that have been finalized, specifically related to academics, that we now can share to help students and faculty prepare. The academic plan was approved after revisions based on constructive feedback from faculty, who will receive a copy of the plan today.

One of the most significant changes will be to the academic calendar. Classes will begin a day early, on Aug. 17, and two fall break days will be eliminated. Classes will end just before Thanksgiving, and students will not return to campus until January. Final exams will take place in-person before Thanksgiving or virtually in early December.

By compressing the fall calendar, we reduce the amount of time people are on campus as flu season begins to peak. We also lessen the chance of virus spread caused by sending students home for breaks and then bringing them back.

Most courses – including those listed as web-enhanced and web-blended – will be taught in a hybrid format, with some portion of instruction offered in-person while adhering to social distancing guidelines. In addition, faculty who are teaching in-person courses are encouraged to develop the course so that students who need to complete it online can do so.

Faculty also will be prepared to move classes completely online if the University deems it necessary to protect the health of our students, faculty and staff.

As a University with an academic healthcare system, we are fortunate to have the expert guidance of USA Health epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists in drafting plans for reopening campus. The health and safety of our USA community is paramount. That is why the University will ask for everyone’s cooperation in social distancing and adherence to a masking requirement.

All in-person classes will require that students are spaced out at least 6 feet apart. That may mean the in-person portion of a class might not be held at the same time for all students.

In addition, everyone will need to wear a face mask indoors, except when an individual is alone in a private office or lab, or when students are in their residence hall rooms with no visitors present. The University will provide each student and employee with two South-branded masks.

USA Health already requires employees and patients to wear masks in its hospitals and clinics, and virus spread in those facilities is remarkably low. While there is still a frustrating amount we do not know about the novel coronavirus, this much is clear: Properly worn masks can help limit its spread, and we must take reasonable and practical steps to keep each other safe.

Masking and social distancing are ways you can keep others, and yourself, from getting sick. This is supported by our own experts at USA Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We will have an educational campaign and signage available to promote both social distancing and masking. More information will be available in the full reports from the University Committee for Reopening Campus later this month, and you will receive an email with a link to our reopening information website.

Finally, I’d like to thank both our students and employees for their patience and support as we prepare to safely return. I look forward to seeing you on campus.

Tony G. Waldrop, Ph.D.

June 5, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

The USA Board of Trustees today approved the administration’s recommendation to keep tuition level for the 2020-21 academic year. This is the second year in a row that the University has not raised the cost of tuition.

The Board also agreed to keep housing costs at current levels, and approved a modest increase of $50 in dining fees as a result of increased operating and food expenses.

The University, like other institutions around the country, is under pressure with unexpected expenses and a future revenues picture that remains unclear. But the University is on solid financial footing, and we understand that the students who attend South and their families also are under financial strain. We will live within our budget. Now is not the time to ask our students to pay more for tuition.

Also today, the Board approved our new Start South program, which will allow high school students to earn college credit from USA. USA faculty will teach all courses in this program, which will help us build a deeper connection with high schools in our region.

Earlier this week, University leadership issued a statement on the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I was encouraged by the resulting dialog at last night’s Courageous Conversations forum, hosted by the University’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and attended by more than 450 members of our community. Thank you to the moderators and panelists: Dr. Mike Mitchell, dean of students and vice president for student affairs; Dr. Joél Lewis Billingsley, associate professor in the College of Education and Professional Studies; Dr. Paul Frazier, USA chief diversity and inclusion officer; Zeke Aull, USA police chief; Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and USA journalist-in-residence; and Dr. John Friend, director of the University Counseling and Testing Center.

I want to end today’s letter with an update on our COVID-19 testing. USA Health employees have performed more than 4,000 tests — up to 200 a day — at the Ladd-Peebles Stadium site. While the location has worked well, during severe weather our employees must shelter inside and some of the tents have been damaged during storms. As a result, USA Health is moving to inside the Mobile Civic Center and will begin operations there June 8. Patients who have been referred for testing will actually drive into the arena through large doors. This will allow us to continue testing regardless of the weather outside. Thank you to our USA Health healthcare providers and staff who have been instrumental in making this change, and to the city for its support.

To everyone in our USA community, please stay safe, be kind to each other and stand alongside your fellow Jaguars.

Tony G. Waldrop, Ph.D.

June 2, 2020

USA Community,

The death of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer is deeply disturbing. It is profoundly sad. And, unfortunately, it is just the latest death in a list of names that have been seared into the minds of some, and forgotten by others. 

Floyd’s life was over in eight minutes. An eternity, and an instant, in a country that long has struggled with issues of race and inequality.  

The fate of the man charged in Floyd’s killing will be decided in the courts. We will decide ours.

We were encouraged by the peaceful vigil held Sunday evening in Mobile’s Cathedral Square, and by many of the protests around the country. Everyone should be heard. No one should be hurt or be made to feel unsafe. Violence in our streets is a distraction, counterproductive, and a dishonor to lives lost.

This Thursday, the University’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusion will host a virtual town hall to continue that productive conversation. “Let’s Talk About America and George Floyd” is the latest in South’s Courageous Conversations series.

Panelists will include Dr. Paul Frazier, USA chief diversity and inclusion officer; Zeke Aull, USA police chief; Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and USA journalist-in-residence; and Dr. John Friend, director of the University Counseling and Testing Center. The event will be moderated by Dr. Mike Mitchell, dean of students and vice president for student affairs, and Dr. Joél Lewis Billingsley, associate professor in the College of Education and Professional Studies.

Anyone in the USA community can join the conversation at 4:30 p.m. through Zoom, using Meeting ID 9105 079 1822 and the password 846831. Participants will be placed in a waiting room before joining and will be able to ask questions through the chat function.

We encourage members of our USA community to participate, to promote healing and condemn violence, and to hear the perspectives of others. We are listening.

Dr. Tony Waldrop

Dr. John Marymont
Dean of the College of Medicine and Vice President for Medical Affairs, USA Health

G. Owen Bailey
Chief Executive Officer & Senior Associate Vice President for Medical Affairs, USA Health

Dr. Paul Frazier
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

Dr. G. David Johnson
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dr. Franklin Trimm
Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion and Assistant Vice President for Medical Affairs, USA Health

May 29, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

Summer does not officially begin until June 20, but we get an early start in the South. That typically means holding summer classes and welcoming new students to on-campus orientations.

We’re having to do things a bit differently this year. As you know, we’ve moved our summer courses online. We’ve done the same for fall orientation – at least the first part. New students will begin virtual orientations June 9, and the first several sessions are already full. During those sessions, students will get help registering for classes, receive information on housing and financial services, and get connected to all that South has to offer. Our plan is to have some in-person, small-group sessions when our freshmen arrive for fall classes.

We’ve recorded strong enrollment for summer courses, aided by a tuition adjustment waiving additional online fees for many students. That adjustment means our students, as a whole, are paying less this summer.

Interest for fall semester for both new and returning students is positive. This is due to the work of everyone who plays a role in recruitment and student services, particularly our staff in the Office of Enrollment Services. The initiatives we’ve undertaken include virtual visits and teleconference sessions with our deans. We’ve also continued with highly targeted digital marketing campaigns to prospective students, and adjusted our focus to include an emphasis on local and transfer recruitment so we can reach students who may feel more comfortable attending college close to home.

Though it’s still too soon to know how many students will enroll in the fall and how enrollment will impact our budget, our efforts and the interest so far are encouraging.

We’re also helping our students with the quick disbursement of CARES Act funding. To date, we’ve already paid out over $4 million of the approximately $5.7 million received to help students with financial needs, and we are continuing to process applications that have been submitted.

Next month, we’ll release guidelines for how students and employees can return to campus while maintaining a safe environment. Our hospitals and clinics have remained open, and have managed to keep COVID-19 cases down. One innovative process that USA Health has adopted is an online tool that allows its employees to check in before reporting to work. This type of screening tool is quickly becoming an industry standard. It is efficient, convenient and helps keep our employees and patients safe.

Because of the nature of the work carried out on our academic campus and in our USA Health facilities, there will be both similarities and differences in how we move forward. But health and safety always will be the focus for all of us.

Tony G. Waldrop, Ph.D.

May 22, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

Each morning, Julee and I get up early and go for a 3-mile walk. This time of year, the air is still cool and the sun begins to rise before the end of our stroll. I’ve always enjoyed getting an early start, and walking with Julee and our new German Shepard, Buddy Blue, is one of my favorite times of the day.

During this pandemic, taking care of ourselves, mentally and physically, should be a priority for all of us. Yet I know it’s easy to lose focus, given the disruption in our lives. For me, having a routine and a partner is helpful. And I want to remind you that USA is here, even while you’re away from campus, to help you stay healthy.

The Department of Campus Recreation continues to host virtual classes six days a week on Zoom. The offerings include strength and cardio workouts along with yoga.

Student counseling is available for sessions through the Counseling and Testing Center, and the USA Psychological Clinic is offering consultations and therapy through tele-health to adults and children in our community.

Jaguar Productions put together a full list of programming for spring semester and is building out a summer schedule. Until then, its website offers a collection of virtual attractions in Mobile and beyond. More resources can be found on our South Strong website.

I know many of you are using your time to further your academic progress and taking advantage of the tuition rate adjustment for summer online classes. Taking a class in the summer is a good way to stay engaged and keep on track for graduation. Students can continue to enroll in advance of the summer session that begins June 3.

I want to finish with some good news. This video is being shared on social media, showing a patient leaving University Hospital after 47 days of treatment for COVID-19. He spent 30 of those days on a ventilator. The healthcare workers lining the hallways, and his wife cheering behind him, should give us all reason to smile – and be hopeful in even the most difficult situations.

I hope you and your families enjoy a safe Memorial Day Weekend.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

May 15, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

I hope you had the chance to see USA’s virtual commencement ceremony last Saturday. I was pleased to watch the livestream along with nearly 3,000 USA students, family members and friends.

For students, please remember that Monday, May 18, is the deadline for submitting your application for an emergency grant through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) portion of the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. We have received thousands of applications to date, and will be processing the applications and making award notifications as quickly as possible.

Please keep in mind that while USA has received approximately $5.7 million in CARES Act funding to be distributed to students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount a student may receive is based on her or his individual circumstances and will be impacted by the total number of approved applications that the University receives, as well as the federal guidelines that direct the distribution of these funds.

As you know, every member of our USA community has made sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic. After a careful analysis of current and anticipated budgetary shortfalls related to the pandemic and the potential impact of cost-saving measures on employees, we have implemented a four-month 4.5% reduction in pay for certain University administrative, staff and faculty employees whose salaries are $30,000 or more. This reduction does not apply to faculty on nine-month contracts, as their work was completed prior to the effective date of the salary reduction. In addition, the USA Health system already has implemented its own separate set of cost reduction measures.

Employees who are subject to the temporary pay reduction are eligible to receive four additional paid personal days during this time. After receiving input from faculty and staff, we have extended the period during which these days can be used to December 31, 2020.

While we recognize that any reduction in salary is difficult, it is necessary to address at least a portion of the expected budget shortfall the University expects to experience due to the pandemic. If you have questions about your specific situation, I encourage you to contact your supervisor or Human Resources.

At USA Health and at hospitals across the country, Emergency Department volume is down as people delay treatment. This can be risky, particularly for stroke and heart patients, and for those with infections, where time is critical for the best outcomes. USA Health has followed strict protocols when it comes to patient safety, and our healthcare teams are committed to providing quality, evidence-based care. I am thankful to all of our healthcare providers, but this week, at the conclusion of National Nurses Week, I specifically want to recognize and thank the hundreds of licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and nurse practitioners who work at USA Health for their hard work and dedication to keeping us all healthy.

Finally, I want to remind everyone that our campus reopening committee and subcommittees continue to meet and work on plans for students, faculty and staff to return to campus by fall. This plan will require all of us to be flexible and work together as we implement needed changes to our operations, such as social distancing, new health and safety protocols, limits on the size of gatherings, and allowing employees to return in stages. The committee and sub-committees are moving quickly while being thoughtful and thorough. I plan to have more information for everyone in the next few weeks.

Tony G. Waldrop

May 8, 2020

Dear USA Faculty, Staff and Administrators,

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a number of significant challenges to the ongoing operations of the University. We all have done our part to respond to these challenges and continue to carry out our mission of education, research, service and healthcare.

At this time, we must confront one of the most critical issues we face. As a result of reduced revenues and necessary expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, USA has experienced financial losses that will total nearly $8 million by the end of the summer term. University leadership has worked to contain costs, but an analysis of the ongoing issues we will confront in the near future shows that we will likely experience a total budget shortfall of between $15 million to $37 million through the remainder of the 2020 fiscal year and the 2021 fiscal year. This shortfall is consistent with shortfalls experienced by other universities throughout the country. The funding provided to USA through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will cover only a small portion of the total expected shortfall.

Therefore, the University at this time must implement a temporary 4.5% pay reduction for employees whose annual salary is $30,000 or greater. This reduction will be in effect for the period beginning May 1, 2020, through August 31, 2020, for monthly employees and the period beginning May 10, 2020 through September 12, 2020, for bi-weekly employees. This pay reduction, which will be processed electronically, applies to all permanent regular administrative and staff employees in the University General Division, as well as faculty paid under twelve month contracts (including the College of Medicine). These measures are in addition to the hiring and classification freeze implemented earlier this month.

Please note that this pay reduction does not apply to employees and contracted physicians of USA Health. The USA Health system has already implemented its own separate set of cost reduction measures.

Employees who are subject to the temporary pay reduction will be eligible to receive four paid personal days, based on FTE, to use before the last day of the last pay period in September. As with vacation, these personal days must be scheduled and approved in advance by your supervisor to ensure continuity of operations. Personal days will not roll into the next fiscal year if not taken.

During this period, overtime will be authorized only in the most critical situations and must be approved in advance by the appropriate divisional vice president.

These are unprecedented times, and a review of the University’s financial status closer to the end of the four-month period will determine if additional measures, including but not limited to extension of the salary reduction, will be necessary. We will continue to communicate about these issues with the University community as more information becomes available.

Your hard work and dedication to the University of South Alabama during these difficult circumstances is appreciated. Thank you for all that you are doing to help USA remain strong.

Tony G. Waldrop, Ph.D.

Scott Weldon
Vice President for Finance and Administration

May 7, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

I hope you will make plans to join our University family this Saturday at 11 a.m. CDT to celebrate our 2020 spring and summer graduates with our virtual commencement. Graduates, families and friends can view the conferring of degrees by visiting the USA homepage at and clicking on the banner image. While this year’s ceremony will be different, the importance of this event remains the same. We continue to look at ways in which we can hold an in-person ceremony in the future, but for now I’m honored to be able to address our graduates and confer the degrees. Also speaking will be our academic deans and this year's Student Government Association president, Sahilee Waitman.

This week, the University began the process of distributing the funds USA has been allocated as part of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) portion of the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. USA has received a total of approximately $5.7 million in funding that will be distributed directly to students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are moving as quickly as possible to get these funds to our students. For information on how to apply for this assistance, please visit USA’s HEERF website.

In addition to the $5.7 million in assistance that will be distributed directly to students, USA expects to receive additional federal assistance that can be used for institutional needs. University leadership is working through a process that will identify the best uses for these funds.

I regret having to end this message on a sad note, but as many of you may know, Dr. Brian Axsmith, a USA professor of biology, died this week after contracting COVID-19. Dr. Axsmith’s research interest was paleobotany; even those who didn’t know Dr. Axsmith may recognize him from the classes he conducted outside to enable his students to study plants and trees. He was a gifted and thoughtful speaker who made learning about biology accessible, he was well-regarded by both his students and colleagues, and he will be missed.

It’s important to know that while restrictions on movement begin to ease nationwide and here in Alabama, we all have a responsibility to each other’s health and safety. That means frequent hand-washing, avoiding large social gatherings and keeping at least 6 feet of distance between persons. These practical guidelines are not just about your safety, but about saving the lives of others. Let’s show what it means to be “in this together.”

Tony G. Waldrop

May 1, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

Spring has been a challenge for all of our students, especially our graduating students, who left for spring break not knowing that they had taken their last classes on campus. Graduation can be a bittersweet experience, this year even more so.

Let’s then recognize and honor our graduates, together. Please join me for a virtual commencement next Saturday, May 9, at 11 a.m. Central Time. You will be able to watch it on YouTube by clicking the large banner on USA’s home page,

This ceremony will be its own unique experience and cannot replace the commencement many of our graduates were expecting. To those students, please know that we are continuing to look for ways that we can honor you this fall on campus.

It is my sincere hope that, through virtual watch parties and intimate family gatherings, this commencement will be one to remember for all the right reasons: celebrating accomplishment, honoring community and anticipating better times ahead.

As we send our graduates off to their futures, we also are planning for the future of the University. I’m pleased to let you know that the University is planning to reopen campus and resume in-person classes and residential student living this fall. There is always the possibility that the evolving health risks or other circumstances associated with COVID-19 may require that we change our plans, but we are currently working through the many logistical issues associated with reopening our campus.

The most important step in reopening is to ensure that we can conduct classes and activities in a safe manner. To that end we have formed a committee tasked with laying the groundwork for reopening. This group has met twice, and an additional nine sub-groups have been formed to examine issues ranging from health and safety to academics, athletics and finance. The at-large committee expects recommendations back in the next few weeks so it can make decisions on how to proceed with reopening. We are moving quickly, but thoroughly, in order to allow for a safe return of our students and employees.

As you know, Governor Kay Ivey already is relaxing some restrictions statewide by replacing the Stay at Home order with a Safer at Home order. At USA Health, that will mean a return to elective surgeries and procedures. Healthcare and support staff will continue practices that have helped keep our hospitals as safe as possible, including limiting access of visitors and requiring facemasks, curbside triage for both hospital emergency departments, and eliminating communal patient waiting rooms at the hospitals.

To ensure an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, USA Health has found an innovative way to disinfect N95 masks for reuse. The sterilization staff each day collects the masks and cleans them with the same Xenex robot used to clean hospital rooms. The robot emits pulsed UV-C light to sterilize the masks before they are returned to their original users.

Just as USA Health is finding innovative ways to work around challenges, and commencement will be held in a way never done before, let us all continue to search for solutions that unite us behind preparation and purpose.

Tony G. Waldrop, Ph.D.

April 24, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

As we take necessary precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including distance learning and working remotely for many of our employees, we also must begin to plan for how and when we reopen campus to the University community.

That is why I’ve appointed a committee charged with researching and recommending plans to welcome back students, faculty and staff. It still is too soon to say when that may happen, but I know we need to prepare for a smooth and safe transition. We surely cannot immediately go back to how we operated before the pandemic, so we’ll work to determine reasonable and responsible guidelines and a timeline for moving forward.

The committee includes healthcare and academic representatives. We’ll meet at least weekly, including our first at-large meeting today. Please let me know if you have any ideas you’d like brought to the table.

Through this pandemic, one thing has not changed –the generosity and dedication of our Jaguar community. The SouthFund annual employee and retiree giving campaign has concluded with 2,977 gifts totaling a record $1.23 million. More than half of our USA and USA Health employees donated, once again making the SouthFund campaign the envy of other universities and putting needed resources to scholarships, research, healthcare and other University activities. Thank you to all who gave, as well as the unit representatives and our co-chairs – Dr. Harold Pardue, graduate school dean; Dr. Michael Chang, USA Health chief medical officer; and Dr. Debra Davis, College of Nursing dean emeritus.

Dr. Chang also has been a leader in our coronavirus planning and response, which includes implementing safety protocols at our hospitals and clinics. Extensive COVID-19 screening occurs when anyone arrives at a USA Health facility. Each day, patients and staff are asked a series of questions and temperatures are taken to maintain as healthy of an environment as possible. Because of these protocols, and due to the hard work of our environmental services personnel, USA Health has been able to maintain its longstanding commitment to patient and employee safety.

Please remember and honor the commitment of our healthcare professionals by following social distancing and other guidelines from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on protecting yourself and others.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

April 17, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

We’re all learning to adapt to new ways of functioning. Some of these changes, like working from home, are temporary. Other behaviors, such as washing our hands more frequently, may become standard operating procedure. It’s too soon to tell what the new normal will look like.

In any case, COVID-19 is forcing us to change and innovate. We are ready for that challenge.

At USA Health, telemedicine is on the rise and will likely be factored into our long-term growth plans, as our providers look for new ways to reach patients without the need for them to come to a clinic or hospital.

Our Office of Research and Economic Development, recognizing the need to push innovation quickly, adapted its technology commercialization and industry collaboration practices — the procedure that moves a product from the lab to a commercial enterprise — by agreeing to non-exclusive, royalty-free licenses of intellectual property related to preventing, diagnosing and treating COVID-19.

And our faculty and students continue to meet the challenge of online, remote education, even if it comes with a learning curve. When we decided to move summer classes online, the University eliminated the additional online charges for most undergraduate students this summer. We wanted to remove barriers to students finishing their degrees on time, and our students have responded with strong interest in those courses.

We are all finding new ways to live and learn. I’m learning more about our teleconferencing technology, and I now have many daily meetings online. I have one scheduled for today with student leaders, after meeting with other students last week.

I’d much rather meet in person. I miss having everyone on campus. But I know I’ll see all of you when we can return safely.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

April 10, 2020

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

While many of us are displaced, at home or working remotely, it’s important we stay in touch. Each Friday for the remainder of the semester, I’ll be sending you an email with some notes I’ve made from the past week – items you may have missed, good news you should know about, and some reflections on how we can move forward together.

I had a conversation on Tuesday with eight student leaders to see how they are doing and hear their opinions on how we’re doing. Joining me on that video conference was Dr. David Johnson, provost; Dr. Mike Mitchell, vice president for student affairs; and Dr. Andi Kent, dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies and the incoming interim provost. We all seem to be, as one student put it, in a time of constant adjustment, so there certainly will be challenges. The students mentioned some challenges with online classes and grading that we are following up on, as well as the need to ensure our online video conferences are secure. I also heard of several instances where our faculty went the extra mile – beginning classes by checking on the students’ well being, giving extra time for assignments, and even an instructor who gave students his cell phone number so they could text him.

One way we’re helping our community stay connected is by making it easier to access campus resources remotely. We built a South Strong web page with more than a dozen listings of resources and services that we think might be helpful, and we’re continuing to add to that page.

While many of our faculty and main campus staff are working from home, our USA Health employees are at our hospitals and clinics treating patients, conducting research and taking care of our health facilities. I hope all of you will join me in thanking them for their incredible commitment to healing and serving the sick and vulnerable in our region. They are on the front lines of battling the coronavirus pandemic, and our community is grateful for their sacrifices. For the past two Sundays, people from throughout the community have gathered in their vehicles outside our hospitals and turned on their car lights to show support for our colleagues.

USA Health, in collaboration with the City of Mobile, is operating a COVID-19 testing site at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. About 20 healthcare employees from our physicians group are staffing the site, with significant support from our USA Health information technology department. By the end of this week, we expect to have seen 500 people who made appointments to be tested.

Finally, I’d like to congratulate students Richard Fu, Hannah Giannini, Samantha Michlowitz and John Pomerat, who are among a select group of students from across the country recognized as 2020 Goldwater Scholars. This is the first time that USA has achieved the maximum number of allowable annual recipients, and our students are four of only seven total from all Alabama universities to be recognized for outstanding achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Great work by Richard, Hannah, Samantha and John, and to the family and faculty members who supported them!

Until next week, be safe, and keep others safe, by continuing to practice social distancing.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

April 7, 2020

Dear USA Faculty and Staff,

I’m pleased to let you know that Laura Anne Schratt has accepted the position of Executive Director of Internal Audit. She will begin work at USA on May 18 and will serve as a member of the President’s Administrative Council.

Laura comes to USA from the North Dakota University System office, where she has served as Chief Audit Executive for the past six years. Prior to her work at NDUS, she was a Financial Analyst for Shell Vacations, LLC, in Northbrook, Illinois, and Senior Financial Analyst for Cargill Investor Services in Chicago.

Laura holds a bachelor’s of business administration with a specialization in public accounting from Hofstra University, and an M.B.A. with a concentration in finance from Loyola University in Chicago.

With more than 20 years of finance and auditing experience, Laura is an accomplished professional whose experience and expertise will greatly benefit the University.

Please join me in welcoming Laura Anne Schratt to USA.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

April 2, 2020

USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

Even though our campus has moved to limited operations and classes are being held online, South remains a community with a shared purpose and genuine regard for all Jaguars. That is why we’ve put together a South Strong page on our University website to promote resources, advice, campus information and even some virtual school spirit.

Instead of greeting one another on campus, we can share social media stories of #SouthAtHome. Instead of yoga at the Rec Center, we can work out at home through virtual classes. Instead of wearing our school colors on campus, we can download South backgrounds for Zoom chats.

South Strong provides information on everything from online tutoring and free counseling to financial assistance and chats with our librarians.

This semester is something different and challenging for all of us. Let’s make the best of it. Let’s stay South Strong.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

March 31, 2020


Thank you to everyone who has participated in the University’s strategic planning process to date. Unfortunately, we must delay the development of our strategic plan as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will begin the process again this fall. At that time, the University’s strategic planning committee will reconvene, and we will invite the entire University community to participate in the process. We anticipate that the strategic planning process will be completed during the 2020-21 academic year.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

March 12, 2020


As you are aware from previous communications, the University Pandemic Emergency Management Team is closely monitoring the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). The University of South Alabama is a globally engaged institution with faculty, staff, and students who frequently travel internationally as well as domestically. The health and safety of our university community is a top priority for the institution. Please check frequently the University homepage at for updates.

In light of the current outbreak of COVID-19 and the fact that the World Health Organization has now declared it a global pandemic, we are taking all reasonable precautions to keep our community safe and informed. Based on the expanding global outbreak, the significant risk of exposure during travel, and guidance from experts in public health and infectious disease, the University of South Alabama is implementing interim travel guidelines and restrictions. With the exception of those trips currently underway, all upcoming university-sponsored international faculty, staff, and student travel is suspended effective immediately and until further notice.

Additionally, all non-essential university-sponsored domestic travel is suspended. Domestic travel deemed essential will require the approval of the respective Vice President and the President. Employees with out-of-pocket expenses related to cancelled trips should contact the University Travel Services Office at 460-6242 for guidance.

Although these travel guidelines and restrictions do not apply to personal travel, employees and students are encouraged to reconsider any planned air travel, cruise ship travel, travel to areas identified by the Centers for Disease Control as at risk for COVID-19, and travel to group meetings or events. Employees and students who are considering personal travel are cautioned to carefully review the risk of exposure and of travel disruption and employees should notify supervisors of their destinations should they decide to travel.

Travelers returning to campus from international destinations will have to comply with U.S. re-entry and quarantine or self-isolation requirements and travelers returning from certain domestic areas will face similar requirements. Additionally, returning travelers may be required by the University to remain at home for a self-quarantine period. Returning employees should coordinate with their supervisors about missed work and returning students should coordinate with course instructors and advisors about missed class time if quarantine or self-isolation is required.

Employees and students returning from international travel or travel to a domestic area impacted by COVID-19 should self-quarantine for a period of 14 days and must self-report this travel to their respective supervisor, program coordinator or department chair. These areas are currently defined as all international destinations, as well as the United States regions of Washington State and Westchester County, New York. An up-to-date list of defined areas is posted at and will be updated daily, or as soon as new information becomes available. The University will require a 14-day period of self-quarantine before returning to work or clinical placements for these travelers. If such a period of self-quarantine is required after personal travel deemed at-risk, employees will be required to utilize accrued leave for that period.

The University is closely monitoring the developing situation and will update travel guidelines as CDC risk levels change. These interim guidelines will remain effective for a minimum of 30 days and will be extended as long as warranted by the level of risk.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.
University of South Alabama

March 9, 2020


Dear USA Faculty and Staff,

In recognition of the dedication of our USA employees, each quarter the University recognizes the exceptional efforts of one University general staff employee for the Employee of the Quarter award.

I am very pleased to announce that Terry Silva, Maintenance Repair Technician, in the Grounds Department, has been selected as the USA Employee of the Quarter for the first quarter of 2020. His nomination reads in part: “Terry is the Grounds employee that many may have seen driving a small commercial street sweeper around campus. The equipment has long been out of service; however, Mr. Silva being committed to his job, now cleans all the parking lots/streets by hand with a rake and shovel. Numerous weekends and late afternoons when everyone else is gone, he works on the high traffic, less accessible areas. The fact that Mr. Silva performs by hand what was previously managed by a commercial machine is amazing in itself. He continues to persevere without ever seeing an end to his work and does so without complaint. As a servant to the campus community and providing what is considered a great first impression to visitors, Mr. Silva provides a safe and clean environment for all.”

Terry was recognized for his commitment to excellence and presented the award at the Board of Trustees meeting on March 6, 2020.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

March 5, 2020


Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

I am very pleased to announce that Dr. Andrea Kent, Dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, has agreed to serve as Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs when Dr. David Johnson steps down from this role in September.

Dr. Kent has been a member of the USA faculty for more than 15 years, and has served as Dean of the College since 2016, when she was selected after a national search. During her tenure as dean, Dr. Kent has continued to build ever-stronger ties between USA and our local and regional school systems, including the establishment of the College’s first Advisory Council. In addition to increasing student access by more than doubling the number of scholarships available to CEPS students, she guided the incorporation of the Interdisciplinary Studies and the Hospitality and Tourism Management programs into the College. Dr. Kent also oversaw the founding of the USA CEPS Literacy Center as well as the opening of the new Office of Adult Learner Services.

Dr. Kent earned her Ph.D. in instructional design and development, and her master’s degree in early childhood education, from USA and she earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood and elementary education from the University of Mobile.

Please join me in thanking Dr. Kent for accepting this very important role.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

March 4, 2020


Dear USA Employees and Students,

After more than a decade of exceptional and dedicated leadership as the University's Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. David Johnson has announced his plan to step down from his administrative position and return to the faculty in September.

Dr. Johnson's leadership has been both transformative and inspirational. He has led USA in important new academic directions, and his vision and guidance have significantly enhanced the profile of our students, the quality of our academic programs, and the depth and breadth of our curricular and extracurricular experiences. His particular focus on student achievement and success has resulted in USA's recent enrollments of the most academically talented classes in our history, and the steadily increasing retention and graduation rates of our students.

While it would be nearly impossible to list the many ways in which Dr. Johnson's leadership has enhanced the mission, vision and overall advancement of the University of South Alabama, there are some particular areas in which his influence will be felt long into the future. His vision for the success of our students includes a major expansion of our advising staff, which has contributed to better academic performance and progress among our students, and the founding of the Honors College, which in a short time has grown into an intellectual and creative force within our campus community. In addition, Dr. Johnson has overseen the creation and implementation of many new doctoral programs, and he started the Innovation in Learning Center, which continues to enhance faculty development in teaching and learning. He also led the University through a successful reaccreditation process with SACSCOC in 2013, as well as the subsequent fifth-year review by SACSCOC in 2019.

Dr. Johnson's future plans include a well-deserved sabbatical (the first of his career), after which he will re-join the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work and continue his teaching and research.

Dr. Johnson's 35-year career at the University of South Alabama includes 20 years as a full professor of sociology, six years as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, two years as Associate Dean, and nine years as the sociology graduate program director. These are mere numbers, however, which cannot adequately capture the outsized and profound influence he has had on his colleagues and his students, nor can they truly demonstrate the myriad ways in which he has furthered the growth and success of the University. We are a stronger, better institution of higher education because of Dr. Johnson's leadership, dedication, abilities and talents.

Please join me in thanking Dr. David Johnson for his service as our Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, and in wishing him the very best as he continues his distinguished academic career.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

March 2, 2020


Dear USA Students and Employees,

The University is continuing to monitor reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

To ensure the University is adequately prepared to follow guidance and directives from the CDC and other relevant agencies, I have activated the University’s Pandemic Emergency Management Team. This team includes representatives from all relevant areas of the University and is led by Dr. Michael Chang, Chief Medical Officer for USA Health. The team is reviewing processes and plans for appropriate responses to the evolving information about COVID-19.

As we learn more each day about COVID-19, the management team will continue to meet, assess reports and information, and make decisions about appropriate actions. Depending on roles and responsibilities, employees may be receiving additional, more specific information from the leadership of their areas.

Students should continue to monitor their University email accounts during Spring Break for any announcements. The University is currently evaluating the impacts on students who are or will be studying abroad, and will communicate with students on a case-by-case basis regarding their specific circumstances.

In the meantime, please remember that following guidelines for prevention of virus transmission is a very important part of our shared responsibility. Precautions for preventing transmission of COVID-19 are similar to prevention practices for flu and other respiratory illnesses. These include: frequently washing your hands; not touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; and routinely cleaning frequently touched objects and surfaces.

I encourage students, faculty and staff to educate themselves about the virus, its symptoms and the geographic areas where the virus is most widespread. In particular, students and employees are urged to use caution when considering travel to areas where the virus is prevalent. For the most up-to-date information about COVID-19, please visit the CDC website at In addition, updates and information are being posted to USA’s Student Health Center website.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Cases have ranged from people being mildly sick to being severely ill and dying. At this point, the CDC believes symptoms may appear from 2 to 14 days after exposure.

If you believe you have become ill from, or have been exposed to, this virus, please take appropriate precautions to not spread it. This includes staying in your dwelling and limiting your contact with other people. Employees should contact their primary care provider, and students should contact the USA Student Health Center at (251) 460-7151 or

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

March 2, 2020


Students, faculty and staff,

I want to remind you that tomorrow is a voting day in Alabama and encourage you to exercise your right and responsibility in casting a ballot. In addition to the state being part of Super Tuesday, when Alabama joins 13 other states in nominating a presidential candidate, there are also statewide and local races, as well as a proposed amendment to the state constitution.

For some of our students, this will be your first opportunity to vote. Our democracy and country is stronger with greater voter participation, and I welcome you to the process.

To get more information about tomorrow’s election, including finding out where you are registered to vote, you can visit the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office. That office also has sample ballots for each county.

Information also is available through the League of Women Voters at Vote411.

If you have not registered to vote, I encourage you to take the time to do so now to be able to participate in future elections.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

January 30, 2020


Dear USA Students and Employees,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Cases have been confirmed in a growing number of other international locations, including the United States.

As we learn more each day about the coronavirus, I encourage students, faculty and staff to educate themselves about the virus, its symptoms and the geographic areas where the virus is most widespread. In particular, students and employees are urged to use caution when considering travel to areas where the virus is prevalent. For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus, visit the CDC website at

Precautions for preventing transmission of the coronavirus are similar to prevention practices for flu and other respiratory illnesses. These include: frequently washing your hands; not touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; and routinely cleaning frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Symptoms of coronavirus can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Reported illnesses have ranged from people being mildly sick to people being severely ill and dying. The CDC believes symptoms may appear from 2 to 14 days after exposure.

If you believe you have become ill from, or have been exposed to, this virus, please take appropriate precautions to not spread it. This includes staying in your dwelling and limiting your contact with other people. Employees should contact their primary care provider, and students should contact the USA Student Health Center at (251) 460-7151 or

Tony G. Waldrop, Ph.D.
University of South Alabama