Community Support | Annual Report 2020

Annual Report 2020

Community Support

The pandemic created an even greater need for community support, making the work of Lehigh's Community Service Office just as crucial as ever. The CSO continued to follow through on its community commitments while the university produced supplies for local hospitals and first responders and lent support to international students.

Carolina Hernandez

Carolina Hernandez

Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Community Service Office

The Community Service Office plays a critical role in aiding the South Bethlehem community. How much more important is its work now?

As has been proven, over and over again in times of crisis the Lehigh family springs into action. Our work, more than ever, has been significant as we have worked with our partner agencies to ensure continuity of essential services to minimize impact for our local community.

A crucial part of Lehigh students' service is tutoring younger students. How has social distancing impacted this?

Our tutoring program has been a flagship program for our students and community alike. In consultation with the Bethlehem Area School District, we made the difficult decision to pause our in-school and after-school tutoring programs for the Fall 2020 semester. The decision was not made lightly. We felt it was the responsible decision for the community at large. We remain committed to our South Side families and took this as an opportunity to reimagine tutoring virtually. Graduate assistant Gaby Montes created virtual classrooms for our homework club students to engage with Lehigh students, who read books, created videos, demonstrated skills and made crafts with the kids.

What has become especially difficult for the CSO?

The Lehigh family is always quick to generously respond to emergent community needs. Students, faculty, staff and alumni reached out seeking ways to contribute and connect with the local community. The challenge has been understanding the capacity of our nonprofits as they continued to evolve. Our incredible nonprofits work with the most vulnerable members of our community. With that in mind, the organizations were extremely limited in allowing individuals to volunteer and/or initially accept donations. This changed as we started to further understand COVID-19. Fortunately, Lehigh's family was undeterred and found ways to innovate. Groups worked on making masks for neighborhood children, food donations for our local pantries were shipped to the CSO, (where we sanitized before delivering), monetary donations were designated and directly donated to our local partners and on and on.

Have new projects or service opportunities presented themselves?

As an office we focused on innovating existing programs to continue to meet the needs of our community, particularly for long-standing programs such as Spooktacular, which welcomes families onto campus for a Halloween-themed day. Instead, this year, we brought Spooktacular to them at our schools. With the presidential election and Census count in 2020, the CSO also had limited volunteers at the schools to help families register to vote and remind them to complete the Census. The most important work we did was to continue to follow through on our commitments and provide the long-standing service our community partners depend on us for. Every week, we still provided meals at the local homeless shelter and our Community School coordinators provided food to families. Miller-Keystone Blood Center held blood drives on our campus. We stayed consistent. Present. And were unwavering with our commitment to the community.

International Flag Parade

Global Studies

International Support

On July 10, Lehigh joined 180 institutions in signing on to the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration's amicus brief in support of the Harvard/MIT federal court lawsuit challenging the July 6th directive released by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), a part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), that would substantially modify existing agency policies allowing online study for international students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four days after the brief was filed, the federal government reversed course, dropping plans to deport or deny entry to international students at U.S. colleges and universities if they did not attend at least some in-person classes.

Community Planning

A Sustainable Future

Lehigh's Office of Sustainability released its 10-year, interdisciplinary Sustainability Strategic Plan 2030 in October focusing on 113 goals across six strategic areas that was developed with input from the entire campus community. The plan builds on the university's 2009 Climate Commitment, the 2012 Campus Sustainability Plan and the Campus Sustainability Plan 2020.

As part of the plan, the development of a Climate Action Strategy began in September, providing a detailed framework and serving as a comprehensive roadmap for measuring, planning and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The strategy will help the university understand where, and how, to achieve emissions reductions and also outline projects to reach those goals while reducing operating costs.

"One of the university's visions is a commitment to social, environmental and economic sustainability. Creating this Climate Action Strategy will advance solutions that support that vision through sustainable change in operations."

— Provost Nathan Urban

Photo of masks hanging up to be sanitized

Essential Supplies

Pitching In

Nelson Tansu, the Daniel E. '39 and Patricia M. Smith Endowed Chair Professor in the department of electric and computer engineering, and Brian Slocum '97, managing director of Wilbur Powerhouse and Design Labs, both pitched in to help local hospitals and emergency responders as the COVID-19 pandemic began to rage in the United States and personal protective equipment supplies dwindled.

Dr. Christopher Roscher, an anesthesiologist at St. Luke's University Health Network, was looking for help in March in extending the use of N95 masks and contacted Tansu. Tansu assembled a team of staff and students, social distancing in their homes, who worked to design, fabricate and install a UV sterilization system in 2.5 weeks without visiting campus or meeting in person. The "High-Throughput Symmetrical and Non-Shadowing Ultraviolet Sterilization System," which is also nicknamed the "Bug Zapper," was put into use at St. Luke's, decontaminating up to 200 N95 masks every eight minutes.

That same month, local hospital administrators reached out to Slocum over concerns they would not be able to secure enough face shields for employees. To maintain social distancing, Slocum worked in shifts with shop manager Michael Moore '12 and additive manufacturing coordinator Trevor Verdonik '13 '15G to produce face shields that they donated to hospitals. Lehigh 3D-printed and delivered 2,500 face shields to Lehigh Valley Health Network and Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, among others. Lehigh also 3D-printed stethoscopes for St. Luke's Health Network.

100% the amount of Lehigh's electricity consumption offset with renewable energy in 2023. It's one of 113 goals Lehigh released in 2020 as part of its Sustainability Strategic Plan 2030.