(MARYVILLE, Mo.) -- Missouri Governor Mike Parson met with leaders of both Missouri Western State University and Northwest Missouri State University on Monday to discuss their fall semester re-opening plans.
It was part of the governor's statewide tour to look at what safety measures are being put into place in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There's a lot of smart people out there that can deal with a lot of situations," Parson said during a media availability following his private meeting with university leaders. "I think the education community above all is doing exactly what they need to be doing. They're preparing, they're trying to give the students, their parents, the confidence."
For new MWSU interim president Elizabeth Kennedy, it was her first day on the job since taking over for former president Matt Wilson, who took a job in Japan. Kennedy is aware of the challenge she is facing.
"One thing I've been talking with our student affairs folks is creating a campus environment is creating as much of the college experience as we can in a very safe, healthy and protective way," she said. "Within the classroom, we've already engaged in social distancing, the spacing of desks. We've got our labs set up, we've got our classrooms set up and marked up. We've got our faculty engaged in seating charts so we can engage in contact tracing."
University administrators nationwide are battling the perception among millenials that COVID-19 is only a danger to older people.
"If I'm a sophomore, I might feel invincible, but then I'm going back into communities, loved ones and so on. I'm part of it, we're all part of the solution together," said John Jasinski, president at NWMSU.
One of the messages Parson shared was that he is fully behind the reopening of all schools, both K-12 and universities. He says their work is important to the long-range future of the state.
"If we let the education fall behind and we don't do our part to keep doing that we're just going to get further behind and lose in the competition world when it comes to other states," Parson said. "That's why I've been very focused on the workforce development part and getting these universities back up and running is part of that."
Northwest will hold a combined graduation ceremony this weekend for both summer graduates and those who completed their classes last spring.
Staff say it will be held outdoors and social distancing guidelines will be in effect.
Classes at Missouri Western begin on August 17, moved up two weeks from their original start date of August 31 so that all finals will be complete before Thanksgiving weekend. Administrators say that will reduce travel.