ST. JOSEPH -- Fall semester at the College of St. Benedict will be quite a bit different than in years past.

Newly minted Interim president Laurie Hamen was the featured guest Wednesday evening during "Saint Ben's @ Home," the college's virtual discussion series aimed at students, faculty and alumni.

Hamen, who Wednesday officially replaced outgoing president Mary Dana Hinton, discuss some key changes and priorities for the college amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One key difference: students will take one course at a time, all year, as a way to limit their contact with one another, and will have the option to attend and actively participate in classes remotely. It's a model described by Hamen as "high flex."

"You can be there in person," she explained. "You can be there online. I think this will be beneficial for students, particularly because I've not heard from a single student that doesn't want to come back face-to-face if they can possibly do it. But, we're also recognizing that community safety is tremendously important."

Hamen will serve as president as the boards of College of St. Benedict and St. John's University assess the possibility of appointing a single president to oversee both institutions. While in the role, Hamen says she aims to help reestablish the college's commitment to diversity and inclusion, and work with alumni to develop related scholarships and mentoring opportunities.

"There's much that's happened already," Hamen says. "And so the more that I can get familiar with the really excellent work that's being done in terms of transforming our community to include and celebrate all different kinds of people, there are a lot of priorities."

Hamen says the college aims to send out a plan related to the issue "in a very short amount of time."

The fall semester for St. Ben's kicks off on August 31.

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