University of Dallas Fall Rome program boasts zero cases, full travel schedule

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The Fall Rome class of 2021's opening Mass in the Ampitheater on the Rome Campus. Photo courtesy of Vasile Chiriac.

The University of Dallas Rome Program has gotten off to a flying start for the fall class of 2021.

The diligent work of Dr. Peter Hatlie, the vice president, dean and director of the Rome program, has largely contributed to the roaring success of the new semester. 

His passion for the Rome program, in addition to his extensive knowledge of the Italian authoritative process, allowed for a virtually seamless start to the semester. Before students touched down in Rome, he was able to navigate Italian law and formulate an arrival plan that allowed students to immediately jump into the Rome experience.

“We’ve always thought of this as an imperative, to get students back to school and in classes,” Hatlie said.

Ever the UD textualist, he relayed that the key in dealing with the Italian authorities, within and without the COVID-19 environment, was in reading the fine print.

“What I’ve learned, more than anything else, is that you have to read every law, really, really carefully, and since I’m the one responsible, I read the texts,” Hatlie explained. “You have to understand how much liberty you’ll have versus how much restriction you’ll have.”

Hatlie was in constant communication not only with the authorities at the Ministry of Health but also with students and parents throughout the summer, writing three letters and hosting a town hall via Zoom on Aug. 6. 

On Aug. 9, the Italian government decreed that a “Green Pass” would be required for all who entered the country. As defined by the Italian government, a “Green Pass” constitutes either proof of receiving vaccination against COVID-19 since March 20, 2021, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 since June 20. 

For incoming students, this meant procuring an official CDC vaccination card or a medical form documenting their recovery from COVID-19.

Max Valentine, a sophomore biology major, had not recovered from COVID-19 within the necessary timeframe and was at first not planning on receiving the vaccine. However, once the Green Pass became mandatory, he decided that it would be worth it.

“Once I found out Dr. Hatlie’s plans for the semester, plus the fact that if I got the vaccine that travels through Italy and Europe would basically be normal, I thought it would be worth it,” Valentine said.

In accordance with Italian law and informed by Hatlie’s research, students were divided into two groups for the first five days at Due Santi. Those who received the vaccine after Aug. 20 were quarantined and occupied half the campus, eating meals after the rest of the students and strictly taking classes in one of the two classrooms, the Aula Minore.

Valentine was one of the quarantined students, as he wasn’t able to receive his second dose before the deadline. However, he reported that the precautions were necessary and the brief segregation was worthwhile.

“Sure, it sucked seeing everyone else be able to go out and see Rome at first, but honestly, it was super fun hanging out on campus. I mean, we’re living on a vineyard in Italy, man,” Valentine said. “Staying on campus for five days so that we could all go back out again was totally worth it.”

After a second round of testing on the sixth day, the quarantiners were free, and the next day everyone departed for their first trip as a class to Cerveteri, an Etruscan archaeological site, followed by a swim in the Mediterranean.

Since then, school trips to Rome, Nemi, Campania and more have been undertaken, unhindered by the virus.

“Hatlie really pulled one out of the hat,” joked Sam Bryant, ‘24. “Don’t know what we’d do without that man.”

Under Hatlie’s leadership, along with the tireless work of the Office of Student Affairs and the Due Santi staff, UD has begun to establish a reputation as a pioneer within the age of COVID-19. 

UD was one of the only universities to be able to open its study abroad program in Europe during the spring semester, and was recently lauded by the National Catholic Register for its professional and effective management of the study abroad program in a Sept. 16 article. 

To date, there are zero active cases, and only a single confirmed positive all semester.

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