The first semester at Emporia State University is underway and face-to-face classes are back in session. 

With the prospect of a new year post-COVID, ESU was faced with decisions on how to continue providing an education for its students in the safest way possible. 

To encourage students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated, the university is offering cash and gift-card prizes to Starbucks and Memorial Union Bookstore through their VaxToNormal campaign.

This program was originally created to encourage students to get vaccinated and help them win prizes, but was extended on Aug. 20 to include faculty and staff. 

Along with extending who the program was aimed towards, the student prize drawing was also split into two halves.

“When we started the first one in July, I had a list of prizes that we could award and made a decision to do a prize drawing...but with only half of the prizes,” said Lynn Hobson, Dean of Students. “Then we were going to do another prize drawing with the other half later so students who weren’t vaccinated when they got here, that chose to get vaccinated, would still have an opportunity to win some prizes.”

While being in classrooms has the potential to expose people to each other more than remote learning, living in the dorms creates a whole community of students living in the same building. 

While the dorms don’t require students to be vaccinated to move in, students are required to either submit their vaccination record or show a negative COVID test result within 72 hours of moving in, according to Cass Coughlin Director of Residential Life Administration.

Ten names were drawn in the first round of prizes, and 10 more names will be drawn Oct. 8 along with an additional 10 names who will be awarded the grand prize of a $3,500 scholarship.

In addition to splitting the drawing into two parts, the program was further expanded, and every student fully vaccinated before Oct. 4 will receive a $250 scholarship. 

On Sep 1, Student Affairs announced that, by request from students, the $250 scholarship would instead be awarded for the current fall semester and will go directly to students’ accounts in late October.  

The program is federally funded through COVID-19 funding, allowing the university to help its students.

Diana Kuhlmann, Vice President for Finance and Administration said, “For the entire program, (the cost) is very dependent on participation. We did calculations on 100 percent participation, 75 percent participation (and) 60 percent participation. We won’t get to 100, we know that, so what we think the program will cost us will be between $1 million and $1.3 million and that’s that 60-75 percent participation rate.”

For many students, being awarded a scholarship or receiving a gift card can make a big impact in their lives.

 “I know it’s going to be so impactful and helpful for whoever wins those (prizes) that that’s the part that excites me,” Hobson said. “Just the joy that that will bring and what it’s doing to help that person pursue their education.”

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