“I prayerfully and hopefully declare the 2020-2021 academic year at Messiah University to be officially open.” With these words, Messiah University President Kim Phipps commenced another year’s studies beginning on August 25th.
The title of “university” is not the only change on campus. Because of the spread of COVID-19 across the country, Messiah has implemented many preventative measures within its community to allow for safe in-person learning.
Changes in dining options, classroom set-ups and even the option for remote or online learning serve as just a few of the university’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.
Despite all of these changes, Messiah’s community environment remains alive and vibrant, with returning and new students beginning their classes for the fall semester after spending most of the spring online.
Musical theatre major Katie Phykitt said, “It’s been amazing seeing all of my friends and those in my major, because I haven’t seen everyone in so long.”
At the same time, adjusting to campus life after almost five months quarantining at home provides some challenges.
“Since I haven’t seen anyone for so long, my socialization tolerance has gone way down, and I get drained very quickly,” Phykitt said.
It is easy for students to dwell on the sacrifices required on campus. Sophomore communications major Daniel Curry wants to focus on the positives.
“It is a great privilege to be able to have the opportunity of in-person education; it’s going really well,” he said.
He, like many other students, looks forward to bonding with his floormates and following God’s plan during this semester. Though socialization may look different this semester, students can still form those important connections with their peers; it just might take some creativity.
Not all of the student body resides on campus this fall. For those who have chosen remote learning, there are a different set of obstacles to overcome.
“It’s been different and it’s something I have to get used to,” Kylie Bell, a senior public relations major, said. “But all the professors are doing a great job of involving remote students in discussions as if we were on campus, as well as being super accommodating when Zoom troubles arise.”
Messiah’s students were not the only ones who held apprehensions about the start of the semester. The faculty and staff on campus have worked during the summer and will continue working throughout the year to ensure that all students are both engaged and safe both in and out of the classroom.
During the first few days of classes, communication professor Dr. Nance McCown observed the positivity of students.
“Students have been gracious and genuinely seem happy to be on campus, and those Zooming in from home seem to be connecting well, too,” McCown said.
Despite some technical difficulties, McCown and her students have seen the benefits of using technology to connect.
“High-tech classroom set-ups have worked pretty well and our tireless IT staff deserves a huge shout-out for their efforts and responsiveness. It is a lot to juggle, for sure, but being with my students energizes and excites me, and I’m happy to see them, even behind their masks,” McCown said.
The changes on campus may pose hardships and require sacrifices from each person, but the reward of being together on campus shines brighter in the darkness.
McCown said, “It will be worth it if we can make it through the semester with the option to learn and grow together in person!”