Chestnut Hill College, a Catholic liberal arts college located in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, conducted classes virtually during the 2020 fall semester, and created a hybrid virtual and in-person schedule for the 2021 spring semester. Recently, the college announced a full return to campus, with students, faculty, and staff required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Students and faculty have mixed emotions about what’s to come.
I talked to several incoming students and current faculty at the college about the upcoming year. They discussed the transition to virtual learning and teaching, their concerns, and what they are looking forward to most.
- Lauren Lipinski is an upcoming senior at the college. She majors in Biology and plays for the women’s volleyball team. She is returning to campus from her home state, Arizona.
- Bianca Diaz is returning from her home in Puerto Rico as an upcoming junior. Bianca is also a Biology major and serves as a libero and defensive specialist on the women’s volleyball team.
- Dr. Nora Madison is the Associate Professor and Chair of the Media & Communication program at Chestnut Hill College. She obtained her PhD in Communication, Culture & Media from Drexel University. Dr. Madison will be returning to campus for in-person instruction.
- Gail Ramsey is an Assistant Professor of Media & Communication program at Chestnut Hill College. Professor Ramsey specializes in Litigation Public Relations and is a member of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association. Gail will continue to teach classes virtually in the fall.
Lauren: The transition to virtual was hard for me due to my biology major and the labs that are a part of my classes. It was difficult to get the same experience doing virtual labs as you would in person.
Bianca: What I missed most about being on campus was being able to socialize with my friends and having the hands-on experience that I missed in some classes where it’s crucial, like chemistry, anatomy, and physiology.
Lauren: The only concern I have with returning to campus is my ability to switch from virtual learning back to in-person learning. I think it might be difficult since I’ve become accustomed to virtual learning for the last three semesters.
Bianca: My concern about returning to campus is the fear of the virus spreading and affecting us just as much as it has for the past year. Another concern is the fact that some people haven’t taken into consideration the lives of others. It’s surprising that some people seen to fear the vaccine more than the virus.
Lauren: Other precautions I will be taking on campus are to still maintain social distancing in public places, if possible.
Bianca: While on campus, and everywhere I go, I take precautions to always maintain my surroundings, and I constantly disinfect and clean to keep myself, my friends, and my family members safe.
Nora: Last year’s transition to virtual was challenging. It was the best we could all do. I think for many students, they were dealing with the anxiety of a pandemic and being thrown back into living arrangements that weren’t ideal. We were trying to make all these deep connections through a screen. And in some ways, it was brilliant — look at the technology that we have available to us to make something like this work. I think it was remarkable.
Gail: There were a couple goals that I had in mind during the virtual semester. One was, regardless of the subject matter, try to stay close to students. It was important for me to check in with everyone individually, as well as part of a class. The other goal was to make sure we stick to the learning objectives, and no matter what we were doing that we really honed in on the course. That way students could walk away from the virtual setting and know that they got something from it.
Nora: Delta is proving to be a real concern, and if it wasn’t Delta it was going to be another variant. This is a global pandemic; it is going to keep shifting and changing. So, my concerns are that we are as safe as we can be. I think Chestnut Hill College, specifically, is doing a lot to make that possible.
Gail: My biggest concern is we will be right where we were in March 2020. I wish that the trend, the number, the news, were more encouraging and going in the other direction. So, my fear is that we will have a setback.
Nora: Seeing everybody, seeing faces, I just really miss random interactions that you don’t have in your own house. Oh, it’s such a long list! I’m really looking forward to unplanned exchanges where you catch up with a colleague or student that you haven’t seen in a while.
Gail: We have a number of exciting classes, we have new students coming in, and we will reunite with the upperclassmen. I am just so excited to have a school year and some sort of normalcy.