In a blog that I wrote in September 2016, I discussed why fall is my favorite season. Reflecting on my sentiments from four years ago and thinking about this upcoming semester at Saint Vincent, fall still remains my favorite time of the year though this semester will definitely feel different than prior years for a variety of reasons.
Many of the reasons that I stated in my 2016 blog for loving the fall centered around the beginning of a new academic year and classes starting again. This year, however, I admit that there are many new challenges that we must face as the fall begins.
I am excited that we will be welcoming students once again onto campus. As I think about my classes, I am contemplating many interesting questions. For example:
- How can I continue to help foster a spirit of community in my classes as my teaching style, format and approach changes due to social distancing guidelines
- What can I do to best prepare my students for the challenges that they will face in their lives given the level of uncertainty that exists in the world in which many people are attempting to come to terms?
- In what ways will the concepts that I teach be relevant and needed in a COVID/post-COVID world?
I am currently grappling with these questions as I plan my courses and am looking forward to rising to the challenges that they imply. As I consider these challenges, I think about the really smart and really talented people who have been working extremely hard at Saint Vincent throughout the summer to allow for our fall semester to happen. Even more, they have been working hard not for it to merely happen – they are doing their best to provide a hospitable and engaging student experience! I appreciate the proactively responsible reopening plans that they have made. And I am especially proud of (in fact, I am blown away by) the resilience and adaptability of our faculty, staff, administration and especially our students.
I am eager to begin the fall semester in a few short weeks. I miss our students and I miss my colleagues! Though some things will surely change on campus this fall, I believe that the energy and excitement that I talked about in my 2016 blog will still exist this semester. This energy and excitement, of course, comes from once again learning with and interacting with our students.
In a more recent blog (April 2020), I reflected on my experiences earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic. I wrote about how I can use time in social isolation to try different things, develop in new ways and grow closer to my family. Though a lot seems to have changed even from just four months ago, I am encouraged by my own advice. Though this semester will provide many challenges to students, faculty, staff and administrators, with an open attitude we can all learn and grow together and, in so doing, hopefully become an even closer community.
Dr. Mike Urick