Caldwell, N.J., Sept. 3, 2020 -Caldwell University students are excited to have begun the new semester, no matter which form of classes they have selected.
Whether they are taking classes in person or remotely, students say they are happy to be “back to school” and ready to get into a routine and connect with their friends and professors.
Molly Heller was excited to be in her first class for the final year of her five-year combined bachelor’s and master’s education program. “Even though it was virtual, it felt good to be back in class…I missed school.”
Miley Trang Duong ‘21, a psychology major, was sitting at a table under one of the tents set up for dining and studying on the Newman Center plaza. “I’m happy to see people. It is great that school has opened.”
Anton Mejia ‘22, a business sports management major, is taking all his classes remotely. It is good “to interact and see faces” and if “you knew them previously” that’s a plus–”you can text on the side.”
“Being back on campus has ignited the scholar inside me,” said Yaman Thapa ‘22, a biology and chemistry major. “I am so excited to learn new things. For me, in-person classes provide a space that allows for active discussions and collaboration.” She feels “more alert, motivated and eager” to pursue her academic goals. “Being around people provides a sense of social security despite the social distancing. I am thrilled to be back in school.”
Ryan Rutano ‘22, a nursing major and resident life assistant, is glad to see his friends again and is “more focused than ever.” He is taking nursing classes in the Student Center gym which has been transformed to a newly-designed learning space and lecture hall. Crews had worked 12 hour plus days setting up desks to be socially distant, mounting brand-new large screens, drilling through two feet of concrete block and adding 30 feet of new electric and network lines. Donna Naturale, DNP, associate dean of the School of Nursing and Public Health, says they were thrilled with the reconfigured space where they are welcoming junior year nursing students for face-to-face lectures and labs and or via technology for remote learning.
Andrea Guietterz ‘22, a Spanish applied language major with a public policy concentration, liked her first virtual “Communications Skills” class with Professor Steve Cameron because he was vibrant and energetic and motivated the class to feel more engaged. That kept her “wanting to interact more” in the class and it made the course material easier to comprehend. She said it showed the care her professor has in making sure students are learning and engaged enough to want to learn more.
President Matthew Whelan says it is energizing to see students on campus and it gives meaning to the university slogan “Cougars Come Together.” “Even seeing them wearing masks and washing their hands and remaining socially distant is exciting as it reminds me that our students have the respect, integrity, and sense of community to show the world the excellence of Caldwell,” said Dr. Whelan referring to the university’s core values. He pointed out that there are only 90 days from the start of the semester to the end of in-person classes at Thanksgiving break. “I know we’ll get there by working together to keep everyone safe while they are here.”
Throughout the spring and summer, the Return to Campus Task Force and numerous other employees took on the herculean tasks of making the university COVID-ready. Now signage across the 70-acre campus reminds members of the community to stay six feet apart, wear masks, wash their hands, walk in and out of buildings in the proper directions and be considerate of others. Students, faculty and staff have been asked to commit to a community pledge to share responsibility and to recognize the special and vital role everyone plays in sustaining the health and well-being of themselves, others and the community. The dining hall has been arranged for socially-distant seating. The chapel in the Newman Center has been set-up in a socially distant manner for prayer and worship. Masses will resume on Sunday evenings starting Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.
The academic calendar has been restructured so that in-person classes are completed before Thanksgiving, followed by a last week of remote classes and another week of remote final exams.
Staff members are making sure that students receive the services they need in a safe manner. Robin Davenport, executive director of the Counseling Office, says they are implementing “Walk and Talk” therapy services. “Counselors will be offering students the option to meet outside to walk and talk in more secluded areas of campus for their therapy sessions,” Davenport says. The counselors have ordered portable camping chairs that can be placed in quieter locations on campus in a socially-distanced manner for those students who prefer to sit. There is an added bonus to being outdoors, “nature–a healing experience in its own right,” Davenport says. Counseling services are still being offered virtually as they have been throughout the pandemic.