By: Megan Sullivan
Hello, everyone! I am a Senior graduating in May 2021 with a major in Communication Studies and a minor in Public Relations. I’m from Oak Park, Illinois and am so happy that I chose to attend UWO 4 years ago. Between the amazing academic programs, the wonderful resources and the overall campus community, UWO has been the perfect fit for me. It is no secret that the past year has been tough for all people, including college students. With it being exactly a year after UWO shut down campus as a result of the pandemic, I found myself reflecting on how life has changed, as well as what is next.
A year ago, I sat in my morning Research Methods in Communication Studies course, not knowing what was to come. At this point, rumors were circulating campus that a new virus was going to cancel classes and give us another week of Spring Break. My professor, Dr. Bob Hinrichs concluded class with a prediction that we were going to have to complete the rest of the semester online. I remember looking around at my classmates, exchanging smiles and eye rolls as we said, “see you in two weeks!”
A year later, a lot has changed. Between the cancellation of events, increase in isolation, and the various challenges that have come from the pandemic that was once seen as a joke, life looks a bit different. The movement to online classes was an adjustment, to say the least. Between discussion posts, recorded lectures, and for Communication Studies students like me, online speeches, they all came with their own challenges. For the first time in my college career, the campus was quiet. Although nothing looks the same as it did a year ago, there has been one thing in my life that remained a constant: the community at UWO. Although it might be cheesy, whether I was in person, fully remote, or hybrid, UWO has provided me, along with all other students and faculty, immense support.
UWO went above and beyond to provide excess resources to their students, during a time in which it would have been easier to back down. Between all of the departments working above and beyond to adapt during these difficult times, they are providing students with the most “normal” college experience that is possible. Along with incredible testing sites (yes, that is plural!) on campus, the university has provided an increase in social, emotional, and academic support.
The Dean of Students is one office that has stood out to me throughout this time. I, along with many of my friends, have had to reach out to them for various resources through the past year. Every interaction that I have with them has been overwhelmingly positive, as I feel like they are truly on my side. They have been immensely understanding, as the pandemic has affected every person differently. Their main job is to be advocates for the students, which is something that they have held true to.
Along with the Dean of Students, the professors and academic departments have gone above and beyond, working overtime to create an environment in which we can continue to learn and grow in. I wholeheartedly believe that students have still been able to get the full college experience. All professors are still offering office hours virtually, and it is honestly more convenient for students being able to join from anywhere. Professors have done an outstanding job at being accessible for all students, while still balancing high academic expectations.
Another unique way that UWO is harboring its community is through frequent Town Hall sessions. These sessions are open to all in the UWO community including students, parents, and faculty. During these video conferences, Chancellor Leavitt along with many other university representatives have the chance to answer questions and address various concerns. These also serve as a great place to keep updated on campus news and raise concerns directly to administrators.
A year after getting sent home, there is no doubt that we live in a completely different world. However, all of my classes are in person, I meet with my clubs in person, work on campus, and still feel very much connected to UWO. Today, Chancellor Leavitt announced that Spring commencement will be held in person, and I am thrilled to be able to celebrate my college journey in a somewhat “normal” way. With a vaccine site established on campus, I am extremely hopeful that UWO will return to the campus that it was before the pandemic, extremely soon.