The last month has been unlike any I’ve spent as an educator. Having to change to many of us working from home rather than on campus, institute synchronous online classes in the undergraduate program, and help students, faculty, and staff through such a disorienting time have been firsts for me.
It certainly is strange walking around this beautiful campus with no students when it should be bustling with activity. I think I saw a tear in our Bison statue Thunder’s eye the other day when I walked by. The only good thing is that parking is plentiful—there’s no climb up two sets of stairs!
In announcing the need to academically distance several weeks ago, I sent a message to the Class of 2020, which read in part, “It is truly impossible to express how very sorry I am that your final semester has been disrupted in such a profound way. In-person courses with faculty and classmates, presentations, field trips, athletic events, personal travel, and fun times with friends have been postponed or cancelled.”
“For many of you and your families, I remember being there the day you moved into Shamie or other residence halls. And I fondly remember shaking each of your hands as we came together during fall orientation. You are all in my heart. Please know it aches for you.”
I’ve since read a number of tweets, texts, and other messages from seniors sharing their sense of loss and disappointment that the culminating events they were anticipating—from awards ceremonies to socials—are not to be this year.
One of my all-time favorite gatherings is the Commencement Eve dinner, where nominated seniors and students from our Graduate and Professional Studies program celebrate with the Board of Trustees. Each student brings two guests and invites a staff or faculty member whom they feel has had a big impact on them. All of the students speak about their Nichols experience. I tear up every year. I will also miss being a judge for the Mr. Nichols competition, the champagne brunch and toast, and so many other events.
I’ve been especially thinking the past two weeks about our seniors, who will spend their last term at Nichols remotely, including postponing their Commencement ceremony. We are planning a virtual celebration of sorts on May 2. This will NOT be an online graduation. I promised our seniors that we will schedule an in-person event with all the pomp and circumstance once we are allowed to hold large gatherings again. I just can’t predict when that might be, but I look forward to it eagerly.
And we will not let the hard work, progress, and contributions of the Class of 2020 go unnoticed or unappreciated. They have done Nichols proud for the past four years and made a difference in all our lives. I can’t wait for the day when we call the Class of 2020 herd back home to the Hill.
Bison are tough. The Herd is strong. We will all look back on this as one of the most profound events in our lifetime. But we will emerge from it stronger with much more appreciation of all the things large and small for which we are thankful.