College professor: pandemic edition

After last spring semester completely flipped on its head and a summer of intensive planning and reshaping, Hamline’s fall semester has begun.

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Sabrina Merritt

Beginning over the summer of 2020, Hamline implemented its mask policy requiring students, faculty, staff and visitors to wear masks in most settings on campus in hopes to stop the prevention of COVID-19.

Anika Besst, Senior Reporter

With in-person, hybrid and online courses, professors and students alike were thrown for a loop from normal college life this fall. 

Throughout the summer, workshops were held to support professors learning their way around online classes offering insight on programs such as Canvas and Google Meets. However, growingly amongst professors and students alike, online platforms have not been found to capture the essence of in-person class settings. 

“The face to face live interactions you have with students can’t be duplicated in an online environment,” said George Gaetano, associate professor of Communication Studies. “But this is what we have to do. These are the choices we have to make. Every professor makes their own choice on what modality to use.”

This semester Hamline has 103 in-person, 169 hybrid and 213 online undergraduate courses.

“There is a lot of uncertainty. We don’t know how far we can get with anything… The uncertainty is mostly a challenge for me to try and rethink how the course needs to be set up but it also means for the students they can’t plan out their semester or even sometimes their week,” said Brian Hoffman, assistant professor and chair of Anthropology department. “They have had to be really flexible and adaptable and that’s on top of all the other uncertainty that they are dealing with in their life.” 

Departments like Anthropology and Biology have needed to restructure how labs are performed allowing time and space for social distancing and sanitizing. This is the case for many departments on campus. 

“It has required a lot of creative problem solving on everyone’s part,” said Kathryn Malody, biology department laboratory manager and instructor, in regard to the Biology departments class system this fall. 

Though online learning presents its own difficulties, Peggy Andrews, Senior Lecturer in Management, has found many of the applications she is using with her students are in real time and will be useful skills to their careers. 

While school still continues, professors and students both stress the idea of being flexible in school while the world is still in a pandemic. 

“It gets somehow lost, [that] we are still literally in the middle of a global pandemic, our nation is quite literally burning…, [and there is] an historic uprising, so what we need is a pause and for people to survive and be okay,” said Jen England, assistant professor in the English department and faculty director of Women’s Resource Center. “We unfortunately aren’t in a country that can allow for that. So for me… nothing I am teaching is so damn important that it supersedes people’s physical, emotional, and mental health… because that is where my priority is, and we all just need to be taking care of ourselves.” 

 Hoffman reiterated how the pandemic is just one of the many things 2020 has seen.

“I feel like we are in an extraordinary time, it isn’t just the pandemic, it is the Black Lives Matter movement, all the social justice [movements], the climate issues that we’re facing, the politics of today…” said Hoffman. “They are not easy times so how we feel about it on a day to day basis can bounce back and forth from either extreme.”

Professors have described what it is like to be teaching during the pandemic as complicated, creative, committed, collaborative, resilient, wild, challenging, uncomfortable, off-kilter and hopeful. 

“It is a moment to really respond to that challenge, not just in the moment because of Covid, but long term change,” said England. “That’s what I hope both from student affairs to teaching, we come out of pandemic times… fundamentally changed and committed, or re-committed to accessible and equitable education.”