I hope you are all doing well! This time last year was a weird time for my cohort and many other students. We had just received an update from the University that our Spring Break was being extended by a week so faculty members could transition to teaching online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Looking back on the transition, I remember it was challenging for everyone in my cohort. We were confused by all the changes, as we switched to an online platform most of us had never used before. We were scared because of the pandemic and the constant sorrow surrounding the news updates as cases and deaths began to rise. A lot of us were lonely because we lived by ourselves near campus and our families weren’t always nearby. Our only interactions with others occurred through Zoom.
We are officially a year into online learning, and we have not shared a physical space with my cohort since last March. I miss the conversations we shared during lunch where we connected on more personal levels. I miss cracking jokes with my peers between— and maybe also during— classes as this always made our time more interesting. I also miss the ease of support that comes with interacting with your friends every day.
I know our experience isn’t exactly unique. Many other individuals experienced similar feelings during this uncertain time. One thing I am very proud of is how well my cohort adjusted. While our enthusiasm was affected by the pandemic, we were able to seek new ways to support each other. We held virtual happy-hours and movie and game nights to ensure we could all interact outside of a Zoom class.
One time, we all decided to surprise Dr. Maureen Berner during her class by wearing hats. Each of us entered the Zoom session wearing a hat that was either silly or brought us the most joy. It was our attempt to continue making class fun for everyone, including Dr. Berner. She even surprised us with a silly hat as well.
Additionally, we were all still seeking and confirming Professional Work Experiences during this time while maintaining the heavy academic lift associated with the first-year spring semester. Our motivation for school was tested. Yet, we persisted. Now, we have been online for a year and it has become part of our typical routine. We persevered through the challenges and learned from our experiences and we are better for it.
I feel very fortunate to have made such tremendous and supportive friends through this program. These individuals are strong, compassionate, intelligent, and hardworking. They face challenges with poise, creativity, tenacity. Each individual is going to be an excellent public service leader.