‘Back home’ at Chowan

Published 5:58 pm Friday, August 28, 2020

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University Relations

MURFREESBORO – Students and faculty have returned here to Chowan University where the small-town atmosphere still feels like home while all are adjusting to a new teaching and learning environment.

The faculty and staff worked tirelessly over the summer to alter the academic calendar and class delivery methods to accommodate the students’ needs amid a pandemic while back in their living and learning environment.

On Tuesday of this week, students began classes with altered delivery methods, in classrooms that have been reconfigured to ensure proper social distancing, and with mask bearing faces all following a new set of guidelines.

“Today’s classes have been like no other in my 30 years at Chowan,” shared Patsy Taylor, Associate Professor of Marketing, who delivered her Business Selling class in a hybrid format on Tuesday. She shared that “with the exception of a few technical issues (operator error on my part), I feel good about how things went today, even those who were joining us online were logged in and ready.”

Alajah Gray, SGA Vice President, follows medical safety guidelines in effect at Chowan University by wearing a face mask while studying at Whitaker Library. Photo by Kim Bailey

Pamela Woodard, Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, said, “it felt so great to be back in class, and all of my students complied with the mask and social distance requirements. In each of the three classes I taught, we allowed for anyone to share their fears or apprehensions before beginning course content. Hawks are present and eager to learn, warming my heart immensely.”

Both Taylor and Woodard had hybrid classes on Tuesday, where a group of students are in-person learning while the others are learning in real-time online.

“I feel so blessed to be back on Chowan’s campus,” said Grace Arrendando, a senior from Charleston, SC. “Whether classes are taught through computer screens or by mask-bearing professors, a sense of kind sincerity and togetherness has made the return to learning a welcomed experience.”

Alajah Gray, Vice President of the Student Government Association (SGA) and senior from Portsmouth, VA, admitted that, “virtual learning is very new to me, but my professors have made this process very smooth. I am enjoying learning new things and staying safe during these challenging times. With faith, we can conquer anything!”

Brandyn Roccobruna, a freshman from Spring Lake, NC, said his first few days were great, adding, “everyone here is comforting, and the students are friendly. It’s different to deal with the online classes and adjust to all the precautions [the University is] taking, but all around it has been a great experience”

Hedi Jenson, a freshman from Loveland Colorado, also admitted, “things are a little funky with the hybrid classes, but I think my professors have been doing a wonderful job making this a smooth transition. So far, I am loving my classes, and how easy it is to contact and meet with my professors. I have also loved attending all the fun activities and getting to bond with my peers. All of the faculty and staff here have made my transition into college very easy. All the kind and welcoming folks here make Chowan feel like home even when we are all six feet apart.”

Even the annual move-in weekend looked quite different this year. Absent were many community members from local churches and businesses welcoming students and their family members to campus while serving them lunch. Absent were student-athletes and volunteers helping students move-in. On the other hand, processes were streamlined and the “welcome” to campus was adapted to accommodate the realities of life during a pandemic – COVID-19. While masks hid the bright smiles normally seen on these days, you could see the excitement and hope in everyone’s eyes.

Some students were already on campus having been part of an early self-isolation group, and fall sports student-athletes moved in on Aug. 17. Resident Assistants and other campus student leaders moved in on Aug. 20. The rest of the student community returned following a three-day move-in event beginning Aug. 22 with students moving in at staggered times based on residence hall room locations to allow for proper social distancing and assessment of students.

When students checked in at the Hawks Athletic Center, they were screened, which included their temperature and heart rate checked and answered pertinent questions following CDC Guidelines. After their assessment, all students were given two additional face masks and a hand sanitizer before completing the rest of their check-in process.

“The University community worked diligently to prepare for the return of students this semester, and special care has been given in meeting their needs,” shared Chowan President Kirk Peterson. “Vital to that plan is our students, faculty, staff, and approved guests following specific guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety. From my observations during move-in weekend, the Chowan community rigorously followed protocols for move-in. If we remain as committed to the same practices in the following weeks, we can have a safe and successful semester.”

In the weeks leading up to the return of students to campus, the University communicated consistently with students, faculty, and staff, and established a reopening resource webpage (chowan.edu/reopening) for all to review and understand the established guidelines. To support this, the University also created a designated email for the Chowan community to ask any questions they may have regarding the reopening and plans for the fall semester. To be transparent as possible, the University leadership also held live open question and answer sessions in the month leading up to move-in.

The Chowan community is expected to complete a daily self-health screening through #CampusClear each day before arriving on campus or leaving their residence hall; this also includes any approved campus guests. All students, faculty, and staff are required to sign the community compact, Chowan Strong- Safer Together, an agreement to care for self, others, and this place established by the Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Montrose Streeter, and the Student Government Association (SGA).

While the University is back in session, there are new realities. Pasty Taylor admitted, “wearing a mask is not so fun, but I will do what I need to do to protect our students, faculty, and staff. We are all learning and in this together. With deep breaths, patience, and prayers, we can do this.”