It’s been five weeks since Northwestern made the monumental and difficult choice to move classes online and send students home.
This change has resulted in an entirely new academic environment for its faculty and students. Amidst the isolation and continual rise of COVID-19 cases, NW is learning how to be a different college that still holds the same values it always has of community and Christian academic learning that pursues God’s redeeming work in the world.
It has not been easy, but NW is trying to ease the transition.
President Greg Christy personally called 20 students this past week to check in and see how this online move has gone. NW is trying to meet new needs all across campus from student life to maintenance.
“Our unsung heroes in maintenance, computing services, residence life, Creative Dining and others are still on campus every day putting themselves at risk for the sake of serving our students, faculty and staff,” Christy said.
Every department is working with students to provide opportunities.
The Compass Center for Career and Calling is meeting students via Zoom to help with resumes, cover letters, internships and more. The counseling center is offering free, confidential counseling to students wherever they might be. The DeWitt Learning Commons is providing library checkouts to those close enough to drive up for a pick-up, and to those farther away, they are scanning each book that is needed by a student to send via email. Even chapel is available online at its usual Tuesday and Friday times to help encourage students in this difficult season.
“Our most frequent conversation as a faculty is about how we can support and encourage students and help them get through this time and feel a sense of accomplishment on the other side,” said Dr. Nathaniel Phinney, vice president of academic affairs.
Despite most of the student body moving off-campus, there are still some students who were unable to go home. States like Washington are so high-risk, it is unsafe to send those students back to their families. Other students stayed on campus due to the risk of infecting their loved ones. NW does not want to see any of its students, nor their families, become sick and thus allowed them to continue living on campus.
For those students and the resident directors who are still on campus, the Hub is open and Creative Dining is providing a variety of meals to accommodate.
“All of the RDs are still on campus, so they have been continually checking in with the students and are present to serve the students,” said Marlon Haverdink, dean of residence life.
As another way of serving those around them, NW has given a majority of its N95 masks, surgical masks and isolation gowns from the nursing and medical programs to Orange City Area Health System, the local hospital. They have also offered North Suites as a place to put non-critical COVID-19 patients if the need arises.
For Diamond Vogel, a local paint company, NW has provided access to some of those parking spaces by the Bultman Center to help facilitate social distancing for their employees who work at the manufacturing and shipping facility across the street.
All of this is in response to the growing needs of NW. NW hopes to help stop the spread of this pandemic so that students may come back in the fall reassured they are safe and will stay healthy.
Chad Miller, director of environmental health and head of the COVID-19 response team, wants the students to be reassured of the college’s efforts during this time of uncertainty.
“We want to do our part to flatten the curve and help make our community as safe as possible.”
By way of encouragement, NW has started a RED411 video series of uplifting updates that airs every Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. hosted by admissions rep, Lucas Heiberger.
That is the goal: to continue encouraging students and helping them prosper.