Northwestern has officially made it halfway through the fall semester amidst a pandemic. For some, it’s surprising students have been able to stay on campus this long. But considerable measures have been taken to make this happen.
Perhaps the biggest one: social distancing. Following this guideline has changed the way students live, learn and worship.
Allison Wheeler, a senior graphic design major, is a resident assistant in Fern Smith Hall. With numerous COVID-19 guidelines in place, it can be tough to build the community that NW is so proud of. One of these rules is no more than six people in a dorm room.
“It can be frustrating at times when I realize we’ve hit our limit on people and have to find another room with a larger capacity or have people sit out in the hallway so they can still be a part of things without being in the actual room.”
However, Wheeler has found the silver lining in these circumstances.
“There is a new sense of respect and showing love to others when wearing masks,” Wheeler said. “If someone asks you to put your mask on, the greatest act of love and respect you can display is honoring their request and putting your mask on.”
While a student’s living is affected, so is their learning.
Dr. Laurie Furlong, professor of biology and department chair, explains how a crucial part of the science program has been hindered due to COVID-19: labs.
“In some labs, we put up plexiglass barriers on the lab tables. In large labs, we have students stagger when they come into class and do additional work on their own,” Furlong said. “We also had to re-design some of our lab activities so that students aren’t sharing equipment as much.”
Furlong recognizes that social distancing has affected the ways students learn.
“It’s not fun for us because we really value the collaborative hands-on learning that we do in lab and now we have a little less of that than before COVID,” Furlong said.
Collaborative activities during lectures also are not possible, as well as small group discussions, making it difficult for students to learn together as a group.
Like Wheeler, Furlong has been able to find a silver lining.
“Those returning this fall were excited to be back on campus and in class,” Furlong said. “Those returning from quarantine or isolation are also happy to return to class. I really like to be with students teaching face-to-face. It’s rewarding to know that they value it, too.”
Alongside living and learning, Christian formation has looked different this year due to social distancing. After half a semester in the 4-court Rowenhorst Student Center area, chapel will once again be held in Christ Chapel.
Mark DeYounge, dean of Christian formation, says social distancing has caused many disruptions, from canceled guest speakers to guest speakers joining chapel virtually.
For those who do speak at chapel, this year feels different up on stage.
“Many guest speakers, alongside myself, have noted that with social distance and mask policies, it’s much more difficult to ‘read the room’ when speaking to a sizeable group,” DeYounge said. “This is bigger than social distancing, this is COVID.”
DeYounge realizes the ways COVID-19 has affected the logistics of Christian formation, but what it hasn’t affected is worship.
“Whether we’re alone, close together, social distanced, healthy and confident or in a season of COVID and caution, our God is always worthy of our lives and our affections and our praise,” DeYounge said. “We worship our God with our lives. Worship is done in community. Our gatherings are about our lived, collective reality.”
As a whole, every aspect of college life at NW has been affected. From the dorms to classrooms or chapel, everything looks different. It’s in the silver linings found in these difficult times that remind us of the good that can come out of this pandemic.