Welcome new and returning Pilots! My name is Emma Fuller and I’m writing to you as your Associated Students of University of Portland (ASUP) President. After a year and a half of online learning, we are finally able to return to the Bluff. Some of you may be excited, some may be scared, and some may be nervous. It’s important to remember that we are all on the same journey together. None of us have been learning in person for almost a year and a half, meaning things will be different than when we put our “normal” lives on pause in 2020. We need to slow down and recognize that we don’t need to immediately pick up where we left off. There will be a significant transition period and it is crucial we do not rush it. This time is valuable and will determine how the next couple of years will go. As the Fall of 2021 begins, I want to offer several key points to keep in mind during this major transition.
A special acknowledgement to the class of 2024
First, I want to highlight the class of 2024 (sophomores) for the extra challenges they experienced. Their senior year of high school was cut short and their last semester was spent behind a screen, unable to enjoy friends, school events and teachers. Their high school graduation was in the middle of the pandemic, meaning many of them had a drive-through graduation and were not able to celebrate with friends and family. Additionally, their first year of college was entirely or partially online. The first semester was spent meeting their peers through a Zoom call, unable to develop those meaningful relationships they would normally make in-person. They also had to navigate college virtually.
For me, my first semester was a crucial time to adapt to college life and meet new people. Imagine attending a new school and not being able to meet any of your classmates in person. Even during their second semester, these students’ interactions were extremely limited due to safety precautions.
Some advice for students, professors, and staff
Students, in order to make this transition as smooth as possible, remember that the pandemic is in no way over. With the new variant, things will remain unknown, and it is important to continue to keep yourself and everyone safe. Be respectful of others boundaries and space. Be mindful of the safety precautions put in place for your own safety. Please upload your vaccination card to demonstrate that you are safe to be on campus. It is the one thing all of us can do to ensure a normal semester. Understand that most professors have just mastered the art of online teaching and now must perfect in-person teaching again. Be patient, kind, and compassionate towards your professors and any staff or faculty you interact with on campus.
Remember that last year, many of the professors, faculty, and staff experienced furloughs and were required to do the same amount of work for less pay or may have been furloughed completely, temporarily losing their job. During that time, many of them had families they needed to support. Returning to all in-person classes may also be hard for them because they will now be away from their families and working full-time on campus. So be sure to show appreciation and gratitude towards all the people working behind the scenes to make your experience possible. Be kind and compassionate to the people working in the offices, Pilot House, Commons, Student Activities Center, Chapel, and residence halls. Without the professors, faculty, and staff, we would not have a university. Everyone plays an important role, no matter how big or small.
Faculty (Professors), understand that you may be some of the only adult figures that students will interact with on a daily basis. Your support during this time will make all the difference during students’ transition back to campus. Be mindful of what the class of 2024 has been through and remember that, just like you, students have not had in-person learning in over a year. Things do not need to be exactly how they were pre-pandemic. Students will appreciate it if you take time to understand how the class feels and have frequent check-ins. Your flexibility and compassion will help create those meaningful relationships that make the college experience smoother and cause students to feel cared about. After all, many students attend UP because of the close community environment.
My advice is to take it day-by-day. Start small and add things as you go. Make sure you can gauge the atmosphere of the class and cater to student needs, especially if you can see that a majority of the class is not on the same page as you. You have a tremendous impact on students and affect the quality of their college experience. You are appreciated and are critical to the university.
Staff, we appreciate all you have done behind the scenes. We acknowledge that without your work around campus, we would not have an operating school. No matter how big or small your role, you are making a direct positive impact on us, the students. You are loved and appreciated by the UP community.
Administration, thank you for allowing UP to run smoothly during the online-learning period. Your hard work is appreciated. As we start the new semester, the students would like to have full transparency into what’s happening on campus. Right now, there is more of a transition than just back to in-person learning. Students want to be kept in the loop with the status of the New President and be actively involved in the search process. As a strong community, students care about the major changes going on at our university and want to be kept informed. Changes will affect the student body; therefore, they deserve to be a part of the process. If the student body is kept informed of any big decisions, it helps to build a relationship of trust.
Everyone plays a crucial role in how this transition will go and I know that if we remember to be kind and compassionate, it will be a good one. Thank you to everyone on campus who have kept this school running smoothly. Thank you to the students for being patient and flexible during the online learning. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Let’s have an amazing year and Go Pilots!!!
Emma Fuller is the ASUP president. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.