There were fewer people and a lot more masks than usual, but the result was the same as every year: Students are back in the halls at Spalding University.
Spalding welcomed dozens of first-time first-year students to Morrison Hall on Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 17-18, for a well-planned, masked-up and socially distant freshman move-in. Everything looked a little different, but, by all accounts, the process went smoothly.
“It’s a wonderful week to welcome students to Spalding,” Dean of Students Janelle Rae said. “Even though we’re having to make a couple accommodations and sacrifices this year due to COVID-19, people are stepping up to the plate and leaning into the community spirit and making it a special day for students.”
Students and their families arrived at scheduled times Monday and Tuesday, having taken the #CampusClear daily health-assessment to gain access to campus. All were compliant with health protocols, wearing masks and keeping their distance.
“They’ve been great team players,” Residence Life Director Aaron Roberts said. “People want to do the right thing.”
Returning students will move into the Spalding Suites Friday through Sunday, with this year’s move-in process extending to five total days in order to reduce crowding. In previous years, all students in both halls would move in over two days. All residential students in 2020-21, with all of them having a room to themselves (while paying the standard, less expensive double-occupancy rate).
First-year student Juli Nelson, women’s soccer player and nursing major from Munster, Indiana, said moving into Morrison Hall was an easy process and that felt safe “100 percent” well-organized, due to the appointment system.
Nelson, who is the oldest of four siblings, said she has a room to herself for the first time in her life.
“I was like, ‘I’m so excited. I have my own space,'” she said. “That was a pleasant surprise.”
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Trevon Washington, an athletic training major and basketball player from Warrensville Heights, Ohio, said that while COVID-19 has changed the landscape, it has not shaken his excitement to begin college and make the most of this milestone in his life.
“I’m excited to move in, start a new journey, meet new people, live and be on my own and start new things and new challenges in my life,” he said.
“It’s definitely different walking around with masks and staying six feet apart from people, but I’m still getting the college experience. It’s just a matter of being mindful of where you’re at, who you’re around. I feel like wearing a mask doesn’t change how your college experience is. You’re still here. You’re just wearing a mask. It’ll still be good.”
Nelson is also taking a positive approach to the limitations and changes that the pandemic forced. She injured her knee during his senior year, so she said it will be beneficial to her recovery that the soccer season at Spalding has been moved from fall to the spring. Moving the season also will give her more time to acclimate to a new city and new classes.
“It would normally be a lot going on,” she said. “Now, everything is coming in (phases and) groups, and I like that.”
Nelson’s mother, Erin, said move-in day brought all the mixed emotions one would normally expect for a parent sending her oldest child off to college. On top of that, she said, the pandemic makes it all “kind of a scary, uncertain time.”
“But mostly, I am just proud and incredibly excited for her to get started,” Erin Nelson said. “She’s responsible, and she’ll handle all the social uncertainty just fine.”
Spalding President Tori Murden McClure, the first woman to row a boat unassisted across the Atlantic Ocean and a former Board Chair of the National Outdoor Leadership School, has many times explained the value of learning to be comfortable with uncertainty.
“We learn to lean into it,” Roberts said, “and for us, that’s showing compassion and having high standards. You empathize with those who are at the same time both nervous and excited, and you set high standards and put your best foot forward.”
Morrison Hall residential advisor Neema Ileine, a fourth-year student who majors in social work and psychology, said she is eager to help the younger residents on her floor.
“I want to be someone who students can look up to,” she said. “Some of them are coming far from home, and I want to be that support for them. Especially now with all that is going on, I want them to know, ‘I’m here for you. We’re all going through this, and you’re not alone.'”
Five months after face-to-face classes were suspended and students left the halls, Roberts said it was exciting to see students returning again.
“It’s new life back on campus,” he said. “It’s why we’re here, and it’s renewed energy. You get the energy from the students.”