By Marielle Echavez, Staff Writer—

On March 16, 2020, UTC made the decision to suspend face-to-face instruction through the spring Semester due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Most everything on campus has shut down including dorms, the library, department buildings and on-campus restaurants. 

This decision that was made to protect the welfare of the campus has impacted numerous students in different ways.

Moving things online has been frustrating for many reasons such as not being able to go to the library or coffee shops, and working at home has too many distractions, senior studying creative writing and sociology Kelsie Eldridge said. 

“I’ve been very devastated about the rest of my last ever college semester being canceled,” Eldridge said. “It sucks we won’t have the last few weeks to walk around campus and say proper goodbyes to our classmates that we only have relationships with during those classes.”

Madison Stewart, a senior in the school of education, originally had one middle school and one high school placement, but now she is staying with her high school placement the whole semester. 

Stewart is currently preparing a week’s worth of online lessons with short video lectures and virtual assignments. 

“I’m really disappointed I don’t get more class time with the kids, but I know it’s what’s for the best,” she said. “I will still get my degree and my teaching certificate, so I’m trying to stay positive.”

Many students like Stewart are trying to stay positive through this difficult transition. 

A student in level 2 of the nursing program who wished to remain anonymous shared that “things have been incredibly hectic.” 

The nursing program functions differently than other departments because they are required to have clinical hours which involve clocking a certain amount of hours in a hospital setting. 

Their professors have made all of their assignments online, but the hardest thing is that students are uncertain about the future of their clinical hours. 

“If our instructors decide to cancel clinicals again, or the hospitals do not allow students in the doors, we will be completing these tedious assignments for the remainder of the semester,” the nursing student shared.

Nursing students also have standardized testing they are required to pass at the end of the semester. The anonymous student shared that this makes it very difficult to ask questions and get help without being able to see their professors in person. 

“On behalf of the students in Level 2, I’d like to say thank you so much to the UTC School of Nursing faculty and supervisors for everything they have done and continue to do for the students,” the student said. “They have worked incredibly hard day and night to ensure the students are taken care of and will graduate on-time. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed and the students in Level 2 are so grateful for their diligence.”

Tes Cherian, a senior pre-professional biology major shared that she had an online class before the semester transitioned and she knew that it was difficult to keep up with something that did not have a specific meeting time. 

After this transition, Cherian is worried about how overwhelming it may get to keep up with everything online, she said. 

“I’m especially worried about how a virtual lab will work. I’ve seen how other schools do virtual labs for gen chem and physics, but I don’t know how that would work for labs like mine where we’re being tested on how accurately we can do a process instead of just learning the process,” Cherian said. 

Like many other students, Cherian said that she is torn between knowing this is important for the community’s health and being sad that her last semester at UTC ended so abruptly and that seniors are unable to walk across the stage after four years of hard work.

Even after the survey of alternate graduation plans, walking at a different time would create a financial burden on her trying to fly back into town from graduate school for this, Cherian said. 

“There’s no easy solution for this weird situation, but I do hope they give us refunds on our cap and gown since we likely won’t walk,” Cherian said. “As much as I joked about how ready I was to leave, now that I’m faced with leaving, I don’t really know if I want to.”

Senior communication major Esme Nance has also been affected, as many communication students have been working on hands-on projects and are involved in senior internships which seem difficult to transition into online work. 

Nance was working on her photostory for photojournalism, which involves following a subject through photographs while touching some form of social issue. 

For many students on campus, projects like these are now unable to be finished.

“It sucks for many reasons,” Nance said. “My job closed. I’m not getting a graduation ceremony. I was supposed to get married in Patten Chapel on May 23rd, but the university canceled all weddings through May.”

Nance has always wanted to get married at Patten Chapel. As soon as she got engaged in Disney, they were calling to book Patten Chapel on the way home, she said. 

“I understand the reason for canceling certain things for public health reasons, but I think they should let us graduate during the summer when things get better,” Nance said.

According to communication senior Lundy Longstreth, this entire online switch and pandemic is heartbreaking for seniors, and the milestone of walking across a stage and hearing your name being called is a memory that should not be taken away from anyone.

Like Longstreth, senior Kelsie Elderidge also shared that “It really sucks we won’t get that feeling of walking across the stage, knowing everything was worth it. I know we’re still getting degrees which is the whole point, but it feels like the opportunity to really ‘finish what I started’ has just been ripped away.” 

Longstreth said that this situation is also sad for non-traditional students, especially first-generation graduates. 

“Yes, the ceremony can be postponed,” she said. “But it’s not the same thing to complete your last final and then having the excitement of participating in graduation.”

Elderidge shared in the frustration that several seniors are facing during the current pandemic.

“Knowing seniors won’t ever walk on campus again is sad. No one wants their college experience to end so abruptly and unexpectedly like this,” she said. “My heart goes out to all seniors affected by this pandemic.”

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