Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Nichols College

At Nichols College, a quiet campus hums along

Flowers are blooming on our campus, but students have not been on campus to take in the show. Our bronze mascot Thunder the Bison – with mask in place – stands tall at his lonely post in the center of campus as a tear seems to well up in his eye. It has been a particularly quiet spring and early summer.

This is the reality on college campuses as we adapt to new ways of doing things since this pandemic stalled the country three months ago. After our spring break, which began on March 13, it became apparent that we would not be able to resume normal operations for the remainder of spring semester. Our college classes met live online via Zoom. Students entered their virtual classrooms with the same classmates they sat beside in class. They remarked that they looked forward to this one constant in their lives during this uncertain time.

Student support services followed suit. Career services scheduled virtual office hours. The tutoring center provided online sessions. Counseling moved to teletherapy, and advisors ramped up email and Zoom sessions.

We have held Zoom Town Hall meetings with our students to answer their questions and understand how they’re adjusting to their new circumstances. Student Affairs scheduled virtual Kahoot contests and other activities and continues to host daily Zoom drop-in sessions.

Our campus may be quiet, but our off-campus connections are booming.

Staying in touch with prospective students has taken on a new meaning. They attend Zoom sessions to learn about majors and concentrations from faculty and current students. Coaches and athletes connect live with future teammates. We conduct virtual open houses for students and families, and we have launched Zoom classes for high school students interested in earning college credits while they may have more time on their hands.

I’ve been especially thinking about our seniors, who spent their last term at Nichols remotely. We held a well-attended virtual celebration on May 2, our original commencement day. This virus stole our traditions this year, but one thing we replicated was the champagne toast to the graduating class as they watched their names scroll across the screen. I eagerly look forward to an in-person event with all the pomp and circumstance once we are allowed to hold large gatherings again.

What does the future hold? I believe there is a need – perhaps now more than ever – for the residential college experience. While we work hard to mimic in-person events and build community through Microsoft Teams, Zoom sessions, phone calls, and social media posts, it is still a mere substitute for the experience of coming of age surrounded by peers, professors and professional staff who are dedicated to your success.

As we plan to return to on-campus classes, residential living, and activities in fall semester, we are putting the health and safety of students, faculty and staff at the forefront of our plans. We have created the Safe Campus Task Force with five working groups who will be incorporating CDC and state guidelines as well as best practices in our plans for a new normal that begins in August.

Bison are tough. The Nichols Herd is strong. We will all look back on this as one of the most profound events in our lifetime. But we will emerge from it stronger with much more appreciation of all the things large and small for which we are thankful. I recently saw a segment on the American bison – that the herds split up for a time and move to new areas, but always come back together. I can’t wait until we have our Herd back on the place we love to call “The Hill.”

Susan West Engelkemeyer