Greetings to each of you. I hope that this message finds you safe and healthy. It is hard to believe that we have reached the end of the academic year. These past weeks have been filled with challenges and uncertainty as we have all tried to adjust to the world as we know it today.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of life, and my thoughts have been with not only our students, faculty, and staff, but with our alumnae and alumni as well. Please know that your family here behind the Red Brick Wall is ready to support you in any way that we can. I encourage you to reach out to us, participate in the many virtual engagement opportunities we are providing for our alums, and continue to stay connected.
I’m sure many of you are curious as to how the College’s transition to online learning went for the last half of the spring semester. Despite what seemed like incredible odds, I am pleased to say it went very well. There were, of course, some difficulties, but overall, I believe we were able to provide the best experience possible, without losing the personal touch that means so much to our students.
As you know, switching from in-person learning to online learning is not easy, especially in the short timeframe our faculty members were given to prepare. But they rose to the occasion and showed once again how important our student experience is to the College. There are numerous instances of ways our professors stepped outside of the box to engage students, but I would like to list just a few to give you an idea of how our faculty members continued our traditions of personal attention and academic excellence.
Since the typical end-of-the-year celebration was not possible for our SUPER students, physics professors Sarah Sojka and Peter Sheldon arranged for pizza to be delivered to students spread out all over the country. The pair even delivered pizza personally to our local students.
Theatre professor Stephanie Earle created a self-taping tutorial for her acting students, providing tips on putting together an audition video. Since this is becoming a normal requirement for acting jobs in film, commercials, and theatre, the valuable skill will serve her students well.
Environmental studies professor Karin Warren perfected the Zoom background, holding virtual office hours from Hogwarts, the Starship Enterprise, and a redwood forest, among other spots. She also set up a server on a gaming platform called Discord and made herself available to students via voice and message chat.
Music professor Randall Speer recorded himself conducting and sent the video to orchestra and chorale students so they could record themselves performing along to the same master track. He used these recordings to evaluate their work. He shot the video from multiple angles, to give each group the view they would have had if they were rehearsing together. He also held coffee klatches twice a week with students as a way for them to connect and socialize with each other during this time.
In addition to filming her own labs and sending them to students, biology professor Amanda Rumore created short YouTube tutorials showing students how to complete online bioinformatics labs they were assigned.
English professor Gary Dop utilized the chat bars in his synchronous classes, asking students to respond to each other’s writing. He believes the process actually helped students feel more comfortable responding than they would in class. He also used the chat bar for quick writing prompts.
Of course, these are just a few examples of how our faculty members used their creativity to engage students. There are so many more ways our community has stepped up to make this situation go as smoothly as possible.
This past weekend would have been our 2020 Commencement. Unfortunately, we were not able to have the ceremony on campus. We made the decision—after polling our seniors—to postpone the event until we could have it in person. However, the College did several special things to mark the occasion. Seniors and M.A.T. graduates were mailed a special Commencement-in-a-Box. Inside the package, which was marked not to open until May 17, the students received items such as their mortar board and tassel, a class photo, leadership and athletic awards, a special water bottle from the Association, and custom stickers, as well as Judiciary stoles, Senior Dinner Dance champagne glasses, and other gifts.
In addition to posting a photo slideshow on our social media platforms, on Commencement Day we released a special video project led by our music department that featured faculty and staff singing the College song. I encourage you to visit www.randolphcollege.edu/commencement to see the project.
Our Coronavirus Task Force continues to meet daily (as it has since early March) to plan for the upcoming semester. The members of this committee represent a variety of areas of the College and are working diligently to prepare the College for a fall opening. At this time, we expect to return to on-campus learning in the fall; however, as you know, the landscape surrounding this pandemic seems to be changing daily. As a result, we are planning for a variety of scenarios should other decisions be necessary. I can say with confidence that life on campus will be different in the fall. Social distancing, extra precautions in terms of disinfecting and cleaning, and flexibility in terms of how we live, work, and learn will take center stage as we do everything necessary to protect our community.
Yet, we continue to feel excitement for the coming year. The renovations to our athletic building are ahead of schedule, we are receiving positive reaction to our announcement of our new curriculum model, TAKE2, and we are looking forward to numerous program additions for the coming year. We have much to be concerned about, of course, but we also have much for which to be excited.
As we close out this academic year and enter the summer months, I could not be more proud of our faculty members for their hard work and ingenuity; our staff members for their commitment and resourcefulness; our students for their positive attitudes and resilience; and our alumnae and alumni for their steadfast support. COVID-19 has seemed to shake the very foundation of our society; however, it has not touched the spirit that makes our community a family. This warms my heart and gives me optimism for the future. This is an incredible place—during normal times and especially during challenging ones. I am proud to call Randolph home.
Bradley W. Bateman