Reunited and It Feels So Good: Photos and Reflections from the Fall Semester

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It’s two months into the academic year and life is starting to feel more normal at Wellesley.

This fall, Wellesley has implemented a multilayered approach to health and safety that includes masking while indoors (with a few exceptions), mandatory vaccinations, and regular testing for all students, faculty, and staff. Due to the community’s commitment to these protocols, the campus has recorded fewer than 15 positive cases since the end of August.

In addition to its health and safety advantages, this approach has allowed members of the Wellesley community to live, learn, and work on campus for the first time since the start of the pandemic—and the joy so many students, faculty, and staff feel being together again is palpable. Below are some reflections from members of the Wellesley community about what it’s been like to be back on campus after 18 months apart.

Emily Quin ’22, president, Shakespeare Society:
Being back in person is more magical than I can communicate. Shakes is an incredibly strong community, but a huge part of that is reliant on taking up physical space together. Being back in the house has instantly brought so many people together, and it feels so beautiful to all be together. Things as mundane as having our weekly meetings in person (rather than on Zoom) have become such treasured experiences, and while COVID was definitely a traumatic experience for lots of people, it has really taught me not to take everyday things for granted. Beyond this, we get to put on a play this semester for the first time since fall 2019. Coming together to create a piece of theatre is such a bonding experience for everyone involved, and this has really cemented our community.

Kathy Hagerstrom, assistant director, equipment and operations, Keohane Sports Center:
The single most representative word that best describes KSC users is gratitude. Everyone is simply grateful for the opportunity to learn in person, get a workout in, and practice and compete with their teammates and coaches. Who knew that simply using the locker room was such a gift? The KSC is the ‘play space’ on campus, where students and employees alike can, and I would argue should, come to unwind both physically and mentally. While our staff and faculty did a terrific job adapting and adjusting last year, it is simply impossible to replicate the ‘energy connection’ that occurs when working out and playing/competing together. The synergy of being together physically is unique and the quality of the shared experiences is magnified when we are together.

Olga Shurchkov, associate professor of economics and director, Knapp Social Science Center:
In terms of teaching, what has been wonderful is the simple human connection and sense of community that cannot be replicated online. Even though masks cover everyone’s faces, I can still see students’ eyes and the body language that is altogether lost on Zoom. Physically being with the students helps me connect with them and know when they are struggling and when they are understanding the material. A simple nod of the head from an attentive student or a widening of the eyes at a particular ‘lightbulb’ moment—things that I used to take for granted before the pandemic—are the small cues that allow for the learning to be a two-way street.

Giselle Mota ’22, president, College Government:
Being able to engage in person with the cabinet, administration, and other students has been the most fun. We have been able to take trips into the city together, attend on-campus traditions like Lake Day, and so much more. There is something special about being able to walk into a dining hall or room and pick up right where you left off with someone over a year and a half ago. Additionally, I would like to note that we are attempting a hybrid Senate structure for the first time in Wellesley history. This has featured alternating remote and in-person Senates weekly, as well as virtual guests via the projector in the Academic Council room. It hasn’t been easy, but we find it to be the most accessible and engaging way to proceed for the duration of the year.

Sheilah Shaw Horton, vice president and dean of students:
This fall, our Student Life team is being very intentional in our approach. We know that the pandemic profoundly disrupted the traditional undergraduate developmental process, and we are focused on meeting students where they are as they return to a more normal semester. Above all, we are working to help our students foster a sense of self-awareness and a sense of belonging as they re-engage with campus, and with each other. This is the bedrock of what we refer to as our residential curriculum. As students refamiliarize themselves with all the resources the College offers, we want them to feel embraced, engaged, and empowered to make their experience exactly what they would like it to be.

Mila Matney ’24, chemistry student:
I’m in Organic Chemistry II this year, which has a lab. It’s exciting to get to work with more powerful chemicals in the chemistry lab than I was able to last year while taking classes remotely (acids vs. Kool-Aid!) and to do experiments that feel more like ‘real world’ science.

Kama Cerimele ’22, general manager, WZLY:
My favorite part of being back is the people. I was on campus last spring and while it was nice to be able to have my radio show then, it wasn’t the same without the community around it. It’s been great to be able to start hosting in-person concerts and events again, but there has definitely been a bit of a learning curve in remembering how to manage and organize everything after doing all virtual concerts, events, and meetings last year. We have a long road ahead of us, but things so far have mostly been good.

Marta Rainer, lecturer and director of theatre and theatre studies:
Though we're back in person this year, COVID protocols continue to invite us to work within creative restrictions - and so we're using these to continue to break conventions and experiment with form. Because in small groups we can be unmasked together outdoors, the cast and all-student design team are right now working on a modular mainstage production this semester taken from Suzan-Lori Park's ‘365 Days / 365 Plays’ project - staging pop-up performances around campus over the next few weeks, using our incredible landscape as our stage, and coalescing all 30 plays into a full live and streamed production in December in the Ruth Nagel Jones Black Box theatre.

Allison Weinberg, director of student wellness:
Students are doing a fantastic job supporting Wellesley’s health and safety protocols this fall, especially with masking. When walking around campus I’m so impressed with students’ commitment to the College’s protocols, and we all know it can feel hard to wear a mask for much of your day! Pandemic fatigue is real. So one thing we’re really focusing on this fall is overall wellness, including mental health and social well-being, with an emphasis on rest, resilience, and re-connecting to our community.