Coming back to campus during a pandemic

Last semester Marquette’s campus was full of masked students and staff. But the university remained open and busy despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Many were unsure how long the first semester would last as schools across the nation racked up cases of COVID-19. It felt as though being sent home was a matter of “when,” not “if.”

Despite the growing case numbers, the school remained open and the Marquette community survived the first semester. Then students headed home for break. The lingering question: would students be coming back?

Now that second semester has now arrived. Masks and social distancing are still in place, but the university is working to welcome everyone back. Many students have mixed emotions.

“I’m not thrilled to have COVID around still, but I’m thankful Marquette is taking measures to keep us safe and allowing us on campus,” Francesca Young, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences, said. Young said the online class experience has been a little disappointing.

However, despite the frustration, she knows she’s making the best of her experience.

“I’ve still been able to see friends and go to work and school,” Young said.

Returning staff and students are still getting used to online learning and COVID-19 protocols.

Mya Coene, a junior in the college of Education returned to campus for another semester, but still misses normal college life.

“It has been a challenge to learn to study in my room often. I’ve loved studying in coffee shops and the library with my classmates and friends, but with social distancing measures, there is much less seating in public study areas, and it is difficult to have more discussions,” Coene said. “Also, being virtual allows people the chance to be almost completely anonymous to their classmates and professors for the entire semester. This causes less connections between students and teachers.”

Even without these experiences, Coene said she is happy to return to campus this semester and feels Marquette has been working to follow proper precautions.

“I feel that Marquette believes that they handled the COVID protocols in the best way they can. With the introduction of randomized testing and continuation of social distancing and masks, Marquette has hope that these measures will keep COVID cases to a minimum,” Coene said.

Mark Wisniewski assistant professor of English, taught from his home last semester, said he will continue to stay off campus during the second semester. Wisniewski said he recognizes the difficulties of learning and teaching with COVID-19. He is choosing to stay home until he is vaccinated but said he is glad the second semester is continuing in person, as it allows students the “face-to-face” interactions they want.

“I’m prepared as I can be right now,” Wisniewski said, of the second semester.

Even with the difficulties of online teaching, Wisniewski said he is getting used to the new formatting and has adjusted to online teaching. There are even some things he says he will keep doing once he begins teaching in person again, including online office hours and checking in on students’ mental health, to name a couple. Overall, Wisniewski said he hopes this semester can feel “more normal for students.”

“We’re going to get through this. We’re going to get through this together,” Wisniewski said.

This story was written by Karsyn Hartsfield. She can be reached at karsyn.hartsfield@marquette.edu