On March 12, 2020 just minutes after Governor Herbert’s announcement on COVID-19, the lives of Southern Utah University students changed and have constantly evolved ever since.
All classes were pushed online and students were encouraged to enjoy Spring Break and return to campus starting March 23, with limited on-campus resources being available. Even commencement that was supposed to be held on April 24 was canceled and tentatively scheduled for August 8 as a safety precaution.
Due to the daily updates on the COVID-19 virus, those limited resources have recently become unavailable as another safety precaution to students, faculty and staff.
Recently on March 31, an email from Dr. Jared Tippets, Vice President of Student Affairs, was sent to students, encouraging T-Birds to return to their permanent residence if possible.
“We recognize that some students may need to stay in Cedar City for work reasons, safety reasons, or because this is your permanent residence,” Tippets stated in the email. “However, in advance of potential travel restrictions being placed on us by the State of Utah, and for overall health reasons, we strongly encourage all students (who are able) to return to their permanent residence.”
Since there has been a constant looming fear of the unknown, adjusting to online classes and now potentially packing up and moving home, it’s understandable that students are struggling in a number of different capacities.
Students are scared right now. There is nothing for them to hold onto with information changing every day. They are nervous about receiving a quality education and what to do after graduation.
Taylee Ciccone, a senior criminal justice major who will be graduating at the end of summer, found the transition to online school to be difficult and frustrating.
“Honestly classes are a lot more work now. Professors have begun doubling the amount of work while also requiring Zoom conferences. Mental health has started to seriously decline with the lack of social interaction and being outside… I’m disappointed with how some professors have handled the transition, while others like Grant Corser have done a phenomenal job.”
One of the hardest challenges arising for students is trying to accomplish schoolwork without the right resources for their major.
For students such as Lindsay Mitchell, a junior fine arts major, the situation is problematic.
“…All access to our studio lighting equipment and the darkroom was taken,” said Mitchell. “I am currently in two analog (film photography) classes so switching to online and having to work digital jeopardizes our learning and understanding of film… However, I will add professors [such as Gardner and Davis] have done a wonderful job at communicating and keeping my peers and I at ease through the transition.”
Skyler Jones, a sophomore communications major, wasn’t on campus when the outbreak of COVID-19 began. Jones left at the beginning of the Spring 2020 semester for a study abroad in Greece. But when COVID-19 became a threat, Jones was required to return home.
“I’ve returned from my study abroad in Greece and I’m currently balancing work from two schools, all while hundreds of miles away from both of them,” said Jones.
Motivation has also become a daily struggle for students who are trying to finish out the semester.
Summer Schmidt, an education major, is currently finishing her first year at college and the move to online classes has proved to be a challenge.
“Overall, I think my work ethic has declined at a fast rate and I feel somewhat anxious about school because of the fast change,” said Schmidt.
Having the motivation to finish out the semester strong is important to pass classes, but the mental health of SUU’s students is also a big concern.
Carly Kimzey, a sophomore mathematical science major, recently returned from a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and this was her first semester back in school.
With all the unforeseen challenges that arose over the course of the semester, she recently moved home to be with family.
“Honestly, this was the wildest curveball for my life right now because I thought I was finally getting my life together,” said Kimsey. “I originally was going to stay in Cedar for the few weeks until school was out because of classes, but ultimately had to move back home to help with both my anxiety and my family’s. And I know that’s how a lot of people are feeling right now as well. It’s just uncertainty throughout the jobs falling through and not knowing what lies ahead.”
With graduation and summer right around the corner, many students such as Brady Richards, a senior outdoor recreation in parks and tourism major, is worried he will lose his summer job and therefore won’t make enough money to return back to school in the fall.
“There is a very high likelihood that I will be losing my paid summer internship with the national park service,” said Richards. “I’m just waiting on the email to be sent any day now resulting in me being out of a job for the summer.”
Some students are not only preparing for graduation, but they are also trying to plan for graduate school. With COVID-19, it is making it difficult to plan ahead.
Laikin Barney, a senior graphic design major, and her husband Jaxon have been preparing to go to graduate school. With most of the United States under quarantine, it has made it especially difficult for them to know what to do.
“It feels like our future is at stake with cancellations to trips for visiting graduate programs across the states,” said Barney. “We don’t know how to make a good decision to move our family because we’ve never visited or spoken to anyone about the programs. Most have extended the deadline for acceptance but we don’t know when travel/quarantine bans will lift.”
Even though there have been struggles and challenges seen by many, the majority of students acknowledge this pandemic is outside of SUU’s control and are thankful for constant efforts made by the university.
“Honestly I am so grateful I’ve been a student here at SUU during these major changes,” said Brynlee Shults, a sophomore psychology major. “I’ve heard horror stories about other big universities grossly mishandling the situation from my friends all across the country. I strongly believe that SUU as an institution has done an outstanding job with both taking care of their students while also minding and following safety guidelines. I really feel my university has my best interest at heart. It’s comforting.”
Madison McBride, senior human nutrition major, echoes Shults by saying, “…the transition to online classes hasn’t been bad! My professors and everyone at SUU has made it as smooth as possible.”
Even though students are struggling and will most likely struggle until the pandemic is over, SUU continues to send out weekly, if not daily emails to its students to keep them informed and aware of new changes.
There is a list of online resources available for students to help them both academically and emotionally. For a list of these resources, visit here.
Story by: Cassidy Harmon
Photos Courtesy: Mitch Quartz