As the fall semester has come to its close, Wittenberg acknowledges the resiliency and creativity of the its community in the face of unprecedented uncertainty. In the midst of a pandemic, the University stood united and found ways to grow closer together, all while staying six feet apart.
From engaging outdoor lectures to innovative to-go art activity kits, the Wittenberg community managed to find light in the darkness this term. While some activities had to be restricted, others were created so students could continue to have a meaningful collegiate experience. On warm fall days, students and professors alike deepened their knowledge outdoors in breezy tents. The Wittenberg Symphonic band continued on a limited basis, and, in November, its music filled the chapel for the annual fall concert. The Residence Life staff also rose to the occasion, providing students with engaging activities every week.
“This year, COVID-19 threw the Resident Advisors (RAs) and the entire Residence Life staff for a whirlwind adventure,” said Sarah Culp, an area coordinator with Residence Life. “However, our commitment to student engagement, growth, community, and fun has not changed.”
One way the Residence Life staff adapted this semester was by making the popular Art After Dark activity nights a monthly stand-alone event. Students have had the opportunity to tie-dye, paint, and, most recently, partake in a few holiday-themed activities, including decorating pine cones. Beyond art events, the Residence Life staff has worked diligently to put on safe large-group activities. In November, students attended a backyard carnival night at The Steemer complete with lawn games, buttery popcorn, and tables for students to safely socialize.
“The top priority for Residence Life is that students are engaged, making connections, and building Wittenberg as their home, but we can only do that if we have everyone's health and best interest in mind,” Culp said. “We are so proud of our RAs and their ability to learn and adapt during this time so that they can provide the best experiences possible for all our students.”
Like colleges and universities nationwide, Wittenberg had to adjust to the presence of COVID-19 on campus beginning in March 2020. The ability to overcome the initial challenges serves as a testament to the preemptive planning of the COVID Response Team (CRT) and many other dedicated members of the community. With the CRT’s overwhelming support and guidance, Wittenberg finished the semester with under 200 resolved cases.
Instrumental to ensuring the health and safety of all those affected by COVID on campus and to assist in the process of resolving cases were the selfless members of the Wittenberg community who volunteered to deliver meals to those in quarantine. Since March, these volunteers have delivered more than 1,200 meals to those in need. The willingness of these compassionate individuals to give their time to others testifies to Wittenberg’s enduring dedication to service.
“In the midst of this extremely difficult time, my heart is full seeing my colleagues and our students being of service to our students,” said Lisa Watson, Wittenberg Series coordinator. “They truly are ‘passing the light’ to others.”
A total of 46 members of the Wittenberg community stepped up to aid with meal deliveries this semester. Of the eight faculty volunteers, Associate Provost Mike Mattison led the individual contributions with 11 deliveries followed closely by Provost Michelle Mattson with 10. Sharon Greitzer, senior communications project specialist, coordinated the contributions of 12 staff volunteers with 16 deliveries. Eighteen members from the Athletics program also lent a hand. A special mention should go to the eight students who volunteered to help their peers through a difficult time. Jamie Spallino ’21, Isabel Travis ’23, and Ghye Wilson ’21 led this group with eight deliveries each.
Of the eight students who jumped at the opportunity to help, Spallino explained her reason for volunteering.
“When I saw the opportunity to deliver the meals, I felt immediately called to participate,” she said. “We all know from the lockdowns this spring how hard it is to be physically removed from our friends and family, and it must be even harder in a college or dorm setting.”
On foot or often behind the wheels of a golf cart, volunteers like Spallino safely delivered meals to individuals all across campus. Instructed to leave the bagged food package on the doorknob and then ring the bell or knock on the door, volunteers remained safe throughout the process, never coming into direct contact with the individuals whose meals they were delivering.
“Though I don’t speak to the students when I drop off their meals, I hope they feel a little less alone knowing that we’re looking out for them,” Spallino said. “It’s strange being part of a team and helping others that I’ve rarely seen, but it’s a testament to our Wittenberg community that, even invisible, we come together.”
In addition to the volunteers, the dedicated Parkhurst staff also deserves recognition for its critical role in the meal preparation.
“The Parkhurst staff (Chef Zachary Puhala, Kathleen Holzapfel, director of catering, and Aaron Watson, Parkhurst general manager) has worked with us to provide a good selection and variety of meals for our students each day,” Watson said. “We've streamlined the process, adapting and responding to suggestions throughout to make it more efficient.”
Though this semester has had its fill of trying moments, the response and support from the faculty, staff, and students has been inspiring. Looking toward the future, all members of the University community can be assured that “We’re In This Together (WITT), and together Wittenberg will emerge stronger than ever.
-By Emily Nolan ’21, University Communications