As the majority of Gustavus students and staff prepare to return to campus (per a hybrid learning plan), several Gustavus staff members weigh in on their confidence in Gustavus’ ability to successfully curb the negative effects of COVID-19.
“I am struck by the fact that I am both excited and nervous,” President Rebecca Bergman said.
“We are social beings, and we want to be together– talking, laughing and sharing feelings and frustrations about these unusual times we are in right now,” Bergman said.
In a similar sentiment, Professor of Political Science Jill Locke shared mixed emotions concerning students’ rapidly approaching return to campus for this semester’s hybrid learning plan.
“We have terrific faculty and students who are all showing up because we care about high-quality college education, even under these stressors,” Locke said.
“My primary worry is not about these logistics, but about the safety of everyone. I worry a lot about people downplaying the virus and its threat. The numbers are going up in Minnesota. Please wear a mask and social distance,” Locke said.
Although substantial stress has been placed on the Gustavus staff in the past few months, several staff members share that their excitement levels for the student body to return supersede their concerns.
“At the Book Mark, we have shipped out 1,200 sets of books since mid-August,” Book Mark Manager Molly Yunkers.
“We were open for 26 straight days, 8:00am-5:00pm, so that we could meet the needs of the students,” Yonkers said.
“I am feeling optimistic and hopeful that everyone, at their core, wants to take care of each other,” Yunkers said.
“The nice thing about Gustavus is that we’re all about learning. When new evidence comes forward, we take that evidence and apply it to what we are doing,” Associate Vice President of Dining Services Steven Kjellgren said.
“We are constantly creating plans and maintaining purposeful actions,” Assistant Book Mark Manager Erin Kuiper said.
A common area of concern amongst staff is related to the social distancing capabilities of the Dining Hall. Specifically, ensuring that the tables were spaced out far enough, with a low seating capacity, to allow students to social distance.
“A health inspector came in and approved our table spacing, stating that we could have six
people at a table, but we changed it even further for safety,” Assistant Director of Dining Services Kevin Birr said.
Even though the recommendations were coming from a Minnesota Department of Health Inspector, Birr noted that they wanted to be extra cautious.
“September has been a great test run for us… to make tweaks before we have to do it at a larger scale,” Birr said.
Although all interviewed staff members shared a similar nervous sentiment, their excitement and confidence in their own hard work in order to establish a functional plan this fall greatly outweighed their stress.
“[Social distancing] will become second nature to us all, in a way, so that when you’re not social distancing, you’re uncomfortable,” Kjellgren said.
“We are fortunate to be a part of an institution that relies heavily on science and compassion when making decisions,” Kuiper said.
Members of Gustavus staff expressed mixed emotions, nervousness and significant levels of excitement as the college embarks on a new phase of hybrid learning this semester.
Many staff members held strongly to their confidence in their own efforts and hard work to maintain social distancing measures this fall, noting that their plans had been well thought-out.
Overall, social distancing on campus this fall is a collective effort and staff members are hoping that Gustavus members’ sense of community is substantially stronger than their temptation to break the rules.