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21 Perspectives on the 2021-22 Academic Year

Students sit in circle on outdoor lawn

The College community is celebrating the return to a (mostly) normal on-campus experience, kicked off by International Student Orientation last week. With classrooms, athletic fields, and performing arts spaces reopening, excitement abounds. Those who have been away for upward of 18 months have much to take in, from progress on the Dining and Community Commons project to the restoration of Kyle House and renovation of Mertz Hall to an increasingly vibrant Singer Hall. 

While vigilance for COVID-19 protocols remains high, the College is regaining its rhythm.

Here, 21 students, staff, and faculty members from all corners of the College share their thoughts on the beginning of the 2021–22 academic year.

Casey Anderson, director of student health and wellness

“The Worth Health Center team is excited to be back in person and providing holistic, acute, and chronic health care to our students. We’ve spent a lot of time over the past year and a half managing throughout the pandemic and are looking forward to sharing our knowledge, experience, and expertise with students as well as collaborating with other campus departments to enhance the overall wellness education at Swarthmore.” 

Sibelan Forrester, professor and section head of Russian

“I taught two of my three courses in spring of 2021 in ‘hybrid’ format, so I was able to see some people regularly in person. Using Zoom meant that students in California or Mongolia could participate —  great! —  but really changed the atmosphere, even for the students who were there in person, masks on. I look forward to a return to spontaneity and serendipity; a lot of important conversation takes place in the hallway outside the classroom, before the class begins, after the class ends.”

Bryce BussertBryce Bussert ’23, an economics and linguistics major from Chatsworth, Ga., whose activities on campus include contributing to War News Radio 

“I am hoping to hit the ground running to best take advantage of the great opportunities and community we have been missing for so long. My hope is that our time away will make us all appreciate what we have so much more and that, as a result, students will have a refreshed energy to make the most of campus life. There’s two whole class years of people I haven’t really gotten to see on campus, so I’m looking forward to meeting new people and watching everyone get comfortable on campus again.”

Elizabeth Drake, climate action manager and interim director of sustainability

“Our mission is to support and inspire the College community to integrate sustainability into all aspects of campus life, and collaboration and relationships across campus are essential to this work. I’m proud of the ways we’ve continued to advance campus sustainability during the pandemic, but am so excited to reunite with the campus community in person to continue working together towards a more just and sustainable world. We’re welcoming new cohorts of President’s Sustainability Research Fellows and Green Advisors with a diverse slate of projects, ranging from student engagement with the Roadmap to Zero carbon-neutrality initiative to sustainable food production, and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish this year.”

Carr Everbach, professor of engineering 

“Engineering is about building things and getting your hands on equipment and learning by doing, so it has been very hard to have virtual courses and labs. We were able to solve some problems by using computers and simulation, but nothing beats real reality. I’m excited about having students get back to experiencing physical reality, and sharing that experience with each other.”

International Student Orientation helped ease the transition to studying in the U.S. and acclimating to a different culture.

Paris Shan ’23, a political science major from Vancouver, British Columbia, who helped lead Swarthmore’s International Student Orientation 

“Coming back to campus for a near-normal semester is very exciting for everyone, especially international students. A lot of the international community was scattered around the world during the COVID semesters, making it difficult for many to feel connected to other students and to the campus. Being on campus is particularly helpful for international students in easing the transition to studying in the U.S. and acclimating to a culture different from their own. It has been a long journey for everyone, and we are excited to see everyone on campus again this semester.”

Andrew Hauze ’04, senior lecturer for the Music Program, director of the College Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, and co-coordinator of the Fetter Chamber Music Program

“We can't wait to finally make live music together again! Almost all of our departmental ensembles (except for Gamelan, which continued to meet last year with reduced numbers) have been operating online, and while we tried to make the best of the situation, musical ensembles simply cannot be themselves without musicians listening deeply to one another in the same space. While finally being together again is enough to be excited about, it will be particularly wonderful to make music in the newly renovated Lang Music Building. Not only do we have a beautiful new rehearsal space in the completely transformed Presser Room, but the entire building will now be comfortable and usable the whole year round. As an added bonus, students and community members can finally hear the beautiful organ in Lang Concert Hall, after years of silence!”

Pam Harris, associate college librarian for research and information, and Andrea Baruzzi, science librarian

“The Libraries are excited to welcome students back, filling our spaces with their energy and sense of wonder. What’s new? The Libraries’ Swat Little Free Art Gallery: It’s like a Little Free Library, but there’s art inside! Check out the LibLab on McCabe’s main floor, a visible and inviting site for collaborative project-based work, bringing together constellations of students, faculty, staff, and technology. On Sept. 9, look for an amazing photography exhibition, also in McCabe, 2020 In Perspective, in collaboration with Ron Tarver, associate professor of art, and the List Gallery.”

Sky ParkSky Park ’24, a political science and economics major from Seoul, South Korea, who helped lead Swarthmore’s International Student Orientation

“When I stepped back on campus grounds, I was first hit with a wave of nostalgia and excitement, and subsequently with a wave of anxiety. The prospects of seeing old friends, making new friends, and learning in person was uplifting, but the cloud of school closures and memories of March 2020 loomed close above, especially in light of [another institution] reverting to online education. We are definitely in the middle of a turbulent time, but I am glad to have the support from our International Student Center to navigate through it all.”

Rachel Head, associate dean and director of student engagement

“I am most excited by the positive energy we are seeing from our early return students and student leaders as we prepare to welcome students back to the residence halls. The Residential Peer Leaders have been hard at work preparing the residence halls for arriving students — bulletin boards are being decorated, welcome emails are being sent, and the first-floor programs are being planned. As we prepare to welcome back a record number of students in the fall, it is clear that our student leaders are giving 100% to help create an environment for residential students that is safe, welcoming, and fun! As for Office of Student Engagement programming, we are thrilled to be aiming to return to a more traditional Swarthmore experience, and excited to get to see two class years (2024 and 2025) experience some Swat traditions in person for the first time, such as the Halloween party, Winter Formal, and Midnight Breakfast.” 

Liz Derickson ’01, associate dean of academic success

“I look forward to reconnecting with students and colleagues, and welcoming new students and colleagues to campus. I am especially looking forward to experiencing the tradition of First Collection with new students in the Scott Outdoor Amphitheater.”

First Collection, a time-honored Swarthmore tradition, is an opportunity for reflection and connection.

Tyrone Dunston, director of Environmental Services (EVS)

“Gratitude, confidence, and hope come to mind when I think of what I’m most excited about with reopening. I’m grateful to our entire facilities team; EVS, Maintenance, and Grounds defined what teamwork is all about during the pandemic. Through these trying times, our on-the-ground staff has really stepped up to do what it takes to keep the campus safe, clean, and attractive. I am confident that our teams will weather the storm, no matter what’s ahead. We’ve come this far and have overcome so many obstacles giving us hope for better things ahead. You hear some say that it’s a new norm. To me, with a new norm comes innovation. It gives us creative ways to think and adapt to provide the best quality of work for our students, faculty, and staff.”

Laura HiraiLaura Hirai ’22, an Arabic studies and Spanish special major from London, England, whose activities on campus include serving as a resident assistant

“It’s definitely great to be back on campus and experience a campus in its full capacity. I was so used to the small numbers, it was also overwhelming for me and many other returners to see so many people gathered in Sharples and other spaces. We’re all excited to get back into the swing of things, and to meet and hang out with friends again, old and new!”

Lauren Park ’24, of Swarthmore, Pa., whose activities on campus include musical performance

“I am incredibly excited to live on campus this year. Having grown up in Swarthmore, I did not feel like much had changed when I began college last year because I was studying remotely from home. Still, I grew close to my professors and classmates by talking with them outside of class, and I am most looking forward to finally meeting them in person. This summer, I started feeling like a college student when working in person with the Chester Children’s Chorus, which allowed me to explore campus and interact with other students. I cannot wait to continue this experience and make memories at Swarthmore.”

Sue MacQueen, campus engagement coordinator for the Scott Arboretum, which will hold its annual Welcome Back Plant Bash this week.
“I am most looking forward to seeing lots of students on campus again. I was able to work with half the campus each semester, which was fortunate, but I want to witness the excitement of everyone milling about, learning new things, enjoying the natural beauty that is our campus and woods.”

Martin Rakowszczyk ’22, an economics and linguistics major from Rockville, Md., who spent last year’s J-Term helping to design behavioral economics experiments with a research partner in Kenya

“I feel very excited about returning to a campus that’s almost back to normal. After a year and a half of COVID restrictions, it’s great to be back to in-person learning and having more opportunities for hands-on activities and socializing with my peers.”

Students smile while holding potted plants

The Scott Arboretum’s Welcome Back Plant Bash provides incoming students with free greenery; many go on to keep them alive and well at Swarthmore and beyond. 

Jake Rothman ’23, an honors English literature major from Lewisburg, Pa., whose activities on campus include serving as a Writing Associate Fellow and participating in the Cinema Club

“I am so excited to be around so many people that my excitement is overflowing, spilling into my head’s nervousness receptacle, and I’m not sure what’ll happen when that overflows. In other words, I’m really excited and really nervous.”

Michael Hill, director of Public Safety

“Public Safety is here to serve our community, and we missed having everyone here. We are excited about continuing our partnerships and supporting our community.  We have some new team members, so please take a moment to look for them and their Community Resource Officer flyers in your building. Remember that safety is our shared responsibility. Please follow us on Instagram @swatpubsafe.”

Kyra HallKyra Hall ’22, an environmental studies major from Skillman, N.J., who has been on campus for two weeks as a Green Advisor

“I was on campus last spring and certainly felt like the upperclassmen who chose to come back made the best of the circumstances, while remaining conscious of the COVID protocols and keeping case numbers low. I personally made a lot of new friends and engaged on campus in ways that I may not have if things were normal. That being said, I’m very excited to be able to share a meal with more than just one friend, resume our compost/sustainability practices in full swing, have my full lacrosse team on campus and be able to compete, collaborate with students and professors in person, and, assuming travel restrictions don’t get in the way, represent Swarthmore at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.”

Andy Feick, associate vice president for sustainable facilities operation and capital planning

“Facilities Management, Capital Planning and Project Management, and Scott Arboretum staff have worked incredibly hard to prepare the College for the return of all students, faculty, and staff, following the Singer Hall completion and conversion of Parrish North to student housing. The facilities leadership team and the Office of Sustainability have worked all summer to start the 13-year energy plan: Roadmap to Zero. The highly visible part of that is the continued construction of the new, all-electric Dining and Community Commons, with the shell space for the geo-exchange plant space in the building basement. The design for the standby generation plant is also nearing completion, and we anticipate having full backup power in place for the College by next fall. Welcome, all! We are so happy to see you!”

Pallabi Chakravorty, Stephen Lang Professor of Performing Arts and chair of the Dance Program

“The dance faculty is excited to welcome our students to our classes and studios for a real and palpable performance experience. We are looking forward to having actual concerts on stage with a live audience. This semester, our students will engage in solo dance works based on scholarly research as well as group choreography created by faculty in the fall concert. They will also write research papers in our academic Dance Studies classes. We are ready to get back on track with our dancing shoes, ankle bells, drums, and research agendas. We have taken safety measures to keep our students and faculty safe.” 

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