By Emily Kressley | Illustration by Xixi Qin
While my personal bias leads me to believe graduating seniors have it the worst out of all the classes, I’m certainly not envious of the unique challenges that incoming freshman are facing. In President Tiefenthaler’s email on May updates, she stated that enrollment numbers for Fall 2020 are promising, as the school exceeded their enrollment target of 570 students.
The college intends to open as soon as it is safe to do so; however, summer conferences and camps have been cancelled. With the massive amounts of problems posed by coronavirus, the college has formed ten working groups: the 2020-21 Budget Scenarios Working Group; the Flexible Academic Calendar Working Group; the Academic Continuity Working Group; the Board of Trustees Meetings and Engagement Working Group; the Class of 2020 Commencement and Recognition Working Group; the Community Back Together Working Group; the Fall 2020 Retention Working Group; the Travel and Events Working Group; the Student Life, Admission, and Work Continuity Working Group; and the Yield the Class Working Group.
Provost Alan Townsend offered some perspective on behalf of the Fall 2020 Retention group. The incoming class “is a very diverse, very impressive class in multiple aspects that also has the highest percentage of Colorado students we’ve seen in quite a while, in part reflecting our commitment to the Colorado Pledge,” he said.
The working group is concerned with creating ways to foster connections with students over the summer from afar and into the fall, planning for a situation in which fall classes are delivered via distance learning, engaging with department chairs, focusing on the unique struggles of international students, identifying risk factors to student articulation, and helping admissions and communications market what Colorado College has to offer right now, especially the attractive nature of the block plan.
The uncertainties and coping mechanisms for the incoming class vary, with lack of ability to plan and conceptualize what their life will be like in the coming months being a universally challenging aspect. In general, college is a very transitional time as far as physical movement and in development of identity.
“We do hear from some of them who just want to know what kind of planning we are doing and how likely we think it is that the college will be back in person in the fall,” Townsend said. “We are trying to help them as much as we can by sharing information and by letting them know we are likely to roll out a number of flexible choices for how students can choose to go through next year.”
The retention group is not the only one involved in the success of the class of 2024. While professors have stepped up to the plate to adapt their classes to be online and as successful as possible, distance learning cannot match an on-campus experience. The notion of productivity has been deeply shaken by the pandemic, as seemingly simple tasks become harder to complete, in part due to lack of work and personal space outside the comfort of home. Additionally, home is not a healthy or safe place for some.
The transition to college is inherently difficult; moving away from home, settling in, choosing classes, making friends, becoming involved on campus, and earning a new degree of independence.
“I think one big question is that for newly incoming students, if we have to start the fall online — and of course we hope we don’t — is what is the best way for them to start,” said Townsend. “We certainly don’t want to do a distance-based orientation, so that part would wait, but we are talking about what kind of initial courses via distance could still make sense for the first-year class.”
While the news cycle is continually evolving, Townsend remarked that “we expect to announce some changes to the academic calendar next year within a week or so, ones that again give even greater flexibility and more options to students and faculty alike.”
“As to if we can be here in Block 1, we have not yet set a firm date but will also do so soon, and we are likely to make the call by the end of June. That reflects that balance between wanting to see how things are evolving but … also needing to give everyone some time to plan.”
Colorado College as a community and institution is facing extreme hardship, “but there have been many difficult times in the almost 150-year history of Colorado College,” President Tiefenthaler said in a May 4 email to the CC community. “And time and time again, CC has proven that the college and its people are courageous and resilient. That strength serves us well during this unprecedented crisis.”