On March 18, while the campus was still on spring break, we made the difficult decision to adjust our COVID-19 action plan by moving classes online for the remainder of the academic year, instead of until April 13 when we would have resumed normal classes. Therefore, last week was our first as an online learning community with students scattered around the world. While this is not what anyone anticipated as part of the Hesston Experience, it is our current reality.
I am grateful to faculty for their positive attitudes, the creativity they have shown in this new way of teaching and the ways they continue to show up for and encourage students as they adjust.
As you might expect, after this first week, student responses have been varied. I have mostly heard of students engaging and connecting well with one another and their professors. Yet, I have also heard that some students are feeling overwhelmed by the pace of change. I ask that you pray for all of our students as they adapt to their new routine, in particular those who are struggling. The loss of the physical Hesston community and all the joys which comes with it are weighing heavy on most of our students.
When we made the decision to move to online classes for the rest of the year, we also encouraged all dorming students, if able, to relocate to their permanent homes for the duration of the year. The majority of dorming students had checked out of the dorms by March 22, but we knew this would not be possible for all students. Therefore, we gave an option for students to remain on campus for those who needed this alternative. We currently have about 50 students residing on campus. This is a higher number than most of our Mennonite and Kansas private peer institutions. About 50% of our students on campus are international students, 25% are aviation students, and the remaining 25% are students who need to remain on campus for various legitimate reasons.
Understandably, the Hesston College community looks and feels very different today – especially for those students who are still on campus and who had become used to the always present energy and camaraderie. Student Life staff and others are working hard to continue delivering some semblance of normal, but I ask for specific prayers in this area as well.
We know each of you have been affected in a myriad of ways by this pandemic as well. Please know that we are thinking of you – our alumni and friends – regularly.
- To our nurses and doctors on the frontlines of treating the ill, and possibly doing so undersupplied, we see you and are praying for you, too.
- To our educators who are adjusting to new ways of teaching and missing the face-to-face interactions with their students, we are praying for you.
- To our pilots and others in the aviation industry who may be facing reduced hours or job loss as the industry faces the reality of fewer travelers, we are praying for you.
- To our childcare providers who are caring for children who may not understand the impact of this crisis, yet continue to create as much “normal” as possible, we are praying for you.
- To those in the hospitality industry who have had business vanish, we are praying for you.
- To those who are staying at home to provide care for their young children or other family members, we are praying for you.
- To our small and large business owners who are facing uncertainty about the future for themselves and their employees, we are praying for you.
- To those for whom isolating means being very much alone, we are praying for you.
Whatever your situation may be, please know that our prayers are with you also, and we are grateful for the prayers you offer on behalf of Hesston College.
As a reminder, you can continue to see updates on Hesston College’s actions and decisions during this time. I also invite you to follow the Hesston College Facebook and Instagram accounts to see ways you can connect with the broader Hesston College family while continuing to practice social distancing.
Until next time – Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Be safe. Be smart. Be kind.
Joseph A. Manickam