College Avenue filled with students making their way to class. Colleagues sharing a meal together in the dining hall. Spartan fans packing the stands at UNCG Athletics games. Students sitting beside each other in a classroom intently listening to a lecture. Musicians, actors, and dancers sharing their talents onstage before a full auditorium.
This was campus life as we knew it until a year ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything.
UNC Greensboro made the announcement that much of campus would operate virtually on March 11, 2020, with online classes beginning March 23.
Since then, Spartans have adjusted to a “new normal” – face coverings, social distancing, and online learning.
To mark the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty, staff, and students share their reflections on the struggles we have all endured, as well as the compassion and heroism demonstrated by the campus community.
Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr.
Make no mistake, the past year has been challenging for our campus community. We had to be nimble and adapt quickly to ever changing circumstances, maintain our high academic standards, and keep our campus operating as safely as possible. And we did it. Together. I always knew that Spartans are capable of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds when we work together for a common goal in recognition of our shared place and fate. And we proved it. As we usher in better days, it bears repeating: I could not be prouder of our students, faculty, and staff.
Dr. Traci McMillian
Medical director, Student Health Services
When reflecting on the past year, it is easy to instinctively say, “It’s hard to believe…” But for many of us, that is not the case. In some way or another, we have all felt this past year as the days have passed. However, when asked to look back at my experience this past year, two words come to mind: proud and grateful. What we have had to navigate in the past year has been unprecedented, but the way that the University community has come together across multiple areas and departments has made me extremely proud. I am grateful for everyone who has been willing to do their part to help keep each other safe and our campus open this year, which was no small feat and did not come without sacrifice. I have certainly been proud to be a Spartan this year!
Associate director of administrative operations, Housing and Residence Life
One day I was returning from another successful Alternative Spring Break trip to Washington D.C., and the next day I was watching the University empty out as classes went online and residents went home. One week we were all working together in our office, and the next week we were saying goodbye as staff headed home to work via Zoom. There was silence – the campus was a ghost town. There was talk of heroes. But the real heroes did not talk – the dozen or so housekeepers and facility staff deemed mandatory came to work every day, maintaining the halls and serving the 250 or so students who had nowhere to go.
Spartan Chariot Driver, Spartan Transportation
As a Chariot driver for many years at UNCG, I know that the buses aren’t always just a way to catch a ride. For many students, a bus ride can be therapy to escape the confines of their room and ease their minds. For some students during this pandemic, that has been even more the case. Although the safety protocols have changed and riders must be socially-distanced, the students have maintained a wonderful attitude. They are taking the masks, the sanitizer, and the safety of the bus drivers into consideration. It is my goal and the goal of Spartan Transportation to make sure that our most valuable resources remain safe – physically, socially, and emotionally. It’s not just a ride to and from – you never know who you will see or meet – so for me it is an adventure!
There is no denying that the last year has been a challenge for everyone. I doubt there is any student who expected their academic career to include a transition to virtual learning midway through the semester, learning how to navigate life during a pandemic, or returning to campus and having a semi-normal school year. Even though this pandemic was unexpected, students everywhere have overcome these challenges and so much more. Thanks to the support of friends, family, faculty and staff, students have accomplished more in the last year than most of us ever thought possible. I am so thankful to be a part of this supportive campus community where we are all #SpartansTogether.
Lecturer of Spanish
PhD candidate, Educational Leadership and Cultural Foundations
I cannot believe it has been a year since the shift to virtual operations at UNCG because of the pandemic. Everything was so uncertain then. I feared for my students’ and my family’s health. The need for adjusting to a “new normal” was never-ending. I had to adjust my work by transitioning to teaching synchronously online. This was especially challenging for students who had never taken online classes. It was hard for them to find the right balance between their school responsibilities and their personal lives.
At the same time, I also had to make abrupt adjustments in my personal life. I am a PhD student and one of the biggest challenges was reinventing ways of maintaining a community and the spirit of collaboration in spite of the physical distance. Our class sessions were through Zoom, and some of us would stay in touch sending messages on WhatsApp or just scheduling casual meetings on Zoom.
A silver lining for me was having access to the internet and being able to utilize it to reinvent ways of staying in touch with friends and family abroad and here in the United States. We have dedicated two hours every Sunday since the beginning of the pandemic to talk and laugh and provide each other with moral support. March 14 marked our first anniversary of consistently “meeting” every Sunday through Facebook Messenger. We are planning on celebrating it by reflecting on what this year has meant for us, and by dusting off and wearing our ball gowns and tuxedos to complement the celebration!
Director, Students First Office
It’s been 365 days (give or take) since the abrupt arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic on our campus and the expedient move to online learning, teaching, and working. In some ways, it is amazing to reflect on all that has changed, but through all the transitions and challenges and tough decisions, one thing that has remained unwavering is the commitment of UNCG’s faculty, staff, and students to supporting each other through such an unprecedented time.
There are so many examples of these efforts. Last spring, the Faculty Senate moved quickly to adopt an Academic Relief Package (ARP) that allowed students multiple ways to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on their academic experience. Academic advisors in each of our departments, schools, and colleges worked tirelessly to help students understand their options and make the best choices possible based on their individual circumstances. Beyond the classroom, the institution worked thoughtfully, but expeditiously, to get state and federal relief dollars to the graduate and undergraduate students with the greatest financial need – an effort that required tremendous coordination across the divisions of Enrollment Management, Student Affairs, and Academic Affairs.
The care and commitment to our community has also been demonstrated through the weekly COVID-19 testing afforded to all of UNCG, followed now by our recurring vaccine clinic thanks to the leadership of our Emergency Management team. The past year has often been described as surreal, chaotic, challenging, and exhausting, but perhaps it has also helped us become more flexible, empathetic, caring, and creative. The ability of the UNCG community to rise to the challenges and overcome them together is perhaps what has been the most memorable part of the COVID-19 pandemic.
University Communications and ITS Digital Developer
As I reflect on the past year dealing with COVID-19, I think of the communication efforts that were involved and, while it is obvious in hindsight, how the energy and pace involved mirrored the various stages of the disease spread.
Initially, as little was known about the coronavirus, we thought our main priority was going to be keeping the campus informed. Later, as COVID-19 tactics and strategies were built, we soon realized that we as a campus community needed to take a much more active role. Communication went from “here’s what you need to know” to “here’s how you can help keep everyone safe.” Working closely with the Office of the Chancellor and Environmental Health & Safety, we expanded from a webpage on the University Communications site that shared announcements to an entire website, update.uncg.edu, that helped the reader stay informed, active, and prepared. That site is still reviewed and updated every weekday.
Today we are moving into an even more proactive phase of the pandemic and communication as we inform each group about vaccination rollout. I’m looking forward to the day when we can decommission the COVID-19 Update site, but we’ll keep it ready for the next crisis. We always need to keep our campus informed.
Photography by Martin W. Kane and Jiyoung Park, University Communications