Cheers to the Class of 2020
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused Oles to vacate their dorms with no certainty about when they’d be back on the Hill. Classes quickly pivoted to online instruction, following an extended spring break. Finding peace with our “new normal” was all anyone could do, and it wasn’t easy.
The Hill is home for all Oles, so change was difficult, but for the Class of 2020 it was devastating.
This class missed out on the rites and traditions that many others have enjoyed: the 50 Days March (formerly 100 Days March) to downtown Northfield, Senior Week, signing Old Main Tower, and commencement among them.
Though commencement has been rescheduled for next spring, and other rites along with it, the fact remains that the Class of 2020 is unlike any other in St. Olaf’s history. The closure and camaraderie that comes with finishing your last exam and relaxing with dear friends on campus before your loved ones come to celebrate your walk across the stage is a milestone they didn’t get to experience.
Instead, during that time, the college found “socially distanced” ways to celebrate the Class of 2020, including a multi-week Instagram feature where seniors shared photos and memories of their time on the Hill. Here is a small sample of the memories they carried with them as they left their college years behind them — far sooner than anyone ever expected — amid a global pandemic.
Here are some of those memories.
“Many of my favorite memories from St. Olaf were simply spring afternoons on campus, under the warm sun — something we didn’t get this year. Friday afternoons were particularly special: when classes finished and you just went out and laid in the grass, sat on the stone benches outside Buntrock, threw around a Frisbee, or strung up some hammocks. There was a certain feeling of relief mixed with relaxation that spread all across campus on those Friday afternoons in the spring. I’ve had plenty of those days in the last four years, but right now it doesn’t quite feel like I had enough of them. Still, I’m thankful for all the blissful Friday afternoons that I did have, and I will hold onto those warm memories forever.” — Johnny Goodson, political science and American Studies major with a concentration in media studies
“My favorite memory is being a part of African and Caribbean Nights, where we come together to share our story and celebrate our cultures. ‘Unity is strength, division is weakness’ — Swahili Proverb” — Angela Mrema, French and race and ethnic studies major with concentrations in management studies and Africa and the African diaspora
“Finding a ragtag group of misfits on the third floor of Ellingson to learn, laugh, and walk to downtown Northfield with.” — Jacob Gillingham, chemistry major with a concentration in biomolecular science
“One of my favorite memories on the Hill was when I gave my chapel talk my senior year on Tuesday, October 8, 2019. It was the most vulnerable I had been on a public level. However, the outpouring of love and support I received from various students, faculty, and staff will always be remembered.” — Andrew A. Gonzalez, vocal music education major
“My favorite memories are a lot to do with the cross country team. I am really going to miss running with my teammates and always being surrounded by such strong people.” — Bryony Hawgood, biology major
“My favorite memory from my time at St. Olaf is swimming with my friends and peers at the Great Barrier Reef while we identified sting ray species. However, if I were to choose an on-campus memory, I would say one of my favorites was spending late evenings with friends in the Larson parlor.” — Henry Henson, biology and environmental studies major with a concentration in statistics and data science
“One of the reasons I attended St. Olaf was because of the study abroad opportunities. I was fortunate enough to participate in three Interims abroad: Intermediate Spanish II in Costa Rica, Classical Studies in Italy, and the Theater in London program in England. Studying abroad provided me with the opportunity to learn about different cultures and different languages, make new friends, and expand my view of the world around me. Because of these experiences, I have memories that will last a lifetime.” — Katie Braman, psychology and women’s and gender studies major with concentrations in family studies and media studies
“Many of my favorite memories of St. Olaf are through my time as an EMT on campus. I made so many amazing friends for life, and I even got to travel to Machu Picchu on the Peruvian Medical Experience with them! Our skill set gives us such an amazing opportunity to give back to the St. Olaf community and the Northfield community through volunteering at HealthFinders, the Northfield EMS station, and providing medical care on campus. We also had so many fun community events, like our AED scavenger hunt and mock medical scenarios, complete with makeup and fake blood!” — Sara Spanjers, biology major
“One of my favorite memories with my Ole teammates was when four of us made the last-minute decision to road trip to Milwaukee for game 7 of the NLCS. We didn’t get back to our dorms until 5 a.m. the next day, but we had a blast and it made for quite a memorable experience.” — Luke Feigal, economics major
“My favorite memory of St. Olaf is undeniably going to St. Olaf Band rehearsals every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, playing the music of composers like David Maslanka, Jodie Blackshaw, and Alfred Reed. I’m forever grateful for every moment I got to make music with the ensemble and meeting the people who became my closest friends and, ultimately, my family.” — Nahal Javan, instrumental music education major
“I was able to get my dream internship, and my best friends from St. Olaf flew out for a week to hang out and support me! I am so lucky to have met these wonderful people.” — Cory Kieras, psychology and computer science major
“Planning and performing at KARIBU’s African & Caribbean Nights because I got to embrace my inner artist while surrounded by my favorite people on campus.” — Gugu Mkhulisi, independent major in entrepreneurial development for African women with concentrations in women’s and gender studies and Africa and the African diaspora
“My best memories from St. Olaf came from the times I spent with my best friends on and off the football field. Being able to spend four years with these guys made the grind worth it in all aspects, from in the classroom to on the field. Sharing in common accomplishments we all worked so hard for gave me a bond with my teammates that made us family. These relationships and memories are things I’ll cherish forever.” — Max Dowdy, economics major with an emphasis in business management
“Although we were all on different teams, I absolutely loved playing with these girls (and all of the other girls on the MIAC teams for that matter). We were always cheering each other on, which made my collegiate golf experience so memorable.” — Solveig Christenson, exercise science major
“My time at St. Olaf is hard to summarize. There were many ups and downs, but I can truly say that it was the best four years of my life. I met so many amazing people on the Hill, from professors I still stay in contact with to friends whom I’ll be linked to for the rest of my life. I also have to shout out the 11 other senior hockey players from the class of 2020. I was given 11 automatic brothers in them when I arrived on the Hill, and the memories we made on and (especially) off the ice will stay with me forever. Thank you, St. Olaf, for everything. I am so proud to be an alum of this amazing institution.” — Roshen Jaswal, exercise science major with a concentration in management studies
“President’s Ball 2018 I got ready with all my girl friends in Rand, and they did my makeup and helped me with my hair so I would look gorgeous, and we were all chatting and laughing together. We all went to Chapati with our dates for dinner and then to the ball to dance. I dragged my date onto the dance floor and, although he was super nervous and neither of us knew how to dance, we had a ton of fun dancing together and chatting. I realized I had a crush on him, and a few months later we became a couple, but that was the night that started it all.” — Sofia Reed, Chinese major with a concentration in women’s and gender studies
“Even among the ‘big’ experiences I’ve been lucky to have at St. Olaf, it’s the little moments that have mattered the most. Playing cards in Peru, gazing at the stars outside Hilleboe, befriending the cats in Israel, and taking walks around Northfield with my friends. My favorite memory is of visiting the Minnesota State Fair with five of my friends. It was a wonderful chance to share part of my identity as a Minnesotan with other Oles, and this sharing of identities and experiences is what I love about St. Olaf.” — Neetij Krishnan, biology major with a concentration in biomolecular science
“My favorite memories are finding community and growing in my abilities by working in the Pause. Feeling the energy of the room as we produce a large rock show or feeling the sincerity of an In Black monologue — no matter what the event was, being part of the team that put it on was challenging and exhilarating, and helped prepare me for a career after graduation.” — Ross Grant, religion major with a concentration in media studies
“My favorite memory from St. Olaf is being able to study the life of Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico over Interim and learn about how much that landscape influenced her life and art. I learned a lot and made many new friends during my stay.” — Autumn Perron, art history major with a concentration in Asian studies
“How do I pick just one favorite memory from St. Olaf!? There are so many to choose from … I could talk about playing in Norseman band or studying abroad in Ecuador and Palestine or participating in shenanigans at the Nursing Department. I would say that all of my favorite moments at St. Olaf (or abroad with my St. Olaf peers) involved my friends and our community. I won’t remember the assignments I stressed over, or the papers and projects I spent hours on; I will remember the people. My fellow oles-canoles. That being said, if I had to choose ONE singular memory to capture the essence of my St. Olaf experience, I would say the late-night finals caf meals where our staff/faculty served us. We came together after spending hours or days of studying and ate some scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns, and of course Johnny Pops. You could look around the caf and see people laughing so hard their bellies ached, smiling so wide it hurt, and enjoying their time with their cherished friends. A chorus of Um Ya would break out, and we would all sing together to celebrate another great semester and all of our hard work and accomplishments. That’s what St. Olaf is about: dedication to our academic achievements, determination to be the best versions of ourselves, and loyalty to one another as we make our way through our undergrad experience and move into the real world. Oles will always be there for each other. Oles can. Oles will.” —Anna Janning, nursing and religion major
A virtual celebration for the senior class was held on Sunday, May 24, 2020. Speakers included President David R. Anderson ’74, Professor of Music and Conductor of the St. Olaf Orchestra Steven Amundson, Associate Professor of Political Science Chris Chapp, Athletic Director Ryan Bowles, Dean of Students Rosalyn Eaton ’87, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Neetij Krishnan ’20, Alexis Valeriano ’20, Izzy Istephanous ’20, and Ulises Jovel ’20. Video compilations of the St. Olaf Orchestra performing The Turtle Dove by G. Winston Cassler (mixed and edited by Steven Garcia ‘20), and the St. Olaf Choir performing Beautiful Savior, arr. F. Melius Christiansen (mixed and edited by St. Olaf Broadcast / Media Services), were also included.
The Class of 2020 at a Glance
722 graduates (682 bachelor of arts; 41 bachelor of music)
979 majors (475 single major; 237 double majors; 10 triple majors)
332 concentrations (220 single concentration; 53 double concentrations; 2 triple concentrations)
39.4% graduated with honors
Top majors: biology, economics, music, mathematics, psychology, political science, art history and studio art, English, chemistry, and exercise science
Top concentrations: statistic/statistics & data science, management studies, educational studies, women’s and gender studies, race and ethnic studies, environmental studies, neuroscience, linguistic studies, media studies, and family studies
73.1% participated in at least one off-campus domestic or international program
7 Fulbright Fellowships
1 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
1 East-West Center Graduate Degree Fellowship