The Hill From A Distance: Staying connected and celebrating seniors
This post is part of a new blog series called The Hill From A Distance that highlights how the St. Olaf community is moving forward together, even when we’re apart. Each week the series will feature a message from a campus leader — and this week Vice President for Student Life Hassel Morrison shares how we’re staying connected with Oles and celebrating the Class of 2020. Read his message below.
Dear Ole Family,
We are living in uncertain times. People are fearful of the unknown and struggling with the known. The challenges that we are experiencing are disruptive and unfamiliar. It is times like these that we lean on our mission of examining faith and values. Oles are able to push through fear and frustration to pursue their hopes and dreams, even in trying times. Our faith sustains us, and our values empower us. The entire Ole family, both near and far, is demonstrative of a tremendous amount of strength. Without question, we are in this together.
We know many of you are wondering how we’ll celebrate and honor the Class of 2020 this spring. St. Olaf is planning to celebrate all graduating seniors in several ways. On Sunday, May 24, we will release a recorded Class of 2020 celebration with remarks from President Anderson and various leaders of the college. It will also include messages from faculty and staff members, as well as members of the graduating class. We will also mail a gift box to all seniors with a few items to help them remember their time on the Hill.
In addition to our plans for all graduating seniors, individual offices and departments across campus will honor the students they work with in a variety of virtual ways — much in the way that they do each year when we’re all on campus together.
These events do not replace the Class of 2020 commencement ceremony. President Anderson communicated to students on April 9 that our ceremony will be held in late May or early June of 2021 to allow for a more robust in-person celebration. This is the time when members of the Class of 2020 will be able to participate in some of the college’s most beloved traditions: signing of Old Main Tower, Baccalaureate, the Commencement Ceremony on Mellby Lawn, and more.
Postponing our on-campus commencement ceremony was a painful decision to make, but was one we needed to do for the health and safety of our campus. We are very proud of all of our students in the Class of 2020, and the college is working on a variety of ways to recognize and celebrate their achievements.
In addition to planning ways to celebrate the Class of 2020, our Student Life team is working to stay virtually connected to all Oles. The Office of Student Activities, in partnership with other offices on campus, developed an entire slate of Virtual Programming that includes everything from a Fitness Challenge to sticker and button design competition to a cooking connection that we’ve dubbed #UmYumYum. There’s also a way to express care for each other by sending Gratitude Grams. We hope all of you take a moment to check some of these programs out. Alumni and parents are welcome to join in the fun, too!
The Wellness Center has also developed virtual programming to support Oles through this difficult time. In addition to providing tips on things like daily self-reflection and grounding exercises, Wellness Center Peer Educators are also hosting weekly Zoom Wellness Presentations. Hundreds of Oles have participated so far, and we’re hoping they continue to engage in this important programming.
Our class deans also continue to check in and meet with students virtually, often spending hours each day on virtual calls to check in with Oles and provide care and attention in this uncertain new landscape. If you know any student who needs support, please encourage them to reach out to us.
Our campus may be quieter than normal, but we’re still here for students and each other. Thank you for all you do to support Oles everywhere.