CLTR Hosts Discussion on Challenges of Life on Campus Amid the Pandemic

CLTR Hosts Discussion on Challenges of Life on Campus Amid the Pandemic

Tess Dunkel, Contributing Writer

As students continue to navigate living and learning through a now year-long pandemic, Colgate’s Center for Learning, Teaching and Research (CLTR) sponsored a student-led discussion on educational, social and residential challenges faced by the student body during the past two semesters. Titled Hindsight is 2020, Reflections on Learning for the Class of 2024” and hosted by seniors Vedika Almal and Jacob Watts on Tuesday, March 9, the event allowed for a confidential virtual space where students were encouraged to meet and discuss their personal opinions on last semester’s instruction tactics, as well as the transition into spring. The session was meant to provide students, whether studying online or in-person, with a faculty-and professor-free space to share their pandemic centered academic experiences with like minded students, and to connect first-year students with upperclassmen in response to the disconnect felt across class-years due to the absence of physical club meetings. 

“I wanted to help create connections virtually, if at all possible. Small things about the Colgate community and the support available are missing from the first-year experience, and many do not know about it,” Almal said.

The Center for Learning, Teaching and Research offers resources meant to enrich the student experience in a liberal arts setting. By funding summer research opportunities, linking students to tutors and other help liaisons and providing academic accessibility for students in need, the center has been working tirelessly to create a seamless transition into a new form of normalcy. The student-led session allowed for a casual conversation, without a rigid structure. Unlike other discussion spaces, there were no forced ice-breakers, no organized or premeditated topics and no group activities. The hosts emphasized their past years at Colgate, stating that a passionate pursuit of academic interests and extracurricular activities leads to boundless opportunities, as well as a strong relationship with professors and alumni. 

Recent midterm weeks have taken a mental toll on most students. Academic burnout often leads to frequently missed classes, low energy and a lack of enthusiasm regarding daily tasks. Unforeseen circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic keep students from enjoying normal campus activities and spring break, that would usually take place mid-semester. It is with this in mind that the theCLTR made a special effort to advertise this event through academic advisors and upperclassmen link group facilitators, urging the mentors to spread the word of a much needed space to relax and talk through the classroom issues they are struggling to confront elsewhere. In close proximity to a school wide wellness day on Friday, March 11, opportunities for wellness in students’ schedules are at the forefront of many. Cancelled classes allowed for time to reflect on the struggles and successes of hybrid style, pandemic-influenced learning. 

“Everything that is happening with freshmen this year makes it so much more important to try and reach out to them,” Watts said. “Maintaining relationships with students is crucial, thinking back to the impact that these resources had on my experiences as a freshman.”

Like many virtual campus meetings and events, the dicussion faced low attendance. But, the CLTR prioritizes an supported college experience for all students, and the peer support system kindled by virtual meetings provides first-year students with the ability to make the most out of unpredictable circumstances.