PHOTO BY SARA SHEIKH / SPUTNIK PHOTOGRAPHY
After a long year and a half, Laurier Brantford students began their return to campus on September 9, 2021 with the first day of school.
Although the university has been sending regular email updates regarding the return to in-person operations and what this semester will look like, many students still have questions regarding academics, safety and how to balance a mix of in-person and online school.
“We’re still in a pandemic and we need to keep everyone safe,” said vice-president of Student Affairs, Ivan Joseph.
Of utmost priority is safety and avoiding an outbreak of COVID-19. Measures such as social distancing, masks, and enhanced cleaning measures have been put in place to help with this effort.
Another challenge is bringing Laurier’s community back together. For Joseph, the question is, “How do we create that sense of community that we are known for at Laurier in a virtual world as well as a physical world?’
The hope is that a return to both in-person and online programming and class will aid in bringing the community closer together again.
“We need to be thinking that we’ve got a whole bunch of students that are here, that half of our campus has never been on campus before in their entire lives,” said Joseph.
Programming such as orientation week and Laurier 201 seek to help first and second year students comfortable with campus.
Joseph described the third challenge for the academic year as creating “a sense of normalcy to the student experience”.
Some of this involves learning from the pandemic, to see what elements of online education work better than in-person, and what services can be improved upon.
“Certain things we want to keep and not throw everything out just because it was the pandemic,” said Joseph.
For example, many students value having online appointments for services such as Academic Advising. By maintaining these elements, the hope is that the transition back to in-person learning will be smoother.
“They can access us anywhere,” manager of educational advising for academic advising, Sara Neizol, explains regarding student satisfaction with online academic advising appointments.
Since students are in different situations due to the pandemic, academic advising has prepared themselves this year for questions from a mix of in-person and online advising.
Academic Advising shares that their goal is to help students no matter the difficulties present in their lives.
“Life happens, and it’s okay to think about your course load, and it’s okay to drop down to four classes instead of five so that you can manage your life,” said Neizol.
Many students are already well equipped for a partial online and in-person semester as Laurier Brantford already offers many online courses. Since many students are now well accustomed to programs such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, Neizol feels that Laurier students are ready for the challenge of starting to head back to in-person learning.
“I don’t know if it’s just something special about the Laurier Brantford community, they’ve done a great job,” said Neizol.
As students move forward in the school year, Joseph continues to search for ways to “give people hope and optimism.”
Students can contact a number of campus resources such as the Wellness Centre, the Accessible Learning Centre, and Academic Advising for assistance of support, and can all be found at Wilfrid Laurier’s website.