By Jeff Abernathy
Alma College President
I’m writing to you during a period of great uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken so much from so many and has taken a toll on us all. Although it may be long into the future before we know the entirety of the virus’ impact on our world, each of us have been impacted by it in some way, and Alma College is no exception.
Our world is vastly different than it was before the pandemic started. We see it evolving right before our eyes, noticeable on a daily basis. In a matter of days during the winter semester, the college had to shift from its core in-person residential learning experience to remotely offering all courses. Still, in true Alma fashion, we came together as a community to honor our students and our most cherished traditions.
On that last day of in-person classes, bagpipes played throughout campus, “Loch Lomond” echoed in McIntyre Mall, seniors shared their last performances, and we honored students who would return to campus next as alumni, rather than students. In that moment so much changed, but so much also stayed the same, as our community faced this changing world together, supporting one another.
That support has continued through the months that followed. Although members of our community, and the college as a whole, still face challenges and hardships that we did not expect, we have much to be grateful for during this time. We honored our graduates, although not in person as we would have hoped, we saw an outpouring of philanthropic support from alumni and friends of the college, and the campus community banded together to support our recruitment and retention efforts. The Alma family, although apart, continued to work together in meaningful ways.
Now in the fall semester, we are preparing for a new reality. Students have returned to campus with a set of words in their daily vocabulary they just didn’t have before: social distancing, quarantine, personal protective equipment and more. This year’s class of 2020 is entering the job market at a time of stunningly high unemployment worldwide, the long-term effects of which still wait to be seen.
But despite all those changes, Alma College remains, and it will remain for many years to come. We have come to embody our mission statement in ways we never could have imagined and in doing so, become more viable than ever in the communities we live in. There are countless examples of the purposeful ways Scots are leading in their communities across the globe in this challenging time. Alma College graduates have found their places in the world in laboratories, emergency rooms, schools, community organizations, and so much more. This magazine features a number of them; including an epidemiologist working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an emergency room physician in Washington state and a nurse in the Metro Detroit area.
Alma College students, staff and faculty have served generously in a number of ways at a time in which their communities have needed them most. In this edition, you’ll also learn about student-athletes donating their time in various ways — through volunteering at a local food bank, writing letters to people living in nursing homes and tutoring students online.
Now more than ever, we’ve proven to be critical thinkers, taking proactive and creative measures to ensure the health, safety and welfare of everyone on campus. Every step of the way, we’ve consulted with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Mid-Michigan District Health Department to formulate best practices for being on campus. We believe that while we can’t eliminate the risk of COVID-19, we will do all we can to mitigate it.
I have personally dealt with the same emotions that I’m sure you have dealt with during this time — fear, anxiety and confusion. But I’ve also felt an incredible sense of pride. I’m proud of being able to work alongside a group of faculty who are incredibly talented and intelligent, along with being nimble. I’m proud of leading a college staff who are incredibly versatile and compassionate, along with being hardworking. I am proud to see our empathetic and understanding students persevere through unexpected change and challenges.
The pandemic has changed us all, in ways we might not understand for some time to come; however, with change can come growth and opportunity. As we continue to face difficult times now and in the future, I know that we can rise to the challenge, because that is what Scots do.