Faculty, staff serve as pillars of strength for students as in-person classes return to OSU

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Ashton Sutton, Photographer

Oregon State University students returned to campus Sept. 22 for in-person classes and activities. Faculty members express what they look forward to once classes start after a year and a half of remote learning.

Trevor Horn, News Contributor

With the start of fall term, thousands of people are finally able to learn, live and teach at Oregon State University.

Triumphantly returning alongside the students are hundreds of their professors, who braved the trials of the past year alongside their students, hand-in-hand.

“I’m really looking forward to those more informal conversations you have with students, and getting to know them in a way that isn’t as easy on remote learning as it is in person,” Sarah Wright, a senior instructor and program lead with the College of Education, said.

Colleges are cultural melting pots of the youth, and when that pot boils over, it’s on the shoulders of the professors and faculty at OSU to ease their students back into a community of respect and empathy.

“[Going back to in person] is definitely going to create a different environment,” Linda Bruslind, a senior instructor of microbiology said. “I think there’s going to be some excitement, but there is also going to be some anxiety about the change in situation. Everyone needs to be open and honest with one another but patient as well.”

Like her colleague Wright, Bruslind is equally as elated to getting back into classes.

“I really miss seeing the students in person,” Bruslind said. “It’s just not the same… I look forward to my students being able to do hands-on lab work again. For everything that can be offered virtually, once again, it’s a poor substitute for actually working with a microscope yourself.”

Although the new school year brings the promise of in-person learning again, Wright doesn’t see why everything has to go back to normal.

“I do think we need to, as instructors and as students, know that the world has changed and we are going to keep the good,” Wright said.

The primary good Wright detailed is the increased accessibility students now have with their professors. With the addition of a simple Zoom call to a professor’s repertoire, there is less of a reason for any student to have a question go unanswered or an essay go unedited.

“I do think that students sometimes worry about emailing and trying to Zoom with the instructor or teacher, and all the instructors I know want that—and I want that, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask to Zoom and have a meeting with your teachers,” Wright said. “I don’t know any instructors that wouldn’t do that for a student.”

Although the professors are excited to get back in front of a blackboard, not every teacher has elected to return fully in person this term, like Professor of integrated biology Michael Blouin, who will teach his general genetics class remotely but hold thesis seminars for graduate students in-person this term.

“Last spring, when [the administration] gave us the option of either staying remote for the fall or moving to a classroom I decided to stay remote because I wasn’t convinced the pandemic was going to be over, and apparently I’ve been proven correct,” Blouin said.

“I’ve adapted my class to online, it seems to work pretty well and I’m going to be doing that for one more quarter until we can get this pandemic behind us… Don’t get complacent about the virus, and don’t take your cue from what everyone else is doing.”

After seeing the struggles that her students faced, Bruslind said she’s excited to interact with them during the fall term and interested to see how it goes.

“With all these different populations and people coming from different places mentally and emotionally, I think that’s going to create a lot of variability in the interactions we have, far more than I have experienced before,” Bruslind said.

Wright said she continually encourages her students to always look for the positives in whatever situations they may face.

“You get to move into the dorms, there are classes you can go to in person,” Wright said. “Be thankful and appreciative of the things you do get to do. Even today, it felt great to see people on campus, walk to Dutch Bros and get some iced tea, see other students, having students move into the dorms; it’s really exciting, that’s the best part of school. Fall is wonderful.”

As the leaves change from green to all the hues of autumn, when the days get cooler and the evenings grow long, all the certain- ties of fall are undercut by the uncertainty of our time.

“Living day-by-day, week-by-week, do what you need to do,” Wright said. “You can’t have everything planned out… embrace that, don’t resist the uncertainty… who knows what the term has ahead for us, but we’ll get through it.”