December 8, 2020
Garrett students reflect on fall semester
Students share their highlights, challenges during COVID pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact all aspects of our daily lives, and that couldn't be truer for students in college.
"COVID-19 has changed everyone's lives dramatically," stated Allison Oswald, a Garrett College sophomore from Blairsville, Pa. studying computer science.
As a student attending college in the heart of a pandemic, her biggest concern was how colleges would protect students and respond to the many challenges brought on by COVID-19.
"Garrett College is doing an excellent job at keeping students and staff safe from the virus and is taking all the proper steps if/when a positive case occurs," stated Oswald, who is on track to graduate in May 2021.
As a sophomore, she found it comforting to return to a familiar environment in challenging times.
"Knowing that everyone at GC cares about my health and are doing everything they can to keep me safe has been an advantage," she said.
GC's president, Dr. Richard Midcap praised Equity and Compliance Director Shelley Menear, Campus Facilities and Security Director Kathy Meagher, and Custodial Supervisor Rodney Reckart for their COVID leadership efforts.
"Shelley has a huge responsibility – not only ensuring the College's compliance with all federal, state and local guidelines, but working collaboratively to address issues as they arise," said Midcap. "And Kathy and Rodney's work in coordinating our cleaning response has played a critical role in our ability to provide a safe learning environment."
While most colleges transitioned to a fully online format for the fall semester, the fact that Garrett offered multiple delivery options for classes was especially appealing to Madison Embleton, a resident of Garrett County.
"COVID did impact my college decisions," noted Embleton. "Garrett College offered multiple in-person courses and some online courses as well, which positively influenced by decision in choosing Garrett."
Frostburg native EllaRose Warnick first started taking classes at GC as a dual-enrolled student as a senior in high school. As a full-time student this year at GC, she is studying natural resources and wildlife technology (NRWT), a program that relies heavily on hands-on instruction and outdoor experiential learning.
"COVID has had a major impact on the semester, as social distancing is hard when classes involve hands-on learning and field trips," Warnick said.
Although Garrett College transitioned to all-remote classes in mid-November, students were impressed by the confidence and support exuded by faculty and staff.
"My professors have done a great job adjusting with face-to-face switch classes at the beginning of the semester and even those classes that are now operating fully online," noted Oswald. "Their confidence throughout the semester has made me feel better about classes and I am not as stressed out."
Trey Weinell of New Alexandria, Pa. specifically enrolled at GC this fall to continue wrestling collegiately while working towards his degree.
"The staff and faculty here at GC have helped me so much since I've been here," he stated. The faculty here are outstanding – if I have any questions they are always there to help."
"Garrett's faculty and staff have all gone above and beyond in accommodating all of my needs and questions as a first-year college student," said Embleton, who also enrolled in college courses throughout high school as a dual-enrolled student. "My professors are doing as much as they can to engage with their students and make sure students fully understand the content being presented."
"I've been so impressed with how our faculty, staff and students all worked together to make the best of a very challenging situation," added Midcap. "The College worked tirelessly to mitigate as much of the risk associated with COVID-19 as possible, and our employees were strongly committed to providing an academically rigorous and supportive environment for our students."
Another thing is quite clear – Garrett College has worked to each student's advantage during these challenging times.
"I chose Garrett because I wanted to go to a small school that would still be able to provide me with the same opportunities as a big university," said Oswald. "GC's faculty and staff are always supportive – the best part about them is they are always available and ready to assist you in whatever you need."
"We were lucky at Garrett," said Weinell. "Many other schools and athletic programs did not have the opportunity to get on the mat, wrestle and workout at the beginning of the semester. We have been able to practice and stay on campus until recently."
Despite suffering an injury early in the semester during practice, he is appreciative of the level of support he has received from faculty and staff.
"With the help of my coaches, teammates and faculty, I have been able to stay up to date on everything happening this semester and my grades are good," Weinell stated.
Embleton added, "Garrett is affordable and local – two key factors that mattered to me when choosing a college.
"GC offers a business administration program that transfers directly into Frostburg State University, as well as transfer scholarships," added Embleton. "Thanks to the resources at Garrett my transfer process will go very smoothly!"
Providing and delivering a ‘traditional' college experience for students has also been a shared challenge among colleges across the nation.
Warnick is a member of the College's cross country team, wildlife club, and also serves as tutor for the tutoring center.
"Being a part of the cross country team and other opportunities at GC have enhanced my college experience, my ability to learn time management skills, and allowed me to meet new people – which is currently hard to do considering COVID guidelines," she said.
At the beginning of the semester, Embleton filled out an application to become involved in the Student Government Association (SGA).
"Joining this program has had a positive impact on my college experience," said Embleton, who serves as SGA president. "I have met with many other students and have been able to actively engage in student life at Garrett College."
In addition to being on the wrestling team, Weinell is a work-study for the College's athletic department. "Wrestling and work-study have enhanced my college experience because I have a passion for both," he said. "It is something I enjoy doing and it helps me stay disciplined."
GC students have been able to remain positive amidst the pandemic.
"Even though I missed out on a few experiences I would have gotten any other year, I have enjoyed my classes and the experiences we still got to have," noted Warnick. "Going to cross country meets and going out in the field for my NRWT classes are some of the most memorable experiences I have had this semester."
"Some highlights of my semester have been the relationships I have built with my roommates - they have become some of my best friends," said Oswald, who is also a member of the volleyball and softball teams. "The time I get to spend at CRU (bible study group) surrounding myself with other students and their positive attitudes really has been such an amazing experience!"
"Our students have shown such resilience," said Midcap. "None of them would have asked for a semester like this, but they've done what they needed to do. That's actually a great life lesson – you simply have to adapt to the situations that you face."