Students wearing masks hang out on the bridge over Westhampton Lake

College Life in an Age of Uncertainty

March 25, 2021
A post by Stephanie Dupaul, Vice President for Enrollment Management

Let me be brutally honest – this year has been 100% challenging. Many of the things we include when we talk about the “college experience” have transformed into what might be considered less than ideal substitutions. But you know what has been amazing about this year? The incredible adaptability of our students, and how they take every opportunity to engage with each other. Yet, as hard as we work to provide every possible experience in a Covid-modified world, I still mourn for our Senior Spiders.

I know you may have also been quietly mourning your child’s senior year. At many high schools, that means remote education. No club meetings or sports. Virtual homecoming. Traditions that have been upended. While they are able to complete their classes and ultimately graduate (with or without pomp and circumstance), this is not the senior year of their dreams.

And now you are thinking about the fall, and what going to college will look like for a student who has already lost so much.

College this fall may not be fully back to normal. But I can assure you, the University of Richmond is committed to making 2021-2022 the best possible experience for our students, while keeping our community safe. We are hopeful about the vaccine, but we are retaining the modular housing units on campus in the event we need isolation housing. We are committed to an in-person instructional model, but we are scheduling our small classes in rooms that accommodate physical distancing. With no documented transmission from classrooms, we are confident that we will be able to continue providing a meaningful, safe, residential, in-person educational experience for our students. That is your priority – and our priority as well.

If permitted by our athletic conference and the state, the Spiders will be on the field. If safe and aligned with state and federal guidelines, our students will be back volunteering and working in the community, and attending in-person gatherings. If not, we’ve learned much about what our students enjoy doing when they can’t be in large groups. Painting parties under tents. Gathering in small groups around the new Well-being Center and spending quality time with Emmett, the facility’s Goldendoodle. Working out in the rec center. Discovering club sports that can be socially distanced – the rise of archery and hiking! We will hold our student engagement fairs this fall so that new students can join clubs and organizations, we will have expanded orientation to help students meet each other and find new friends, and we know that our Spiders will be strong together.

Of course, we’ll continue wearing masks if needed (in fact, we recently provided NK95 masks to all students), spreading the Adirondack chairs around the lake at 6-foot distances, doing routine prevalence testing, and reminding everyone to Protect Our Web.

While seniors have traded many traditional experiences for socially distanced substitutes, your students have proven they are resilient. It is not the senior year they planned, but they have made the best of it and we’re incredibly proud of the class of 2021 – your seniors – as they prove that nothing will stop them from pursing their dreams.

Keep your eye on the New Spiders web page for details about housing, orientation, registration, and move-in dates for the fall term!