Packing up and leaving campus quickly in the face of the rising coronavirus pandemic was an urgent situation for Jill Kleinkauf ’20. Despite the emergency exit from student housing, she said it was calm enough to feel like any other year.
“It was a very easy process to check out of my room,” said Kleinkauf. “I was able to check out in my hall office with the RA on duty, just as I normally would.”
The difference, of course, was that students and staff couldn’t predict what would happen next – either in the original anticipated weeks of the safer-at-home directive, to what is now an unknown window of time to come.
Housing Staff to the Rescue
What housing staff could do, though, was roll up their sleeves. Behind the calm for students, a sea of action churned amidst Chapman’s Residence Life and Admission staff as they provided support at a moment’s notice. Chapman was able to reunite students with their families, provide means for flights home, refund costs – all while transitioning entirely to remote learning and staff operations over the course of a few days.
In student housing, it was a heavy lift, recalls Dave Sundby, director of Residence Life and First-Year Experience. The move-out situation changed from “maybe” at 10:30 one night, to “this needs to happen” at 11 a.m. the following day, with his team building a plan in motion.
Of 3,415 students in campus housing, 2,900 have been checked out, and 222 have been approved to stay under the university’s care. Everyone who can be has been sent home, and everything scheduled has been canceled or postponed. Included in postponement is the expected right of passage at end of the semester: Commencement Weekend.
For seniors Kleinkauf, a political science major and dance minor, Isa Basche, an integrated educational studies and English double major and Hannah Montante, creative writing, this has been a sudden farewell to undergraduate life.
Expectations and the Unexpected
Basche opted to remain in her off-campus housing, while both Montante and Kleinkauf took the earliest opportunities to go home, Montante from an off-campus apartment and Kleinkauf from student housing.
Because she left campus housing, Kleinkauf is receiving a refund for the unused portion of her costs.
“I am grateful that Chapman prorated housing rates for those that moved out, as that will help during this time,” Kleinkauf said.
For Montante, news of the switch to remote learning arrived in the middle of a shift at her on-campus job. One happy note was that she, and all other Chapman student workers, are continuing to be paid through the end of the academic year as though they were still clocking hours.
Thinking about Chapman’s future was a priority for her. Just the week prior to leaving, she’d been accepted to Chapman’s Creative Writing Master’s degree program. The week after returning home, she made up her mind.
“I accepted! I’m really excited to be coming back to Chapman,” said Montante. “Before and after I was accepted to the MFA program, the admissions staff was really helpful.”
Classes Without Classrooms
In the span of an email, everything changed. Going remote for learning was swift, and required incredible flexibility from every area of campus.
Although none of these seniors took this path, options of “Pass” or “No Pass” have been offered in some courses, to alleviate the pressure under extreme circumstances.
Professors are theming their virtual classes with sunglasses, hats and t-shirts for spirit, Student Life is serving up regular virtual check-ins via the Cross-Cultural Center and Fish Interfaith Center has doubled its communications and guidance with Chapman HOPE to help stressed-out students. Student Psychological and Counseling Services have remained active and available on a remote basis to serve the needs of the campus community from where ever they are.
“My professors and heads of departments have been incredibly communicative during this time and I am thankful for that,” said Kleinkauf. She is focused on the future as well, planning her next steps for graduate school – whether she attends somewhere in person, or starts that semester from home.
One sore spot for Kleinkauf is the internship she had to let go of from an outside organization. Countering that frustration, though, has been the joy her tap professor Brandee Lara has brought to the remote dance classes.
“Not only has she held her own classes via Zoom, she provided links to free online classes and resources, and reached out to us on a personal level,” said Kleinkauf. “She has been one of my favorite faculty members during my time at Chapman and nothing has changed.”
Basche has a lot of admiration for Chapman faculty.
“My professors have been incredibly helpful and understanding. They have been flexible with dates, deadlines, and have communicated very effectively,” said Basche. “I know this is hard on them too and I think both professors and students alike are working well together to move forward as best as possible.”
A Sense of Community, Apart
Kleinkauf reiterates while this is unusual and obviously not an ideal situation, “Chapman University is still the same strong community that I chose four years ago, just a different setting for the time being.”
All three agree the sense of Chapman community is still incredibly prevalent.
“This crisis has definitely changed what it feels like to be a student,” said Basche. “It is not the same as connecting with my Chapman Family in person, however, I am still very lucky to have these connections and this community.”