Students are returning to Grove City College this week to begin a new academic year in a learning and living environment that is just a little bit different this time around.
Much of the traditional move-in experience is unchanged for the College’s more than 500 new students. As they rolled up to their residence halls Wednesday and Thursday, they were greeted by the Orientation Board (OB), a cohort of outgoing students that leads Welcome Week activities, helps freshmen acclimate to campus life and is known for its speed at moving students into their dorm rooms.
Masks covered their smiles, but it was clear that everyone was glad to be together on campus. OB members laughed and danced as they hauled luggage, appliances, trunks, totes and even a goldfish or two into residence halls across the 180-acre campus.
This summer the College announced a comprehensive plan to reopen for in-person classes and welcome students back while protecting their health and safety in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan calls for face coverings in public areas of campus, social distancing when possible, limits on visitation and unessential travel and a raft of protocols and contingencies to mitigate the coronavirus’ impact. All students were required to complete a screening questionnaire from Quest Diagnostics and those identified to be at a higher risk of exposure were tested.
“The realities of COVID-19 make masking, social distancing, talking about good hygiene and a cadre of plans and protocols a new part of orientation, but the strength of the rich relationships that make up the Grove City College community are the same this year as they are every year,” Larry Hardesty, vice president for Student Life & Learning, said.
For freshmen – officially the Class of 2024 – these first days on campus are a whirlwind of activity, most of it aimed at getting students together to begin making connections and becoming part of the community that distinguishes Grove City College.
Those activities were adjusted to conform to the College’s guidelines. Large indoor gatherings like the traditional ceremony that brings students and their families together in the College Arena to be welcomed by College President Paul J. McNulty ’80 and other campus leaders are out this year. Smaller gatherings based around residence halls and connection groups, many held out-of-doors, are in.
“While we mourn that some of our traditional Welcome Week activities and events need to be cancelled or modified, we still have fantastic groups of students who are working hand-in-hand with the College administration to provide new students with intentional opportunities to be engaged with, and thrive, in their new community,” John Coyne ’04, associate dean of Student Life & Learning, said.
As well as fostering a sense of community, orientation at Grove City College aims to prepare students for four years at one of the nation’s most academically rigorous colleges. Students hear about strategies for success, begin to learn about finding their calling and meet with their academic departments.
They also receive a new laptop computer with a state of the art technology package, a practice the College began more than 25 years ago. The digital unity it creates across the entire campus was one reason that the transition to online classes went off without a hitch when the College closed and moved to remote instruction.
Over the weekend, upperclassmen will return to the College. Classes begin Monday.