Voices of UCCS: Thoughts on Spring 2021

Kaylan Hardin  

khardin@uccs.edu 

Three weeks into the Spring semester, UCCS students have their own thoughts and feelings about what this semester will look like, given the split spring break and potential vaccine distribution. Three seniors opened up on their experience thus far. 

Kayla Mulkin, senior business and film communications major.

Kayla Mulkin, senior business and film communications major 

What do you think of the split spring break? 

     “Even though our experience of spring break will differ from that of previous semesters, I am still looking forward to the individual breaks as they come. It will feel unusual at first, however, splitting our spring break into two parts provides students with a safer alternative to having time off from school. Besides, two spring breaks means twice the opportunity to try something new!” 

What has been getting you through this learning transition that you would recommend to others? 

     “This may sound cheesy to some, taking a moment out of each day to check in with yourself is a great way to help manage stress, especially as we continue to work our way through this new format of learning. Take breaks, eat nutritious food, stay hydrated, take a walk and get a little fresh air to help reset before you dive back into the next class or start on a new assignment.  

     “Personally, yoga has played a major role in my life throughout the pandemic. Yoga provides me with a means of taking time to check in with my physical and emotional well-being. Having a daily yoga practice, whether it be for 20 minutes or a full hour, allows me to create space and ground myself before I dive back into my studies.” 

Can you share what your experience has been like in this virtual learning period, such as any hopeful moments or any struggles? 

     “My experience throughout this virtual learning period has had ups and downs. At first, I was incredibly frustrated that we would be starting the semester online, especially with how much my degree depends on hands-on learning in order to build experience. Regardless, I knew it was for the best and I am determined to get the most out this semester. After all, our experience is what we make of it! It’s all about perspective!” 

Do you think changes will happen around remote learning as the vaccine goes out? 

     “Certainly! Even though it feels like our understanding of [COVID-19] changes on a daily basis, I am sure that we will return to our normal way of life before we know it. For now, remote learning is a factor of our current reality and it gives us an opportunity to learn something new. It gives us the chance to problem solve and innovate like we never have before. Recognizing online learning as an opportunity rather than a burden provides us with a chance to reflect and recognize our devotion to our education. Trust in the process, we will revel in the presence of our peers and loved ones face-to-face once again.” 

Is there a professor you’d like to recognize who has shown support to you at this time? 

     “Where do I begin! Honestly, I admire and value each and every one of my professors beyond words. That being said, Dr. Stiles and Professor Dave Nelson have provided me with tremendous support throughout this difficult time. I appreciate their dedication to their students and their ability to adapt to this new way of learning.  

     “I have also had the honor and privilege to work alongside Kimberly Reeves and Jon Bogh as the [Student Government Association] Senator of Sustainability for the 2020-2021 school year. They have been incredibly supportive of my aspirations and have had such a positive influence on me and all of those around them.” 

Rebecca Knaff, senior film studies major.

Rebecca Knaff, senior film studies major 

What do you think of the split spring break? 

     “I think having a split spring break is an interesting idea to try and stop the spread of COVID-19, however, I think it will cause more confusion than good. I know my professors are already worried about the upcoming two breaks and how they will manage. And I don’t think it will prevent the spread of COVID-19; friends will work around the two breaks and will party with each other, people will find a way. People who travel and go out in the world unsafe will continue to act unsafe, and many people are burnt out.” 

What has been getting you through this learning transition that you would recommend to others? 

     “What has been helping me get through this transition? THERAPY! I could not recommend seeing a therapist more now than ever. The Wellness Center is a beautiful resource all students should take advantage of before you graduate and you may not be able to pay for therapy. That and try to separate your spaces; have a separate space in your apt/dorm/house/room/etc. for entertainment, for sleep, and for school work, and do not cross those spaces, it will help train your mind into becoming more focused in your work space, because it only associates that space with work, rather than sleep/entertainment.” 

Can you share what your experience has been like in this virtual learning period, such as any hopeful moments or any struggles? 

     “This is supposed to be my last semester here at UCCS, I am set to graduate May 2021, and I really hope I will succeed in graduating. Last semester I struggled immensely with my mental health, so much so I attempted suicide in September and later had to apply for a petition for tuition because I was so behind in all of my course work. I wish I was smarter and had taken a break that semester, but I didn’t.  

     “I am working with my therapist regularly and we are figuring out ways to hold me accountable for my work and not fall behind like last time. I think I will continue to struggle a great deal, but I think I will manage to graduate. I have to.” 

Do you think changes will happen around remote learning as the vaccine goes out? 

     “The biggest change I think will happen, is people’s compassion for those suffering from mental illness. Neurotypical people have finally gotten the tiniest bit of a taste of what it feels like being chronically mentally ill. I have been suffering from depression since early childhood, I was feeling the same amount of isolation before the pandemic, I didn’t go out, and I didn’t have many friends to begin with, all the pandemic did was push me to the edge. I think big changes in mental health stigma, practice, and education will come, and it’s about damn time.” 

Is there a professor you’d like to recognize who has shown support to you at this time? 

     “I would like to thank my therapist, Lateka Salley, first and foremost, she has given me the support I needed when I didn’t know how to reach out to my professors for help, and second, I would like to thank Christy Lofton for being so patient, kind, and considerate of my mental health; all of my professors have shown my immense kindness through this pandemic, and I would not be here without them.” 

Brianna Leyva, senior women’s and ethnic studies (WEST) major.

Brianna Leyva, senior women’s and ethnic studies (WEST) major  

What do you think of the split spring break? 

     “I think that I understand why the school would want to split the breaks but I also think that people are doing whatever. We have been seeing just the ignorance of the situation that we are handling and also seeing how some people are choosing to handle this global pandemic. The split breaks have good intentions to keep everyone in the campus community safe but it did not take into account many things.  

     “One of the biggest things I would say was not taken into account is how students who are also parents will be impacted by this split break. If they have children who are in school and have different breaks and then it throws a balance that parents have created out the window and also makes it hard if the parent is unable to finish what they have to do as a student while also being a good parent.” 

What has been getting you through this learning transition that you would recommend to others? 

     “Taking deep breaths. I know that has been said a lot but it has really helped me to just calm down and take a moment to be back in the moment. Professors are here to educate and they should be willing to help us students navigate this new experience of what education suddenly looks like. I would recommend to send emails out to professors or to create learning communities with those in your class because there is always the bigger chance that while you are confused something else is also confused. Working together will truly teach us something about the power of community and also help not feel so alone when things are just so unpredictable.” 

Can you share what your experience has been like in this virtual learning period, such as any hopeful moments or any struggles? 

     “I am truly the worst with focusing on things for a long period of time. My mind is constantly racing so I am struggling with looking at my computer for hours and retaining any information. What has helped me is professors who will take the time to just check in at the start of class. Just let everyone decompress and talk about what has been hard or even good.” 

Do you think changes will happen around remote learning as the vaccine goes out? 

     “I am not sure. I think that some changes will be slowly allowing students and staff back into these learning spaces. But it is still understandable if some students or staff are choosing to still do a virtual learning space. What this pandemic has taught many of us is how unpredictable things can be. So I think that the university is taking that into account as they allowing everyone back on campus post vaccine.” 

Is there a professor you’d like to recognize who has shown support to you at this time? 

     “I would have to give recognition to the WEST department. They have been so flexible and helpful during this time. While always keeping the WEST values in practice, the department has been so amazing at letting me and those who take WEST courses that we students are seen and that our futures will always be the thing that drives them to teach change.  

     “I would give a shoutout to the WEST professors that I have had during this changing time that have shown nothing but love for their passion and patience as we are navigating a new reality. Those professors are Dr. Tre Wentling, Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding, Dr. Stephen Cho Suh, and Dr. Julie Torres.”