Stony Brook is transitioning back to an environment centered around in-person learning and face-to-face social events during Fall 2021, providing long-awaited relief to many students on campus.
In the spring of 2021, life was much different at Stony Brook University. Faculty and staff were teaching remote classes, students were found few and far between and campus life suffered. Everyday activities, like self-serving stations at the dining hall, and annual campus traditions such as Homecoming and Roth Regatta were modified to include virtual events in effort stop the spread of COVID-19. Roth Regatta, traditionally a cardboard boat race, expanded to virtual Jeopardy, Family Feud and paint night.
This fall, Stony Brook will see the return of Wolfieland, an in-person homecoming, and the inauguration of Stony Brook’s sixth president, Maurie McInnis. Sports events will also reopen to students and spectators.
Aside from the absence of campus life, the virtual environment proved challenging to many students throughout the pandemic.
Transitioning from in-person instruction, with hands-on learning and engagement with peers, classes were stripped to lectures through an isolated computer screen. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 93% of school-aged children were enrolled in a form of “distance learning” by Aug. 23, 2020.
“I definitely learn better in-person,” Maciej Adamczyk, a freshman biochemistry major said. “When you’re on a computer, there’s just a temptation to not listen or focus. I’m much more hands-on, I learned better actually being in a lab doing stuff, because labs last year were all over Zoom and just to watch someone do the same procedure every single time was incredibly frustrating.”
Adamczyk is not alone in favoring classroom engagement and hands-on learning over virtual classes.
“I like to learn by doing things,” Jillian Liguori, an undeclared freshman said. “If I just hear it, I will not remember it at all. If I read it, it’s in one ear and out the other. I like to be able to actually do the thing I’m learning.”
More than 80% of classes are in-person for this fall semester. The only courses remaining online are those that were designed for online or larger classes that can no longer be offered in person due to renovations of the Jacob K. Javits Center lecture hall.
For many students, the pandemic’s devastating effects on mental health and social interaction were more than enough to spur excitement about returning to in-person classes.
“I think my mental health has only gotten better,” Adamczyk said. “I think just being able to go out and actually talk face-to-face with people is much better than when it was just me, alone in my apartment.”
With the revival of social life, interpersonal communication skills have been put to the test as well.
“When I have a mask on, sometimes I’ll make faces that I’m not supposed to or mouth things, and now I take off my mask and realize I’m still making those same faces,” Liguori said, adding that in terms of her social relationships she’s “so used to texting people, now when I want to see them I’m like oh, I can actually see and talk to you now.”
Mark Koch, a senior biomedical engineering major, is looking forward to the return of the Martial Arts Association. Koch, the club’s president, is searching for coaches to teach members in-person again.
However, there are some hesitations with returning to the traditional campus lifestyle.
Koch shared that while he does not feel particularly concerned for his own safety returning to campus and classes, he does have concerns about having to once again face remote learning.
“I’m nervous that the Delta variant would force us to go back to how it was,” Koch said.
Even with concerns, students still share an appreciation for the in-person education they may have taken for granted before. Increased respect for teachers and staff, greater value of clubs and social events and the familiar comfort of hands-on experiences are drawing students back to the lively campus atmosphere Stony Brook used to know. The participation of both new and returning students at events has begun the restoration of campus life, solidifying a much needed reconnected Seawolf community.
“I think in-person education is something that we took for granted, and it’s only after it got taken away from us that we really saw how important it was,” Adamczyk said.