In 2005, I sent an email to Dr. Jane Kolunie asking if there were any teaching opportunities in the Department of Science and Mathematics at Barton College. Having recently completed a post-doctoral fellowship, I was interested in teaching for a year before heading back to the pharmaceutical industry. My goal was to decompress after several years of intensive research, take care of my ailing parents, and spend more time with my family. I had no way of knowing then that the students, faculty, and staff at Barton would become my family. I would have been incredulous if someone had told me then that, 15 years later, I would still be at Barton. Now, I cannot imagine being anywhere else.
There is something special about this place that is hard to define but easy to recognize. I see that special something whenever a student, who was once uncomfortable asking questions in class, confidently presents their research at a symposium. Or, when a student, who was struggling, excels on a paper or an exam. It is in the way people light up when they find out you work at Barton, because either they or their parents are alumni of Atlantic Christian or Barton College. It’s in the way faculty and staff care for each other, stepping in to cover classes when you need to be away to take care of a loved one. It’s when a former student lands in medical school or graduate school or in their dream job. It’s also in the behind-the-scenes work, trying to create the perfect schedule for our incoming students and endless meetings on how best to promote a safe and appropriate learning environment when our students return this fall.
This spring was filled with unique challenges including the postponement of Commencement, which is easily my favorite event of the year. Commencement is more than the simple clichéd celebration of graduation. Commencement is when faculty and staff take a step back to honor our students, to relish in their growth, to provide a last bit of encouragement, and to say Thank You for spending time with us on your journey.
Without Commencement, it was difficult to put some closure on the semester. Undaunted, many faculty and students decided to get together virtually to celebrate graduation and the end of the semester. The Science and Pre-Health Clubs got together with the science and math faculty via Google Meet for an end-of-year celebration. Meeting virtually really highlighted how difficult it has been not being with one another each day. The Social Work faculty hosted a Celebration for Graduates on Zoom, and the School of Nursing had a Virtual Pinning Ceremony. Seeing everyone dressed in their robes and mortarboards was particularly moving (and there may have been a tear or three). It was particularly emotional knowing the career paths so many of our students choose, particularly given the current health care crisis and issues with social injustice. Barton College is a community of Helpers who believe that service to one another is of the highest calling, and I am proud and humbled to work with our students. While COVID-19 made the past semester difficult, I am thankful for how the challenges have highlighted what’s important and that we’re #StillBarton.