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July 15, 2020

New normal

July 15, 2020

Six months ago, nothing I’m doing today would have been “normal.” Six months ago, I woke up, got ready for work, drove to campus and worked a full day in my Olds Hall office with my coworkers. Some days, I went out to dinner with my husband, or stopped at the grocery store and took my dog for an evening walk. Sometimes, I went to a movie or a bar for a drink. Occasionally, I even took a vacation out of town. That was normal. This is now.

Now, I make the commute from my bedroom to the spare room upstairs I’ve converted into what I thought would be a very temporary office. I only see my coworkers on Zoom or Teams and I haven’t been to a restaurant or bar since there was snow on the ground. My trips to the store require a mask, a list and a plan to get in and out quickly. Even walking my dog has changed since I grab a mask from the many I keep in the drawer with her leash. This is now. And this is the new normal.

What will tomorrow’s normal be? At this point, all we can do is guess based on what we know from science, medicine and behavior. Those guesses turn into plans and those plans have to be ready to shift and flex with every day. Our new normal is filled with uncertainty. But it’s also filled with incredible resiliency and creativity.

I spent a good part of last week putting together a campus website to keep students, parents, faculty, staff, visitors and others up to date on plans and preparation for the upcoming school year. While there have been incredibly dedicated Spartans who have remained on campus doing essential work and important research, it will take a tremendous effort to adapt the fall semester to fit this new normal we’re living in.

What I discovered while working on the project is that an astonishing amount of work has been done to figure out how to be successful at keeping our community safe and continuing teaching, learning, working and researching. It is simply remarkable what Spartans have been able to do to adapt. If you want to see what I’m talking about, check out the website Together We Will, and you’ll get a pretty good idea.

While I can’t imagine how disappointing it must be to be a college student at a time when everything we thought we knew about college has changed, I’m astounded by the resiliency of young Spartans.

Austin Winslow is a senior double majoring in journalism and criminal justice. He recently penned a note about the upcoming school year and I’m duly impressed with his positive outlook during a challenging situation. He fully embraces being part of a community that cares for one another and says, “I will never be a college senior again and, while this isn’t how I expected my final year to go, I’m going to make the best of the situation.” Check out his STUDENT VIEW: Going the ‘distance’ senior year, to learn more about this thoughtful young man and his hopes for the year. 

Elena Shklyar is a junior in the School of Journalism and a member of MSU's volleyball team. MSU recently started bringing athletes back to campus, using strict health and safety protocols. The normal ways of practicing and training have changed, but it’s clear that the Spartan spirit still lives in the hearts of our athletes. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Returning to campus, to learn more about her experience.

It’s easy for those of us who already graduated from college to think of the things that students might miss out on during this new normal. But they are stronger than we give them credit for. Last week, a letter that a parent of an incoming freshman wrote was shared with me. As she noted, “My incoming freshman is teaching me so much about perspective and resiliency...He shared he has friends whose parents are quite negative talking about all the things that are NOT happening…he is talking about all the things THAT WILL." 

We reported this week on a recent MSU study that shows humans are optimists for most of life. William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology and lead author, said one of the most profound conclusions in the study was showing how resilient people are in life. I think we’re definitely seeing that through the behavior of our students.

We should all learn from them. We can sit back and lament what we’re missing, what new things we have to do or what’s not going to happen. Or we can raise our Spartan shields and face tomorrow together, whatever it may bring, with positivity, ingenuity, determination and a whole lot of Spartans Will.

 

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone