ROCHESTER, Minn. - In just a couple weeks, the University of Minnesota Rochester will be heading back to campus for the start of its fall semester - which will look a little bit different than it has the past couple of years due to COVID-19.
Faculty and staff have been looking forward to the students return all summer.
"We've been working hard all summer to get those students registered and get excited...and I think there is just a sense of excitement to get back towards a little bit of normalcy as those students come back to campus," said Senior Student Success Coach Jenn Hooke.
The last two years - like all colleges and universities - UMR had to be flexible with the ongoing pandemic - moving to virtual or hybrid, while still trying to build those connections with teachers and other students and learn the best they could.
Hooke has been working at UMR for 14 years. She said the school has been able to take the challenges over the past couple of years and turn them into positive outcomes and opportunities for the students and staff.
This year, there's a lot of excitement to be back in person.
"The last two years on campus have definitely been a lot different than what you typically hear about college," Orientation and Welcome Week Leader Ashley Eikren. "But I'm really excited because this year we have a lot more opportunities on campus and all of our classes are in person and even the mask mandates are starting to go away. I'm super excited to welcome a new class of students."
This is Eikren's first year as a welcome week leader and has been able to meet with some new, incoming students already this summer! She said they are excited to be in person and be able to get involved in person this semester.
"So for the past couple of years, we've had masks in the classroom," said Associate Professor Andy Petzold. "And it makes it so there's a very weird dynamic where you don't really get to read students' emotions as much -- unless they're really expressive with their eyebrows which is something that happens with some students. So it's exciting to be able to actually see the students, get to know the students - in a way we haven't been able to either on line or in person with masks."
UMR's fall semester kicks off September 6th. Ahead of the start date, here is some advice for incoming students.
Jenn Hooke: "I would tell incoming students to not be afraid to try something new."
Ashley Eikren: "Get involved and manage your time. Learning how to manage my time was a big deal. And learning how to manage my social life, too."
Andy Petzold: "As a faculty member I strongly suggest getting to know your faculty, they are your ally in the classroom. They're there to help you learn things and they are also a very good resource for a variety of different types of ideas."