Creating a Safe, New Normal on Campus
On August 26, 2021, after 18 months of distance-learning at Fresno Pacific University, the university eagerly welcomed its community with the Fall Convocation which took place at 10 a.m. at the Special Events Center on campus. The event, which is held at the beginning of every semester, featured students, faculty, and staff and was meant to bring everyone together to worship and celebrate the new school year. However, this year the convocation was a little more special, emotional, and exciting than past years. It was the first time in months that the campus was filled due to COVID-19. The ceremony commenced with faculty entering in their academic regalia and forming a runway to welcome new students who are on campus for the first time in their academic journeys. President, Dr. Joseph Jones, then led the room in prayer and student body Vice President, Danya Gonzalez, followed with readings from scripture. Provost/ Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. D. Gayle Copeland then took the time to recognize new faculty/ staff members who have been hired in the last two years and give them a proper FPU welcome. New faculty member, Dr. Seung Min Hung, who just started teaching at Fresno Pacific University this semester as the Assistant Professor of Media and Film Studies, was a part of this event and felt the ceremony was a nice transition into an in-person school semester. Admittedly, he confessed it felt odd because it’s been months since he last attended a public gathering but felt the friendly FPU community made this change easier.
“It was strange because it’s been so long since we’ve done anything like this and I felt a bit overwhelmed, but the community here made me feel extremely welcomed,” Seung Min Hung said.
The keynote speaker for this year’s convocation was Assistant Professor and Program Director of Biblical and Theological Studies, Dr. Melanie Howard. She described the odd sensation of getting used to socializing with others in person again after three semesters of online learning.
“I forgot a lot of things during the pandemic,” Howard said, “how to greet someone, is a handshake ok, or should I ask permission before offering a fist bump?”
As FPU moves towards a “new normal”, Dr. Howard continued with a more optimistic note and emphasized the importance of rituals like the convocation. It marks, not only the beginning of the year, but a great moment in history here at FPU as we emerge from a pandemic. Howard used the analogy of the Isrealites who returned home after the Persian Empire saved them from exile to describe how the campus is currently.
“The returning exiles were both looking forward to something that felt more “normal” while simultaneously recognizing that things would never fully go back to the way that they once were,” said Dr. Melanie Howard
Howard stressed the importance of being grounded in the word of God, following rituals, and celebrations. After persevering through hard times as a community, we should celebrate and prepare ourselves to recreate a familiar place and strive to not restore the old normal, but to create a “new normal.”
By: Valerie Claustro | Staff Writer