In previous years, August has been a time for first-year college students to prepare for an often highly anticipated matriculation into a college or university. This year, out of an abundance of caution, many institutions, including the University of Redlands, have opted for a remote fall semester. But U of R students, their families, and professors are still making the most of the experience.
“When I found out that the fall semester was going to be online, I had mixed emotions, but I knew it was the healthiest option for everyone,” says Alec Richie-Kendrick ’24, a first-year student from St. Louis, Missouri.
In order to celebrate the start of the school year, Richie-Kendrick’s parents, Larry Richie and Jerry Kendrick, threw a “going away party” in which they recreated the Redlands main campus in their front yard. Complete with signs that displayed the Och Tamale chant and space to play giant Jenga and ladder golf, they created a “virtual campus” in St. Louis.
Kendrick and Richie wanted to celebrate their son’s accomplishments in a time where many important life events had been canceled due to the pandemic. “Graduating from high school and transitioning to college is supposed to be full on celebrations. Because of COVID, Alec didn’t get to attend his senior prom or walk across the stage at graduation. For him, going to Redlands in the fall was the light at the end of the tunnel. When we found out that his fall semester would be virtual, we wanted to acknowledge and celebrate his hard work,” they say.
“I knew there was going to be a going-away party, but I didn’t know it would be so involved,” Richie-Kendrick says with a laugh. He appreciated the gesture and the fact that his parents wanted to mark the occasion despite the unusual circumstances.
Richie-Kendrick, who plans to study biology and media and visual culture studies (MVC), says the switch to online learning for his first college semester didn’t require much adaptation because his high school also held virtual classes in the final months of his senior year. Although he is disappointed he isn’t able to have an in-person college experience just yet, he is excited to see what this next chapter brings.
After growing in St. Louis, Richie-Kendrick applied to eight out-of-state institutions because he wanted to experience something different. “I chose Redlands because it actually ended up being the most affordable out of my options,” he says.
Now that classes are in session, he looks forward to exploring different subjects in the virtual classroom, even though he’s already planning on going to medical school. He’s currently enrolled in chemistry and MVC courses, in addition to his first-year seminar which is titled Inequality and its Disconnects—which he says has been a highlight.
Earlier in the summer, Richie-Kendrick had identified the course as one of his top three choices for his first-year seminar, which provides students with their first experiences in a liberal arts setting and encourages them to see life from different perspectives. Within the first week, Richie-Kendrick says, the class had a discussion about microaggressions.
“It’s a great class to take because it’s important to have these kinds of conversations even if it can be uncomfortable for some people,” he says. “I’ve always been involved in activism, especially in high school, so these topics are familiar to me.”
As he continues to look forward to moving to Redlands for in-person instruction in the future, Richie-Kendrick notes online learning has highlighted the responsiveness of the professors.
“Professors are aware that, in going from high school to college, that’s a whole new setting, even though the change is not physical,” he says. “They’ve been really open and responsive to what students are experiencing and what they need, which makes learning more of a collaborative effort.”