APU students and faculty come together to talk about how humor and honesty has gotten them through chaos and uncertainty 

Evacuations and quick transitions to online classes have caused chaos in the lives of both students and faculty members. Life has been full of disruptions, and the wildfire season, the ongoing global pandemic and the protests have been no exception.

Azusa Pacific University’s decision to go virtual for the fall semester resulted in many unintended consequences. While students and faculty have been able to stay safe in their homes, the absence of a classroom environment has made it harder for both parties to stay focused and motivated.

My friend brought me [Raising] Cane’s for dinner in the middle of me giving a presentation,” said Molly Garvin, a senior nursing major. The disruption prompted her to blush before she was able to get back on track.

The distractions that are presented on a daily basis make virtual learning difficult for some students. Accessibility to shopping websites during class, background noise from family members or even the obligation to take care of a dog are not normal parts of the college experience. 

Truth is, everything has changed in the span of a few short months. Just ask Rebecca Baumann, an adjunct professor in Azusa Pacific’s Department of Communication Studies, who was recently forced to evacuate her home as a result of a wildfire that got dangerously close to her home in Southern California. 

“My parents have been kind enough to let me stay with them… but they’re in their seventies and they don’t understand [virtual learning].  My dad actually walked up in his bathrobe [while I was teaching on Zoom] and we had to have a chat about how the meetings go,” said Baumann. 

Natalie Mata, a senior public relations major, elegantly responded to the news that her senior year would begin virtually with, “This sucks.” 

For many students, senioritis began to settle in prior to the commencement of the school year. However, APU’s faculty members have also been affected by low levels of motivation. 

“Like most people, I had a paralysis week where I knew that I needed to get moving now,” Baumann said. “I think I was just frozen for a week, [with looming thoughts like] I don’t know what to do, spinning in circles.” 

Garvin realized that not being on campus has negatively impacted her motivation. She is no longer able to wave at fellow students while strolling down Cougar Walk, which is an integral part of the community at APU. 

“The amazing community of students and staff was one of the reasons I chose APU in the first place and being without that for my senior year is definitely hard in many ways,” said Garvin. 

On the upside, a consistent class schedule can prove to be a helpful distraction from the real world. 

“If your world is falling apart, at the very least, your class isn’t,” said Baumann. “All I can say is that things will change … I mean we talk about mental health and self-care all the time. What about your self scholarly care?” 

Scholarly self-care includes getting good sleep, finding a routine, setting aside time to relax as well as work on homework. In other words, it is sticking to practices that help scholars establish a good life and school balance that they may not be getting enough. 

The lines between class time and homework time have been blurred,” said Mata. “Everything mushes together into a confusing mess. It’s hard to even explain how classes are going because I don’t feel like I’m in class.”

By practicing scholarly self-care, scholars can help clear their minds and increase their own motivation levels. To Baumann, motivation is all about small, tangible goals. Simply sitting down in front of a blank page or your homework for thirty minutes will do the job, she said.  

“Another challenge is essentially teaching myself the nursing content of this semester since it is a major that functions best in an in-person didactic setting,” admitted Garvin, who has found complex virtual biology lessons to be difficult. 

Garvin said her weekday routine, which includes a delicate balance between work and her Netflix membership, has helped her to stay sane. 

Mata on the other hand has struggled with finding her silver lining. However, she remains academically vigilant.

“It’s exhausting,” Mata states. “Time management has always been a struggle, but it’s even more challenging to get a hold of now … [However,] Making to-do lists always helps. Getting one thing done at a time, and crossing them off the list. I don’t have much of a routine yet, but I think establishing one will be super helpful.”

While students and faculty alike mourn what could have been and are slowly coming to terms with this new reality, one thing remains true — it’s out of a love for APU that each of these interviewees speaks. The community will eventually reunite, and students can’t help but hold onto that hope, even if current circumstances look dire.