Today is the day graduating seniors officially receive their degrees, and scoreboards across campus came to life with congratulations for the Class of 2020.
From Willett Hall, where the men’s and women’s basketball teams play their home games, to the home fields of lacrosse, field hockey, baseball and softball, the score was 2020.
Also in recognition of this year’s seniors, President W. Taylor Reveley IV sent out a special video message to the graduates this morning.
Faculty and staff added their heartfelt well wishes in a video sent out this afternoon.
Today is definitely a proud day for the entire Longwood family, and, parents, you’re a big part of that family. We look forward to seeing you on campus for the undergraduate Commencement ceremony scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 10.
Finally, we are honored that you have entrusted us with the task of helping prepare your sons and daughters to make the world a better place. We’re confident they will be successful.
One of my favorite things each year is working on a story about our current graduating class.
I’m currently in the process of gathering that information about students graduating in 2020. You may have already read about a few of our outstanding graduates on Longwood’s social media, but the ones I’m sharing with you today are an additional group.
As always, what I am hearing about these amazing students makes me very proud to be a part of the Longwood family.
Hats off not only to the Class of 2020 but also to their parents. You raised these young men and women right, and that’s no small accomplishment.
This year’s seniors have faced the challenges of a final semester unlike any in recent memory and have come out stronger on the other side. They’ve responded with creativity, hard work and a positive outlook.
Members of the Class of 2020 officially receive their degrees on Saturday, May 16. In light of current circumstances, the undergraduate Commencement ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 10, with graduate ceremony the previous day.
As these graduates move to the next chapter of their lives, they’re exploring options and making plans, going off to graduate school or starting careers—all the while giving credit to those who helped them get to this point and cherishing the memories and the friends they have made here.
I found the reflections they shared with me uplifting and heart-warming—and I’m guessing we could all use a little more of that these days.
Here are just a few examples of what our 2020 grads doing after graduation:
Entering Ph.D. programs in chemistry at Clemson and North Carolina State
Studying for the CPA exam and working at Ernst & Young
Working as the communications and marketing manager for the Virginia Manufacturers Association
Looking into opportunities in cyber security, specifically the fields of ethical hacking and penetration testing
Starting a dual master’s program in international business and business analytics at the Hult International Business School Dubai campus
Teaching art at Dinwiddie Middle School
And here’s a little of what they had to say about their experiences at Longwood:
Derek Holmberg, physics major What’s Next: Ph.D. program in physics at William & Mary
“While all my professors have been amazing and helpful, Dr. Pestka has been my greatest mentor. I’ve learned so much about performing experiments, collecting data, analyzing data and doing error analysis through our work.”
Kelsey Ostrowski, nursing major What’s Next: R.N. at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital on the Intermediate Vascular Care Unit, where her patients will include those undergoing kidney and pancreas transplants
“At Longwood, we focus on making our communities, nation and world a better place. That is a goal of mine: One action at a time. One day at a time.”
Karyn Keane, English major What’s Next: Master’s degree program in composition and rhetoric at Miami University in Ohio
“I’m a firm believer that the small class sizes at Longwood played a critical role in my success. I was able to form close relationships with professors who would become my mentors, and I received frequent, individualized feedback on my work.”
Zachary Rector, business administration major What’s Next: Area manager, Amazon
“The Alternative Break club opened my eyes and gave me a global sense of humanity. Serving in the Student Government Association made me realize that advocating for other’s needs is necessary.”
Trevor Heath, communication studies major What’s Next: Putting his aviation and marketing skills to work at Dominion Aviation Services in Richmond
“The amazing opportunities I had at Longwood made me realize that I couldn’t just fly for a living. I came up with the idea of moving into a career path of airport management, some professional flying and building a platform for youth to use in aiding their start in the aviation world.”
Megan Bland, biology major What’s Next: Doctor of Pharmacy program at VCU “I have had some of the most insightful and brilliant professors who really care about me and my success. There is such a great community here.It has always felt like home!”
Provost stresses commitment to in-person fall classes
In a Q&A published yesterday, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Larissa Smith makes it clear just how committed Longwood is to safely holding classes in person this fall:
Question: Longwood has said it’s committed to returning to in-person learning in the fall. Does that mean in classrooms on campus?
Answer: Yes, it does.
Dr. Smith goes on to say that Longwood’s smaller class sizes and room to spread out provide some advantages in safely holding classes in person come fall.
“…We both generally enjoy smaller class sizes, and we have space on campus to spread out. Longwood has always had very few large lecture courses,” she said. “Meanwhile, we have an additional 42,000 square feet of academic space coming online in the fall with a new building, giving us additional classroom space and flexibility.”
Acknowledging that Covid-19 will likely still be around this fall, she added that the university is also considering course-delivery options that could accommodate at-risk faculty and students.
And what if classes have to go fully online again?
“We plan to operate safely in the fall under the assumption that Covid-19 hasn’t been eradicated. We know that a fully online semester is not why undergraduate students choose Longwood,” Smith said. “We take extraordinary pride in the residential experience we offer students, so moving to a fully online semester would be a last resort. However, we do expect that we will rely more on our classroom technology and learning software to promote safe practices and flexibility.”
statistics class teaches students real-world lessons
As the Covid-19 pandemic was hitting the U.S. in March, Dr. Leigh Lunsford saw a unique opportunity for her MATH 301 Applied Statistics class to test their skills in a real-world situation.
The use of statistical methods is a key element in epidemiology. With numbers related to the spreading virus—and the response to it—readily available, Lunsford, professor of mathematics at Longwood, decided to assign her students a project based on the pandemic.
The goal of the project was to determine if Virginia was flattening its logistic curve of Covid-19 cases—in other words, was there a daily decrease in the growth rate of the total number of cases.
The class used data from the New York Times, which was tracking Covid-19 cases by state, covering the time period March 11 through April 6.
“It was cool to be able to use data from a real-world event for this report,” said one student in the class. “It made me more informed about the situation happening in our state right now. I also found it interesting to learn how statistics are playing such a major role in this pandemic and being used to make big decisions.”
Longwood is buzzing with activity as we make plans for the upcoming academic year, as we make financial aid more flexible, and as our creative students go ‘virtual’ with events and traditions and prepare for final exams.
Commitment to Fall Reopening makes news
President Reveley this week restated his commitment to bringing students back to campus this fall in a Richmond Times-Dispatch piece co-authored with the president of Hampden-Sydney College, our neighbor to the south. Reveley and HSC President Larry Stimpert joined forces to describe how and why they are working toward reopening their campuses. They say both schools will be able to accommodate needed changes more easily because of their smaller size.
“Can we open campuses safely this fall? With careful planning and attention to public health, yes,” they wrote.
“Official public health guidance and society’s collective efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19 will determine the timeline for reopening. But because Virginia has been a leader in this work, barring extraordinary developments, we believe it is appropriate that we plan to reopen in the fall—with meaningful precautions and measured, creative approaches to resuming residential campus life.”
Also this week, Director of Financial Aid Sarah Doheny reached out to let current and prospective students and their families know that Longwood understands they may be facing financial challenges and we want to help.
One concrete expression of that commitment to help is the university’s decision to waive the 30-credit-hour requirement for merit scholarships. That means merit scholarship recipients can keep their scholarships for the 2020-21 year even if they didn’t successfully complete 30 credit hours this year.
If you have any questions at all—or just want to talk about financial aid options—please reach out to the Office of Financial Aid by phone or email. You’ll find a friendly, compassionate and knowledgeable person ready to help. You can contact the office at 434-395-2077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Traditions and Events Go Virtual
Finally, our students are putting their creativity and skills to work this semester to reconfigure some of Longwood’s most popular events and traditions for the virtual realm.
Last night’s CHI burningis one example. CHI, founded in 1900, is the oldest service organization at Longwood and a revered and treasured part of Longwood culture. Its purpose is to promote and maintain a spirit of cooperation among students during every phase of college life.
Another great example is the Relay For Life fundraiser held last week.
Anyone responsible for converting an in-person event to a virtual format—a skill in high demand these days—could take a lesson from the Longwood students in charge of this year’s Relay For Life.
The event is one of the biggest each year for Longwood and the Farmville community. In its normal format, it spans 12 hours and draws hundreds of participants in an effort to raise money for the American Cancer Society and to recognize loved ones who have survived cancer—or fought the good fight and lost. In one of the main activities, participants walk around the indoor track at Longwood’s Fitness Center, earning donations for each mile.
Covid-19 precautions made all that that impossible this year, so the 11 students on the Relay For Life committee put their heads together to come up with an alternative experience.
The goals remained the same as in the past, but this year everything had to move into the virtual realm, said event chair Savannah Wright ’20, a business/marketing major. It wasn’t easy—but the committee dug in and made it work.
The committee didn’t do anything slick or polished—just authentic, heartfelt and genuinely touching. That was enough. In a time of uncertainty, they raised nearly $69,000, marshaling the support of 613 participants, 1,800 donors and seven sponsors*.
Here’s how they went virtual:
—They created a livestream video each day of the three-day event that included about 45 minutes of “programming,” including survivor stories, memorials to lost loved ones, a trivia contest, a scavenger hunt, individual “Why I Relay” testimonials and TikTok team videos.
—One particularly moving segment on Day 2was about Caitlyn Martens-Baginski ’21, a Longwood transfer student and therapeutic recreation major, whose beloved father died from multiple myeloma. That wasn’t Caitlyn’s first experience with cancer, viewers learned. Years earlier, when she was just 6 years old, doctors discovered she had a life-threatening brain tumor. Treatment was successful—even miraculous, Caitlyn says—and she’s now been cancer-free for 12 years. —They kept the walk aspect of the event, encouraging participants to sign up donor pledges as usual, but the walking took place away from campus, wherever participants were riding out the stay-at-home order. Wright said this had the added benefit of incentivizing people to get outside and exercise.
Relay For Life is personal for Wright, who got involved because of her family’s history with cancer. “My grandpa passed away in 2009 from cancer, and my grandma passed away in 2015 from lung cancer. This is such an awful disease, and it makes me hurt for anyone who has to go through it. I joined this organization because I want to create a world with more birthdays and where cancer is a thing of the past.”
*Relay For Life sponsors this year were Navona Hart at RealLiving Cornerstone, one19, Brenco Solutions, Walk2Campus, Southside Electric Co-op, Benchmark Community Bank and Waldy’s Ice Cream.