History in the Making...The year 2020 will long be remembered for “unprecedented”...well…everything; more questions than answers, the need for constant flexibility and ever-changing protocols, seemingly never-ending Zoom meetings, and physical distancing and face coverings. In the midst of it all, life at NNU continued, faculty, staff and students persevered, and—as we wrap up our 2020-21 academic year—we look back on our year-in-review with much to be thankful for:
Perhaps the most significant accomplishment of our year is that, just as we set out to do when making plans last summer, we were able to be together in the classroom and in community for the entire academic year.
We embraced a Community FIRST mantra, prioritizing respect for others, which allowed us to keep our COVID numbers at a manageable level. We willingly wore our face coverings, engaged in physical distancing and asymptomatic saliva testing, and participated in voluntary quarantine/isolation directives—all to help protect those in our campus community and ensure that we had the opportunity to stay together in person.
Not only were we together, but we created different ways to maintain and build the active student life opportunities that are such a central part of an NNU experience. We still had Week One (and so many other fun traditions like TWIRP and Black Tie)...just with face coverings, physical distancing and new activities. Students, faculty and staff engaged in chapel through a combination of large class chapels and smaller, more intimate discussion groups within their Wednesday courses and a frisbee golf course was installed that went through the center of campus and became very popular.
At NNU, helping our students achieve their calling is our purpose. When the pandemic changed our normal routines, we never lost focus of our mission or why we are here. Our faculty and staff went above and beyond, reenvisioning classes that could be offered both in-person and supplemented online, recreating activities that motivated achievement and allowed for physical distancing. They found new ways for students to gain the hands-on experience they need to launch their careers—by inviting them alongside faculty to conduct cutting-edge saliva testing on campus, participating in online professional forums or job fairs, providing opportunities for student nurses to administer COVID vaccines or creating PR social media campaigns for local businesses in need of support.
As one of the few universities able to safely offer a face-to-face education, with the flexibility of supporting those who needed to be online, even more students were able to experience an NNU education. In a time when many higher education institutions were struggling, we were blessed to see increases in enrollment in both fall and spring semesters.
Despite having to patiently wait for things to open up again, our sports teams found new levels of cohesiveness and teamwork in their cohorts, which translated to huge success on the court and field. Our men’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time as NCAA Div. II, our women’s soccer team had an undefeated season (11-0), our women’s softball team went to the GNAC championships and are looking toward an at-large bid for the region, our baseball team is ranked 6th in the nation and our track team is headed to GNAC championships this weekend.
One of our biggest highlights of the year was getting to celebrate NNU’s Class of 2021. Family, friends and community came together in the center of our campus to recognize the hard work, perseverance and accomplishment of our graduates as they prepare to take what they have learned into their careers and change the world for good.
As President Joel Pearsall sums it up, “This year has proven how strong and resilient the NNU community is, how quickly we can adapt and how effectively we can respond when we believe in the mission we are called to live out...This past year has challenged all of us to find new levels of perseverance, courage, compassion, community and self-sacrifice. We have worked hard, prayed hard and loved much. Together, we’ve exceeded expectations and stood against adversity.”
As we continue to move forward and look toward the 2021-22 academic year, may each of us take with us all we have learned this year and celebrate all we have accomplished together.