OWU seniors make the best of traditions lost

Transcript staff

For Ohio Wesleyan’s Class of 2020, closure may be the most difficult of all achievements.

Lost for seniors was the last Day on the Jay, planned send offs from teammates, the final late-night snack with friends at Smith Dining Hall, memorable goodbyes from sorority and fraternity sisters and brothers, a final round of toasts at The Backstretch and just hanging out with close pals one last time.

These and other significant final traditions simply evaporated on March 13 when Ohio Wesleyan closed the campus for the rest of the semester to combat the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.

The most important lost tradition of all? No May 9 commencement with family and friends to celebrate completion of all the years of hard work, culminating in a well-deserved college degree.

Below some members of the senior class reflect on their final days on campus and plans to celebrate that big day, or not, at home.

Senior Mahnoor Ansari, from Lahore, Pakistan who is still in Ohio, said she has no special ideas for marking graduation, at least for now. But she will earn a double major in pre-law and psychology.

“I don’t have any plans for celebrating,” she said. “I am sad that I’m not getting closure.”

Ansari said she misses the Treehouse, the environmentally-themed Small Living Unit, and its annual paint party, a tradition of glow paint and black lights, and the OWU women’s rowing team.

For Annabella Miller, from Wellington, Ohio, commencement day has lost its celebratory aura. She will graduate early after two years with a degree in pre-theology and minors in women’s and gender studies and psychology.

“Right now, I don’t have plans to celebrate my graduation,” Miller said. “May 9 will probably be like any other day for me and I will most likely work all day.”

To counter disappointment, at least a little, OWU is celebrating the Class of 2020 – for now – with a video and has urged all seniors to send in their photos for it.  A real ceremony will be scheduled for later, when it is safe.

“I think the best decision OWU made is making sure that us seniors still get an actual graduation ceremony. I’ve been looking forward to that day for four years and can’t wait to walk across that stage.” – Erica VanHoose ’20

“The video will be shown first on May 9, but please know this in no way is a substitute for your commencement ceremony,” the Office of President and University Communications wrote. “We are committed to not only an on-campus commencement, but also to a full weekend of celebration for the Class of 2020 at a time when we can do that in a safe manner.”

Some, like Amarii Johnson, an exercise science and Spanish double major, don’t plan to wait for the big party and will mark the day with their own festivities.

“I’m going to get lit with my family and my mom and sister just to celebrate being done,” Johnson said.

Johnson, home in Chicago, said like most seniors she is sad about the abrupt end to the school year.

“We didn’t have that time to really mentally prepare ourselves to end this chapter of our lives,” Johnson said. “I think OWU did the best that they can. They could’ve easily just canceled graduation but Rock (Jones) is trying his hardest to get us something even if it’s in the summer or closer to the fall and I really appreciate those efforts.”

Keionna Badie, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said she also thinks OWU has done the best it can for seniors under tough circumstances. Badie is a pre-law and philosophy double major and history and politics and government double minor.

“I think OWU has been one of the most understanding colleges for seniors during this pandemic,” Badie said. “I definitely miss my friends. We made plans to do things together to celebrate the end of senior year and I’m sad that we weren’t able to spend our last week’s together.”

Hope Poolos, a health and human kinetics major and psychology minor, said she too has struggled with the way school ended. She has also been challenged working alone from home in Sylvania, Ohio.

“Not being with everyone from OWU in these final weeks before graduation has been really hard on me,” Poolos said. “This was supposed to be our final time with friends and classmates and it is so hard to stay motivated.”

Poolos said she intends to don her cap and gown and have a cookout with her family, boyfriend and other friends on graduation day.

“… I had a lot of pain and hurt just knowing that all of it went away so fast with the blink of an eye.” – Andrew McFarland ’20

McKenzee Martin, from Urbana, Ohio, said she too misses friends, classmates, walks on the JAYwalk and face-to-face connections with professors.

“I did not realize how much I would miss school until it was taken away from me so soon and I also, surprisingly, miss my dorm room,” said Martin, a psychology major and English minor. “Trying to stay focused and motivated during this time has been difficult for me and it has been discouraging not having my usual academic environment as well.”

Martin is not sure how she will celebrate commencement, but it will include family and friends and a dinner.

Andrew McFarland, a fine arts major from Mount Gilead, Ohio, said the suddenness of the semester shut-down was difficult.

“I know when I first heard the word about the classes being postponed and closed and everything else, I had a lot of pain and hurt just knowing that all of it went away so fast with the blink of an eye,” he said. “I’ve heard from many faculty and others that they had learned the information about an hour or so before we even did as students, and it just seemed jarring that way.”

McFarland said OWU has done a good job with room and board refunds and working to return items to students who left things back on campus. Graduation celebration plans are up in the air for him, he said.

“I haven’t put much thought into it actually,” McFarland said. “Right now, I have been stuck inside for the last few weeks with my girlfriend and it’s almost blanked on me that I’m actually graduating.”

Mickey Rice, a neuroscience and psychology major from Louisville, Kentucky, said she misses the daily activity of being on campus.

“I find myself getting antsy and stir crazy at home, which makes it especially difficult to do my school work,” Rice said. “I miss my roommate, my housemates, going to Smith late at night with friends, getting breakfast and walking to class together.”

Rice said she could probably “list off hundreds” of things she misses about OWU, but the senior celebrations would be at the top.

“I’m really sad to be missing out on the celebratory moments that I thought I was going to have,” Rice said. “My sorority and the Frisbee team do a number of special things to honor the seniors that I was really looking forward too. I’m so sad that we did not have that time together and that we could not celebrate each other in person.”

Erica VanHoose, an exercise science major and zoology minor from Marysville, Ohio, said she will never forget her time at OWU and all the friends she made.

“I miss not being able to experience the senior activities and the feeling of enjoying all the lasts of senior year before they are gone,” VanHoose said. “I think the best decision OWU made is making sure that us seniors still get an actual graduation ceremony. I’ve been looking forward to that day for four years and can’t wait to walk across that stage.”

Seniors and alumni reflect on OWU

Areena Arora, Managing Editor

With only two weeks left to graduation, besides academic work and designing graduation caps, seniors have much to accomplish.

While some wish to drive on the JayWalk, others want to maintain strong relationships with friends and graduate.

Senior Mackenzie Sommers’ bucket list includes going for a midnight dip in the fountain at the JayWalk. “I’m pretty cautious about this one, though, because god only knows what people do to the water in that fountain,” said Sommers.

Senior Mili Green does not have much on her bucket list. “I try to live without regrets, so I do what I can. I do want to go karaoking at Clancey’s, though,” said Green.

With nearly 100 clubs, there is always room for involvement at Ohio Wesleyan.

Senior Nate Goodhart said, “This school offers so many programs, clubs and organizations that allow for students to truly take advantage of their time here at OWU.”

Senior Sadie Parsons from California said, “I do participate in many things. However, I wish I would have acquired more leadership roles in the clubs and activities I was involved with.”

Looking back at the four years spent at OWU, some say it has been a rewarding experience while yet others have some regrets.

Sommers said, “I wish I’d written more TIPITS (Theory-to-Practice grants) and SIPS (Student Individualized Project grants). This school gives you so many opportunities to see and do the things that you are interested in.”

Green said, “I was always curious about Greek Life … but I think it was too late to rush because everyone knows I’m not for it.”

For some seniors we talked to, summarizing four years’ experience was not easy. Parsons said, “My time at OWU has been amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I wouldn’t even take back any of the hardest times I’ve had here because I learned from them and only became a stronger person from them.”

Senior Camille Mullins-Lemieux, resident of Peace and Justice House said, “This place has allowed me to flourish as a person a lot.”

Kim Eckart, ’13, who now works as the assistant to VP of Finance and Administration said she regrets not having participated in a travel learning course and not joining a small living unit.

Haley Barber, ’13, who now works for the Community Service Learning office and Office of Career Services said, “I regret not studying abroad. That was one of the things on my bucket list … I couldn’t fit it in with my double majors in biology and studio arts.”

Kelly Rand, ’15, an intern at the Office of President, has some advice for rising seniors. “My advice to seniors is to be a little less responsible and little more spontaneous. You should enjoy time outside by the fountain with friends on a beautiful day. You can do your reading later, because you won’t be able to do that next year. Soak it all in while you can,” said Rand.

Looking ahead, in less than a month, seniors will be out in the world with an undergraduate degree. The campus they’ve come to identify as home will no longer be their residence.

Senior Shelli Reeves has her post-graduation plans made. “I will be completing my first book and travelling as much as possible,” said Reeves.

Mullins-Lemieux said, “I’m staying at a Buddhist monastery in Oregon in June … and then taking an internship in Panama at a sustainable village on their design-thinking team.”

Taking the post-OWU plunge into “the real world”

We are two weeks away from graduation. I’d say the real world is knocking on the door, but at this point I feel more like the first little pig in his house of hay, and the world is huffing and puffing. For those of us who don’t yet have a job, the stress of finding one has kicked in, hard – almost as hard as Christian Grey has sex.

What’s the next step for us seniors, you ask? Good question. Some of the members of our class have job offers or are off to grad school (congratulations, you make us proud). I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most of us are still trying to figure something out.

If I get asked one more time what I’m doing this summer or after graduation, I might punch someone in the face. My hatred for this question is so blatant that during a Spanish class, my teacher asked everyone in it but me, stating that, “She knows how much this question irritates me.”

I have absolutely no idea what I’ll be doing this summer, let alone with my life. I don’t even know which country I will call home in two weeks. And while that and other things such as grades and finding a job are absolutely despairing, I find comfort in the fact I have around 400 other anguished seniors who are still trying to find their footing.

In my desperate attempts to find a job, I sent applications almost around the clock. I’m an addict. I’ve been selling myself for the past four months. Sending resumes, cover letters, doing Skype interviews, phone interviews, regular interviews, you name it. Last week, I came to the conclusion that I was damn tired of selling myself – I was ready to take this body off the streets.

So I took a break from applying. Yet, I realized very quickly that it was a bad idea, and I fell off the wagon. I’m once again a victim of the likes of websites such as Indeed.com, where they feed you hundreds of job prospects, all of which require at least 1-2 years of experience despite being called entry level jobs. However, that’s a whole different can of worms – I’m not tackling that subject right now, as I am pressed for time. I need to apply for some more jobs.

I’d like to reminisce to high school. No, not the fond memories of our athletic peaks (for most of us, this is undeniably true, sorry y’all), but to graduation memories. Remember how hard it was to leave your high school, your friends, people you’ve known for a large part of your life? Yeah well multiply that by googol (that’s a 10 with 100 zeros behind it for non-science/math majors).

While Delaware and Ohio Wesleyan are a home to many of us, they are not our hometowns. I can go back every summer to Rio and see most of my friends. However, it’s a little trickier to find all of my OWU friends – we don’t all have a place in common besides this school, and our time here is over. That’s what makes this so hard.

I have made friends, connections, and memories that I will never forget. Take comfort in your fellow senior classmates’ struggles, share, bond, hang out, laugh, cry, whatever floats your boat. We can only walk this plank for two more weeks before we fall into the sea that is the real world – make ‘em count.

Wil Haygood to speak at graduation

Wil Haygood. Photo courtesy of ohiodominican.edu.
Wil Haygood. Photo courtesy of ohiodominican.edu.

The American journalist and author Wil Haygood is set to speak at Ohio Wesleyan’s commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 10.

Haygood was chosen by Ohio Wesleyan president, Rock Jones and senior class president, Elizabeth Fisher.

Haygood is known for his Washington Post article, “A Butler Well Served By This Election.” This article was about Eugene Allen and serves as the basis for the movie The Butler, which came out in 2013.

Haygood has covered many monumental events in history such as Hurricane Katrina, which hit Louisiana in 2005. He has also covered the presidential campaign of Barack Obama in 2008.

Since the release of the movie, Haygood has written a book about Allen, entitled The Butler: A Witness to History. His work is based on butlers that have served in the White House during different presidencies.

“He’s had a very exciting life so far, so I’m sure he will have an interesting speech and advice,” senior Sarah Dailey said.

Haygood was taken hostage by Somali rebels in 1990. He was rescued by troops from Pakistan and in that same year, he was outside the South African prison, which was housing Nelson Mandela. At that same time, Mandela was released.

“I am very excited to hear what he has to say,” senior Alex Thrasher said. “It seems as though he has had very interesting life experiences, and has made the most of them in a very positive way.”

As part of the ceremony, Haygood will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from OWU. The university saw this fit through his many personal and scholarly achievements.

“Wil Haygood is an amazing author and I am so glad that Ohio Wesleyan has chosen him to speak at graduation,” senior Ali Smith said. “I am looking forward to all that he has to say and the advice that he will share with us.”