Hope Is More Than a Place
As COVID-19 spread in China in January, the college monitored developments daily and began planning for contingencies if the virus’ reach broadened. Whatever that might come to mean, the the top principle has been “Get the students across the finish line.” In other words, Hope will see the semester through. It has been accompanied by this corollary: Do it the Hope way.
What COVID-19 has come to mean for Hope since mid March is unprecedented. With health agencies seeking to mitigate the spread by limiting person-to-person contact, it has included, among others: having students complete the semester via remote instruction from home; cancellation of all Hope events, including the conclusion of the winter sports season and the entire spring sports season; and postponement of Alumni Weekend and graduation.
The journey and prayers began for the college’s international family, among them students from nations initially stricken who feared for their parents, siblings, grandparents and friends.
It continued via the students studying abroad, some of whose host countries were afflicted long before the first case was confirmed in the U.S. Fortunately, the international programs in which Hope participates are managed by experienced providers like the Council on International Educational Exchange and the Institute for the International Education of Students that have staff on-site to partner with the college. They’ve assisted in monitoring developments and assuring students’ well-being, and helping students return home and in most cases complete their studies online when programs ended early.
With COVID-19 spreading through the U.S., the changes to the academic year progressed rapidly in March. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency on March 10, the same day the state had its first two confirmed cases. Across the next two weeks, she issued executive orders limiting gatherings that culminated in a statewide stay-home directive through April 13, and on March 15 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended canceling or postponing events of 50 or more people for eight weeks.
Hope is among colleges and universities around the country whose semesters and even graduations have been dramatically affected. Following the governor’s announcement, Hope canceled classes on March 12 as well as all spring-break academic, athletic and immersion trips, and announced the move to online instruction following the March 13-22 vacation.
In the same time frame, the women’s basketball team, members of the swimming and diving and indoor track and field teams, and club ice hockey team were all enjoying or about to enjoy championship runs when the NCAA canceled all of its post-season competition. The top-ranked, undefeated women’s basketball team was about to host the March 13-14 Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds — with all three visiting teams already on campus — when the NCAA canceled the playoffs on March 12.
The college had initially hoped to have students return beginning April 14, but the CDC’s recommendation and pandemic’s continued growth have meant otherwise. Accordingly, looking further ahead, Hope has canceled its off-campus summer courses and will provide its on-campus courses via remote instruction, and has canceled this year’s Hope Summer Repertory Theatre season. And given the dynamic and evolving situation, future changes can’t be ruled out — including between when this was written and when it is read. [Holland has likewise canceled its May 2-10 Tulip Time Festival.]
Alumni Weekend and Baccalaureate and Commencement, which were to have been in latter April and early May, are both being rescheduled. The details are still being determined, but assuming that there are no restrictions:
- Alumni Weekend’s reunions will be held during the weekend of the Hope-Holland Community Day (Sept. 11-12);
- Baccalaureate and Commencement will be held in early-to-mid August. In any case, the college is committed to celebrating the Class of 2020 with an in-person ceremony. Families will receive more information no later than May 1.
So where is Hope — and the hope — in all this? The college is not only a place. It is a state of mind and spirit born of and nurtured by all the members of its community, faculty, staff, students and alumni. The school year is continuing to its conclusion, and everyone is getting there, and through this, together. Faculty who have been teaching Hope summer courses online for nearly a decade and a half helped their colleagues learn to offer such instruction with a Hope touch — and those instructors are the same professors who already knew their students from their time in the classroom. Campus Ministries has been posting virtual Chapel services on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the usual 10:30 a.m. time. Operating with #KeepingHope, members of the campus community are sharing slices of life online, like a performance-rehearsal by faculty violinist Dr. Mihai Craioveanu, or favorite Phelps Dining Hall recipes from Chef Tom Hoover. And on it goes, creative efforts by people who care deeply to bring a bit of this West Michigan college to its students wherever they might be.
*For up-to-date information about Hope’s response to COVID-19 and the pandemic’s impact on college operations, please visit: HOPE.EDU/CORONAVIRUS