In-person instruction will resume at CSUN on Feb. 14, and for many students and faculty members, it’s not a moment too soon. CSUN Update spoke to Associated Students Vice President Kaitlyn Orozco, biology professor MariaElena Zavala and Chicana/o studies professor Martha Escobar about the thrill of returning to campus and some lasting lessons from remote instruction.
What aspects of campus life are you looking forward to the most?
Orozco: Seeing friends, having in-person classes, student study sessions. It’s really a community that I miss a lot. There’s so much life that I get to enjoy on campus. I’ve missed those in-person events like Big Show, the Farmer’s Market, and being able to go to the SRC and just enjoy a workout with other people around you. I’m also a tour guide for the school, and I miss those events like giving tours to large classrooms of little kids. It’s something that I feel I took for granted before the pandemic.
Zavala: Seeing students’ faces! Even if I can only see their eyeballs over their masks! Education is really personal, and in this virtual world, it can’t be personal. I teach a lab class, and you know, one of the strengths of CSUN is having students use the machines, get a sense of how experiments are done, have experiments fail, and all of that is really important for the students’ development. I haven’t seen any virtual exercises that give you that training.
Escobar: What I’m looking forward to the most is just reconnecting with the students. I’ve really missed the classroom. I miss the energy, just the students’ body language when things click and make sense, versus the screens. When you’re coming out of class and they walk with you to discuss if they had any questions, or something came to their mind when you were mentioning something. That’s what I’ve missed.
What lessons have you taken from your time of remote learning that you can apply in the future?
Zavala: What I learned is how I miss students, their presence, their physical presence. I really value student-professor interaction and the mentorship that goes on.
Orozco: Being able to adapt to an online learning environment, compared to being in person. It takes time to get used to it. I’d only experienced in-person events and in-person classes, and I loved it, so going into this virtual setting was really difficult. I do think this time has helped me adjust to difficult and unpredictable situations.
Escobar: One of the things we’re learning is that students want to be in person, but they have so much going on now. I’ve always been resistant to online teaching because I love the human interaction, the socializing. But online teaching and learning facilitate things for them like more flexibility for their schedules, so they can make ends meet or whatever. So how do we understand what our students are going through, and how do we shape our teaching so we’re meeting their needs?
What’s a favorite place on campus for you? Someplace you’re eager to see again?
Orozco: The University Library is where I’ve stayed up until midnight studying with my friends. It’s just such a social area. You’re making memories, studying together, making jokes. It’s a place where you can connect with other students. I’ve had study groups there. I feel like it’s the heart of campus.
Escobar: The pond, with the ducks and the turtles. It’s this beautiful spot on campus where you can just hang out.
Zavala: Being around students! It’s been pretty dead around here. Waiting outside labs, the excitement of learning is what you don’t get online. A lot of students are really excited to learn, and that’s wonderful.