Carson Cougs Share Stories of Learning, Resilience during COVID-19
By Becky Kramer
Spring semester took an unexpected turn when WSU moved classes to remote learning in response to COVID-19. For Carson College students, it was a period of rapid adjustment, home haircuts, and a time to explore opportunities that wouldn’t normally fit into their schedules. Here are four of their stories.
When Andrew Hansen moved back home, it was eye-opening for his parents. They hadn’t realized how busy he is.
“When I’m off in Pullman, they don’t see how scheduled my days are,” says Hansen, a junior from Burlington, Washington. “Initially, it was tough for them to correlate me being in class with Zoom calls in my room.”
His closed door wasn’t about YouTube or Netflix—it was classes, team projects, and assignments. He also fit in some independent study, teaching himself Python and Django, a programming language and web framework.
Hansen is a double major in accounting and management information systems. He says the transition to remote learning went fairly smoothly for him. His professors encouraged him to think about Zoom meetings as preparation for the workplace.
“When we talk to accounting professionals, they say it’s typical for them to jump on a call with someone three states away to share their screens and figure something out,” Hansen says. “We’ll hit the ground running once we graduate.”
With more flexibility in his schedule, Hansen took a deep dive into databases last semester, designing a system for monitoring kitchen chores at his fraternity and attendance at Beta Alpha Psi meetings. And he was glad to be home when he got sick.
Both Hansen and his younger brother had light cases of COVID-19, which put their family into quarantine for two weeks. Thanks to ongoing disinfecting by his mom, Alice Sherman Hansen, neither of his parents nor his younger sister had symptoms.
“I love my family, and my education didn’t suffer,” Hansen says of finishing the semester at home. “But I missed those things about being on campus—the Murrow College broadcasting classic rock on Fridays in the spring and being around so many people my age.”
“One of the greatest parts of college is meeting other students who are just as intelligent and driven as you are,” says Hansen, 20. “I missed that quite a bit.”
Ricardo Aquino is glad he can trim his own hair. The graduating senior did some touch ups before job interviews last semester. He also gave his roommate a haircut.
“It’s a valuable skill. I know lots of people are struggling with haircuts,” says Aquino, a marketing and entrepreneurship major who was recently hired as a recruiter at Aerotek, a staffing company. “I had a little advantage in terms of being able to clean up and look nice.”
Aquino, 21, finished the semester in Pullman. With a 13-year-old brother at home in Kennewick, he knew it would be easier to concentrate on school in his apartment. The first week of remote learning was the hardest, he says.
Professors were adjusting syllabuses, due dates for assignments were in flux, and it was tempting to multi-task during classes broadcast over Zoom.
“I was used to going 100 percent all the time. I followed my schedule to a T,” says Aquino, who was a Carson College senator. “At 8:00 a.m., I was in my finance class. At 5:30, I was home changing into a suit jacket for ASWSU meetings.”
WSU’s switch to remote learning gave Aquino more flexibility, which was valuable during his job search and allowed his brother to visit Pullman. He says this year’s college graduates have a lot to offer future employers.
“We’re adaptable. We can work from home; we know how to set up video conferences,” Aquino says. “We’ve learned to communicate effectively without being there in person.”
Shortly after classes moved to remote learning, Maxwell Dwyer landed a short-term internship. With his regular schedule, he doubts he could have taken on the extra 10 to 20 hours per week for Threadloom Inc.
“I would have tried to do it, but I would have been overwhelmed,” says Dwyer, who is doing a special project for the company’s Bellevue office. “The move to online gave me more flexibility with my classes.”
Threadloom aims to give consumers “a healthier, less monetized” internet experience, Dwyer says. “It’s cool to work for a company that leaves a good footprint. Out of all the things I could be doing with my time during COVID-19, this drew me in.”
Dwyer graduated in May. He wants to work for a faith-based nonprofit using his dual major in accounting and management information systems. While the last weeks of his senior year didn’t go according to plan, they had their own rewards.
When Governor Jay Inslee issued his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, a seventh friend moved into the Pullman house Dwyer was renting with six buddies.
“He was living alone, and we didn’t want him to be isolated,” Dwyer says. “We also wanted to follow the law and not mingle with other households. We were blessed to have that built-in community.”
The roommates hosted a virtual TikTok dance party and kept a list of friends to check in with regularly. Dwyer caught up on sleep, worked ahead in his classes, and enjoyed his internship.
“Life has been a lot simpler, and I’ve been able to take care of myself better,” Dwyer says. “The last few weeks were really, really good for me.”
Grace Lim spent her four years at WSU on the go, so the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order was a big adjustment.
A recipient of the WSU President’s Leadership award, Lim was the vice chair of the Asian Pacific American Student Coalition, whose plans for a big heritage month celebration on campus in April were canceled. She also missed working in the Office of Multicultural Student Services.
Finishing her undergraduate career in her apartment seemed anti-climactic.
“My roommate went home, but it wasn’t that simple for me,” says Lim, an accounting major who graduated in May. “I’m a U.S. citizen, but my parents live in Thailand.”
Lim packed 18 credits into her last semester at WSU, including a challenging management information systems class she took as an elective. She appreciated the extra time that faculty and teaching assistants took to meet with her by Zoom and answer questions. “I was fortunate to have really good professors,” she says.
After graduating, Lim headed to KPMG in Seattle, where she’s an intern in state and local taxes for the public accounting firm. KPMG has offered her a full-time position when she completes the internship.
“Social distancing wasn’t the most pleasant experience, but there were some blessings in disguise,” says Lim, 21. “I know how to work at home better, and I have a new level of accountability. In the future, I’m sure more work will move online.”