A Letter to Our Students

From Phillip Riordan, Vice President for Student Affairs

Dear Elmhurst Students,

It is my hope that this email reaches you at a safe and healthy time in your life.

Like you and so many other people in our country, I am working from home. I am doing my best to follow the statewide “stay-at-home” order, being mindful of social distancing, and washing my hands regularly throughout the day. The CDC, the governors of many states, and Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tell us often to practice the three points mentioned above. I encourage you to do your part as well.

I have been on a college campus for the past 40 years. Never in those 40 years did I think we would have a spring semester where there were no students on campus.  Quite honestly, it just does not feel right. I miss the bloom of the trees, students playing Spike-ball on the Mall, the sound of the crowd cheering on our athletic teams, and the students practicing their musical instruments outside of Irion Hall.  And in the weeks ahead, I will miss the hundreds of students that attend late-night breakfast during finals week, our Baccalaureate ceremony, Senior Toast, and graduation.

I also miss the excitement in Founders Lounge during protected hours and the good work that all the clubs and organizations were doing on campus before we had to shutter our doors to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our campus. I miss so many of the students with whom I had daily interaction.

Most importantly, I miss the seniors who are about to graduate from Elmhurst University. What I miss pales in comparison to what the seniors are missing. They miss their friends and all the campus events I listed above, but most of all they are hurt that there may not be a graduation in late May. At this time, the University has not yet decided whether to cancel graduation for May 23. We are still hopeful we can make Commencement work in some form but need to continue monitoring the news and following best practices when it comes to group events.

To all of our seniors, we have not forgotten you. You each deserve to celebrate your academic accomplishments, and as an institution, we want to celebrate this great milestone with you.  Please know that we are exploring every option available to us to make graduation happen.

To all students, I know the transition from face-to-face, in-person learning to online learning has likely been more difficult than you may have anticipated. I have heard from a number of you about just how hard it has been. You picked Elmhurst University because of the exceptional education you would receive from the best faculty in their disciplines. You wanted to be in a small classroom environment where students actively engaged in class discussions and made you think critically about the world around you. Changing to online and remote learning has been hard; I get it. I would ask that at this time that we allow everyone a little bit more “grace.”

As hard as it has been for students to make this transition, it has also been equally challenging for the faculty to shift their mindset to online and remote instruction.  Like you, they value the interactions in the classroom, and they miss the face-to-face conversations. They miss you, their students, coming into a classroom laughing, and leaving knowing you learned something new that day. Like you, they have had to navigate unfamiliar territory to continue to provide high levels of academic engagement.

These are difficult times for all of us. None of us has ever experienced anything like COVID-19. Together as Bluejays, we will get past this. Yes, we will get past the coronavirus. It is my hope that we will come out stronger and wiser as a result of the “stay-at-home” order. Until then, be mindful of your fellow students that have lost jobs, or families struggling with how to pay rent or purchase food and necessities, or families that have had to close their business because they are not considered essential at this time. The longer we stay under this order, the greater the likelihood that the economic impact to families will increase. Even my own family has had to face this reality, as my brother and his wife have been laid off from their jobs recently as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The concept of allowing each other a little more “grace” is more important now than ever.

The main purpose of this letter is to let you know that I am thinking of you, hoping and praying that every one of you is healthy. So many of you are on my mind daily.  Please take care of yourselves, your parents, your grandparents, and anyone else that may need assistance in your communities. We want to stay connected to you during this time, so please stay in touch with us, and be sure to check your emails regularly.

Remember that we are proud Bluejays! We will fly stronger and higher than ever before, both during this time and after.

Be well, my friends,

— Dr. Phil

Return to the COVID-19 Updates Page

Phillip Riordan

Vice President for Student Affairs
Office of Student Affairs

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