College offers a world of ideas, wherever you are

Learning together — even remotely — creates powerful communities, say four new Rider faculty members
Pauline Blaimont, Cynthia Martínez, Kerrie Sendall and Sarah Trocchio

If you’re a student wrestling with the decision of whether to start or continue your college education, we’re here to tell you that — in person or otherwise — college can still offer the self-discovery and networking that are so vital to the college experience.

We’re four new faculty members at Rider University who are keenly aware that not all students are in the position to invest in their education at this time. Each of us worked full- or part-time as college students and we understand the difficulties of juggling multiple priorities simultaneously. We also know, however, that we did not face the challenges that you are encountering during the pandemic.

The thought of potentially starting or continuing college in a moment of distance learning may be hard to swallow. However, as educators with years of in-person and online coursework under our belts, we strongly believe that powerful communities are made through learning itself. Creating these networks is possible no matter the form that learning takes.

For each of us, college was where we were first encouraged to think critically about our places in the world in an open and trusted community of peers and professors. Though our memories of dorm rooms and cafeterias never fail to bring smiles to our faces, this world of ideas is what has left the most lasting impact on us, well into adulthood. It is, after all, the reason we chose to teach in higher education.

While we’re all in different fields — be it criminal justice, languages and literature, or the sciences — transformative conversations about how “big ideas” affect students’ daily lives are still happening in each of our classes. Though, of course, it’s strange to imagine our homes as our “classrooms.”

As professors, we are using the summer to prepare effective, engaging and dynamic classes for our students in the fall. We’re proud to be part of a University that is working hard to give our students a top-tier education, regardless of format.

The trips and internships will be waiting for you, but even now, networking and engagement efforts are still happening, as many professors are using this moment to get often-too-busy professionals to drop into their Zoom classrooms.

We look forward to maintaining supportive relationships with our students. That’s why we chose to work at Rider; because we value its mission to build close relationships between faculty and students, as well as to create personal learning environments that allow for student voices to be heard.

Like other big moments in history, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing us to innovate in the face of changing social and professional realities. With the guidance of your professors and the collective energy of your peers, you’ll learn the skills to thrive in whatever our post-pandemic “new normal” looks like.

If it’s possible for you, don’t wait to start building the sense of community that a college education can offer — the bonds you cultivate now will help spark the kind of energy we need to create a better future.

Pauline Blaimont, Cynthia Martínez, Kerrie Sendall and Sarah Trocchio are all assistant professors or lecturers in Rider University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.