Instructor Elizabeth Dimmitt creates a seating chart in her abnormal psychology class last fall. The University announced it plans to return to full in-person classes by fall 2021.

Following a year that has been challenging to many, Northwest looks to return to what is considered to be the traditional campus experience.

Students chattering outside of rooms in residence halls, classrooms filled with the scribbling of pen on paper, a loud uproar from Bearcat fans cheering at football games — all of these once nostalgic sounds are envisioned to make a comeback this fall.

The University announced in a tweet March 17 the return of in-person classes, increasing student organization activities and increasing attendance at athletic events.

Matt Baker, vice president of student affairs, said with an increase in COVID-19 vaccinations, a low number of cases on campus and in the community, and a low number of quarantined students in residence halls, he believes this could be the light at the end of the tunnel Northwest has patiently awaited.

“It's impossible to know exactly what's going to be happening four months from now, but all the trends are going in the right direction,” Baker said.

Baker said he was joyous at the thought of normal campus life being right around the corner.

Lately, Baker said he has found himself reflecting on where Northwest was a year ago, when the University shifted to a remote experience. He said the constant unknowns and adapting to changes have been the most challenging pieces to the COVID-19 puzzle. 

Baker recalled the hardships of decision-making in the past year with having so little information on a novel strain of virus. He stressed the importance of staying in the game and continuing to follow COVID-19 mitigations, even though things may seem to be like “paddling through oatmeal.”

Looking forward to the fall semester, Baker predicts Northwest will see more activities and fewer restrictions, essentially returning to the campus Bearcats had seen in academic years prior to 2020.

Baker said he can't imagine Northwest going another season without Bearcat football. He also hinted at the high possibility of Greek life, campus recreational programs, residential life programs and campus dining returning to their traditional experiences.

“I hope we retain all the things we learned, but … also return to the things that we love,” Baker said.

Provost Jamie Hooyman also confirmed that Northwest is scheduling to return to normal campus routines this fall.

“I think all of our goals are to return back to like the campus was a couple years ago, maybe with some positive improvements, but we will do it smartly,” Hooyman said.

One of the many takeaways Hooyman said the University has learned from the pandemic was how to better use technology, to never take anything for granted and to always stay ahead, be prepared and have a backup plan. Hooyman said that learning this information will help guide Northwest through the next academic year.

Moving through the remainder of the spring semester and summer break, Hooyman advises the Northwest community to stay optimistically cautious.

“I think if we can get it eradicated out of our community, we’ve got a great shot at fall,” Hooyman said.

Other universities in the area have also announced the return of in-person courses in the upcoming school year. Missouri Western State University’s president sent out an email Feb. 25 informing students that 85% of fall classes will be held in person.

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