Lehman Community Reflects on the Pandemic’s Anniversary and Their Hopes for the Future

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Lehman Community Reflects on the Pandemic’s Anniversary and Their Hopes for the Future

This week marks the first anniversary of a period few of us will forget: when the campus community went fully remote amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered most New Yorkers to stay home. Now, as we appear to turn a corner in the pandemic, with mass vaccinations picking up speed around the country and a planned return to campus in the fall, we’re checking in with members of the Lehman community about how they’re doing and what their hopes are for the months ahead.

Gugeeta Cheetram

Senior Political Science major and Human Rights and Peace Studies minor

Gugeeta CheetramWhat was the most challenging aspect of the past year for you?
During the pandemic, I often felt like I needed to be everywhere at once. I tried to stay on top of my studies, fulfill my responsibilities as a student leader, and also do whatever I could to help my family. Each of those areas is important to me, but there were times when they collided. I’d be picking up my grandmother from work while being logged into a class or an SGA-related appointment. Looking back, the challenge was for me to understand my limitations and how far I can reasonably go to manage my responsibilities. If there’s one piece of advice I learned that I’d like to share with the Lehman student body, it’s this: Let yourself live in the moment and understand when to say ‘no.’ Your mental health is as important as your physical health. 

How are you feeling now?
I still feel overwhelmed at times, but I’ve learned to de-stress from all the meetings and responsibilities by volunteering and giving back to my community. Immersing myself in that has been a huge help. I genuinely believe that doing good and giving back to those in need will send blessings your way.

What are you looking forward to once we’ve put the pandemic behind us?
This is my last semester at Lehman, so I hope to finish it successfully and earn my bachelor’s degree. But I’m genuinely looking forward to returning to campus one day, sitting on the quad, and taking in the beautiful scenery. I’ll miss all the days I spent doing my homework on the grass and then rushing off to class. I’ll also miss serving my fellow students through SGA. But I know that the next SGA will be ready to take on the challenge of keeping the student body engaged on campus after the pandemic.

Eileen Markey 

Assistant Professor, Department of Journalism and Media Studies

Eileen-MarkeyWhat was the most challenging aspect of the past year for you?
The most challenging aspect of the past year was being cut off from community. We maintain our sense of ourselves and our place in the world through our relationships. I felt a profound sense of destabilization and loss not being connected to the various communities of which I am a part. Some of these, including departments within Lehman, tried to approximate our previous relationships via digital communication. There have been valiant efforts, but they are inferior. They are no substitute for in-person, regular, and casual communication. 

How are you feeling now?
I feel an abiding sense of loss. A reservoir of grief and apprehension straining at the dam of "keep your chin up." We're all doing our best and being innovative and adept and trying to stay strong for students but this stinks. 

What are you looking forward to once we’ve put the pandemic behind us?
Being with people beyond my family and closest friends. I'm looking forward to running into people in the hallway and having brief conversations. I'm looking forward to having interactions that aren't high stakes and aren't unbalanced by their rarity. I'm looking forward to actually being able to connect with my students, to read their emotions, to anticipate their thoughts, to foster class community and have productive class conversations.

Abanoub Hanna

Junior Biochemistry major

Abanoub HannaWhat was the most challenging aspect of the past year for you?
For me, the most difficult part was preparing for the Dental Admission Test (DAT). I had to figure out where to study in my two-bedroom apartment, which I share with my parents and three siblings. That was especially difficult during the Spring 2020 semester because we were all learning or working remotely. My brother had to complete his podiatry classes virtually, and he chose my bedroom to do so. My sister worked virtually for a psychiatric clinic, and she took over the living room. I was forced to study, complete homework, and take exams mostly in my parents’ bedroom. Although my sister moved to Ohio in the fall to begin podiatry classes at Kent State University, my brother and I still had to work around each other. Between juggling that stress, my classes, and DAT preparation, I had to push back my DAT test date by a few months. 

How are you feeling now?
I’m happy that all of my hard work paid off. I ended the Spring 2020 semester with a 3.91 GPA and the Fall 2020 semester with a 4.0 GPA, and I scored in the 75th-80th percentile on my first try of the DAT. My brother went back to Miami to complete his podiatry courses at Barry University, so I now have my own room to complete the remote Spring 2021 semester. I’m staying busy in other ways that matter to me, too. I’m a virtual volunteer for the Unspoken Smiles virtual classroom program—I create virtual presentations to teach the children of essential workers about oral health. And I shadow my neighborhood dentist, Tiba Dental PC.

What are you looking forward to once we’ve put the pandemic behind us?
I’m going to apply to dental school this summer. Once we put this pandemic behind us, I cannot wait to visit the campuses of the schools I intend to apply to. I am also really hoping that I can go on vacations or trips with friends or family. We were supposed to go to Egypt last summer, but the pandemic happened. If we go this summer, it will be the first time we visit our home country in 19 years. 

Elgloria Harrison

Dean, School of Health Sciences, Human Services and Nursing

Elgloria HarrisonWhat was the most challenging aspect of the past year for you?
The coronavirus pandemic will go down in U.S. history as one of the most damaging events we’ve ever seen. It has taken the lives of so many in our Black and Brown communities—many of them students we cared about. I believe the most challenging aspect of the past year was learning to live with the new reality that social contact was off-limits and Zoom edification was the new daily routine.  

How are you feeling now? 
Early in the COVID-19 reality, most of us believed that turning to the virtual environment was a moment in time that would be short-lived. However, one year later and I—like many others— need a reprieve from my house and a sense of true re-entry into society. I feel much better about venturing outside since receiving my COVID-19 shots—at least I feel I am doing less damage to others and protecting myself more.  

What was the most challenging aspect of the past year for you?
There were many lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and not all of them bad. Many of us in higher education realized how under-prepared we were regarding the use of technology. We had been making small steps in embracing it, but COVID-19 forced a giant leap into new technological territory that, perhaps without this crisis, would not have been possible. I am looking forward to enhancing professional development opportunities for faculty, staff, and students that harness technology's power and pushes higher education to a whole new level.

Fausto Ramirez

Lehman College Director of Public Safety

Fausto RamirezWhat was the most challenging aspect of the past year for you?
My team has been on the front lines since the beginning, and we have, at times, struggled to look for ways to keep the department’s spirit up. We have had members become sick with the virus, and we also lost a member. This has been an emotional roller-coaster ride for all of us, even me. 

My team gets calls from students, faculty, and staff on a daily basis looking for information and guidance. Sometimes it turns into a 15-minute conversation about family and the struggles of the pandemic. I, too, have received these kinds of phone calls. People thank us for listening. It is important to note that sometimes we serve as counselors, too.

How are you feeling now?
We’re gearing up for the next challenges to come. We all know that we will never go back to the way things were. But we’re trying to make self-care a top priority as we continue to cope with COVID-19. 

What are you looking forward to once we have put the pandemic behind us?
Getting back together with family and friends and having some type of normalcy. I’m looking forward to going places without having to back away from people who refuse to wear a mask. I hope that our country’s new leadership and people everywhere will learn from all the mistakes to better prepare for the next global pandemic.

Benjamin Holtzman

Assistant Professor, Department of History

What was the most challenging aspect of the past year for you?
I am extremely fortunate in that I did not lose any loved ones to the pandemic. I also remained employed. What I have gone through over the past year is minor compared to what so many others have faced. That said, one of the challenging aspects for me—like nearly everyone—has been having to be distant from so many of my friends and family members. Another is that I began teaching at Lehman during the pandemic. One of the things I enjoy most about teaching is making connections with students, which is much more challenging for everyone when our classroom is Blackboard/Zoom. 

How are you feeling now?
I feel a greater sense of optimism about the future than I have in the past year, especially because of the growing availability of vaccines. I will add that I do still feel somewhat cautious about that, in part because much of the past year was spent ping-ponging back and forth between moments of optimism and dejection. But I am hopeful that the pandemic’s most destructive period is behind us.

What are you looking forward to once we’ve put the pandemic behind us?
So much! Hugging my friends, spending time with my parents, visiting my niece and nephew, and traveling to friends in other states are all at the top. I’m also really excited to experience live music and movie theaters again.