Title image of Johna Joseph ’22 by Mark DiOrio
Students share how they made it through the fall semester, with its universal quarantine, reopening “gates,” and travel restrictions. (Spoiler: It wasn’t easy, but they did it together.)
Keeping on Track, Overcoming Hurdles
Originally from Haiti, Johna Joseph ’22 moved to Italy with his family during high school and then came to the United States for college. In addition to adjusting to new places throughout the years, Joseph has had to watch his mom’s health deteriorate. As the eldest son, he’s felt the weight of his familial responsibilities. At one point, he was unsure whether he’d be able to go to college. Uncertainty has always been a certainty, so the pandemic is no different.
“When I run into challenges, that’s not really unusual,” he says. “That’s just part of my life.”
As a member of his high school track team in Naples, Italy, Joseph wasn’t a standout competitor, he says. In fact, when he arrived at Colgate, he was a walk-on member of the University’s team. “Once I got here, Colgate gave me opportunities to improve and show what I was capable of. Colgate provided the proper resources and training I’ve never received before.” In his first year, he accelerated to the fastest in the sprints group, and in his second year, the team named him as a captain.
“If I had to describe Johna in two words, it would be perseverance and dedication,” says Associate Head Coach Luke Burdick. “Last year, I worked with him more closely as his event coach and noticed right away that he was a different type of athlete. His hard work paid off when he cemented himself as the best sprinter on the team and one of the best in the entire conference.”
Joseph’s strongest event is the 200-meter dash. But he loves jumping hurdles. “I love the challenge of the hurdle,” he says. “It’s exhilarating in every sense of the word; there’s a [feeling] of danger and urgency, but it’s complemented by a rhythm and flow that just bring a smile to your face when you get it right.”
In the classroom, Joseph is a chemistry major and French minor. Chemistry can be arduous and demanding; however, he decided in his high school AP class that he would stick with it. “I believe you should study things you have fun learning about and that you enjoy, regardless of the level of difficulty,” he says.
Last spring, he made the dean’s list with distinction. This year, Joseph has found his studies to be considerably harder. He’s been losing sleep and not finding much time for himself. “I know that these things aren’t forever, but it’s very stressful,” Joseph says.
Training is also more intense this year. “It’s comprehensive; it focuses on every part of the body,” he explains. “And it’s a holistic process. We’re taking time to improve our form and our mechanics. I think we’re the strongest we’ve ever been.”
Practices themselves are different, starting with the visibly obvious — wearing a mask while running. “It’s not pleasant,” he says, “but we’re here to get work done and improve, so it’s not the thing I focus on.” Rather than practicing as a whole team, they split into pods, working with the individuals in their event group.
Although they’re physically divided, the team has been “proactive about building relationships with our teammates and fostering a collaborative community,” Joseph says. “As a captain, I’m part of that movement to make sure the first-years aren’t swept up and left behind by this pandemic. It’s an all-out effort to be there for each other so that we can keep getting better but also make sure that we’re sane, we’re whole, and we’re healthy mentally and physically.”
Joseph also finds community in Pre-Health Pathways, a group he co-founded last summer to bring together students planning to enter medical and health-related careers. They meet virtually on Sundays to share study and lifestyle tips, ideas for staying motivated, and resources as well as plan events featuring alumni experts.
“I’m grateful for these things I’m a part of that are keeping me on the right track,” Joseph says.
“I look at uncertainty as something that has to be dealt with, regardless of how you feel at the moment. I’m not going to be frustrated by it; I’m just going to do my best. That’s really all I can do.”
— Aleta Mayne
Being in Hamilton for the fall semester has been full of surprises, compromises, and changes. The Colgate I left behind in March — one with in-person classes, people packed into the chapel for Dancefest, and late-night grilled cheeses in Frank at 2 a.m. — is not the Colgate I returned to.
While our time on campus is vastly different than anyone remembered it being before, there is one part that is still the same: A foundational part of Colgate is its community, which has flourished in these unprecedented times.
The universal two-week quarantine, Zoom classes with the occasional WiFi glitches, and mandatory appointments to pick up our packages are a few things, among many others, that we have all had to manage. And sometimes it is hard not to feel defeated when facing piles of schoolwork; at points, I’ve even questioned if doing the semester remotely would have been better for me. But, at the end of the day, while these obstacles in our daily lives are testing, they provide every student with something in common that goes deeper than just the Colgate community. Sacrifices have had to be made by everyone to enable us to stay here.
Every individual on campus knows and recognizes that we have a commitment to each other. Whether that is shown through air high fives, rather than hugging my best friends, or eating dinner outside even when it is cold, or a friend trekking 20 minutes up the Hill just to grab a smoothie with me, it is clear that campuswide, we are taking this commitment seriously. Each decision we make impacts others — and, considering the amount of time we have been able to stay here, it is clear that people are taking that commitment seriously. So, while this semester looks and feels uncomfortable, it is more exceptional and extraordinary because it reminds us all how much we are supported and cared for.
— Sarah Harris ’23 is a psychological sciences major who intends to double minor in educational studies and film and media studies. She is a member of Gamma Phi Beta, Stockbridge Juniors, Hamilton Elementary Tutors, Sidekicks, EduMate, and Link Staff. She is also an admission ambassador.
13 Things to Be Happy About
When I am off the softball field, I’m a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, the social media director for the American Sign Language Club, a WRCU DJ for my show called That’s the Tea, and an Orientation Link. I like to be involved in different activities on campus because I take every day as another chance to fall in love with Colgate. This semester, compared to others, is different and hard for most students. There are no football games, brown bag lunches, and even no pizza and wings at the end of Mass on Sunday nights. Although some social aspects have changed, there is no chance I would want to spend the last four months anywhere else.
While I was at the bookstore the other day, I picked up a book called 14,000 Things to Be Happy About. It was on clearance so, being the savvy shopper I am, I had to buy all of the books in stock. When I got home, I packaged one up for my sister, one for my best friend from home, and kept one for myself. Looking through the pages, I giggled at things like “the perfect peanut butter to jelly ratio” and “fried pickles,” and it got me thinking, there are so many things about Colgate that make me happy. Here are 13 reasons I wake up happy here every day.
1. The RIG Food Truck (parked in the library lot) and its chicken tikka masala
2. Catching a last-minute cruiser in the rain
3. Coop M&M’s cookies
4. Saying good morning to my teammates and roommates
5. Slices with ranch
6. The immaculate vibes at 6 a.m. lift
7. Byrne Dairy’s “Traveling Tuesdays” (free coffee)
8. The Willow Path fall views
9. The unwavering support of the facilities department
10. Having a sign language conversation with Angela Marathakis (assistant athletics director and director of student-athlete academic services) in the Reid academic center
11. Our feel-good front toss drill during practice
12. Jam-out sessions to “Speechless” by Dan and Shay on the drive to practice
13. The beautiful sunsets you can see from the library
— Morgan Farrah ’22 is a computer science major and a member of the varsity softball team.
Living in the Moment
Q&A with Colin Troup ’22
Tell us about training this semester.
Our coaches have done an excellent job keeping practices intense and eventful. Because we are not allowed to practice all together yet, they consist of mostly individual work with our position groups (consisting of 5–8 guys). I’m a wide receiver, so our practices usually revolve around running routes and going over blocking scheme. Not having the entire team out on the field at the same time has been the major difference this year. Without everyone on the field, feeding off of each other’s energy, the energy can sometimes begin to fade. However, whenever that happens, each position group usually recognizes it right away and attempts to bring the energy back, which is something unique about our team. Everyone plays an important role and understands the circumstances. My teammates and I understand that this process may be grueling, but each day we look forward to getting better and we keep our tunnel vision on our season.
How has this situation affected you mentally and emotionally?
The global pandemic has definitely been weird, and life has changed drastically. Speaking with family and friends, living in the moment, and controlling what I can control are ways I’ve been able to cope with difficulties.
What are the ways you’ve stayed in shape physically?
Keeping a daily routine and eating right. Also, we lift for about an hour, three times a week, in our small groups. In terms of diet, I’ve been avoiding the apple cider and cider doughnuts, which has definitely helped.
How are you staying connected with family?
Playing football, I often miss out on [going home during] many of the school fall breaks. But I FaceTime and speak to my mother every day. Last summer, during the national lockdown, I was able to spend more time with her, which I truly enjoyed. It will be nice to be home in December, the part of the year that many college students miss out on. It will bring me back to the old days. I’ll be able to help put the Christmas decorations up, watch Christmas movies for 25 nights straight, bake cookies with my mother — everything I usually don’t get to do, which will be really fun.
The Importance of Being Deliberate
I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of “before and after.” An event that feels like a mile marker on the highway. An event that feels like an announcement. An event that changes the lens, makes memories a different hue from the present and future. Colgate and the world are collectively going through one right now with the COVID-19 pandemic. And, somehow, however insensitive it might sound, this might be one of my favorite semesters. Everything I do now is deliberate. Everyone I see is because I want to see them. My social life now is built on intentionality, something that wouldn’t have probably been achievable under normal circumstances.
— Ignacio Villar ’22, a peace and conflict studies major from Edmond, Okla.
Maintaining Focus and Friendships
Meet Michael Hanratty ’24
(Potential) Major: political science, economics, or both
Activities: varsity golf team, Colgate Dischords, Maroon-News
Hometown: Avon, Conn.
Training: Because golf is a low-risk sport, the main restrictions were wearing masks on the course and having limited access to the driving range at Seven Oaks. Otherwise, we practiced as we would during a normal semester.
Competition: Because the Patriot League canceled fall sports, we haven’t had any official competitions. Each weekend during the fall, though, we had intra-squad competitions to keep an aspect of competition.
Academics: The academic experience has been different. Two of my classes are fully online and two are hybrid, so I have been spending a lot of time on Zoom. It certainly has made it more challenging to stay engaged during class, but professors have done their best to adjust expectations and make everything as clear as possible. It also has made any time we have together in person more valuable.
Coping: I usually just try to take everything as it comes, and that mentality has been important for me. Acknowledging that there are factors out of my control and focusing on the things I could do to reclaim control certainly helped as well. Of course, making friends here has also helped. I have a great group of friends, and we have navigated the semester together.
Team connections: Without competition, my teammates and I have almost had more time to get to know one another. We’ve been able to spend a lot of time together on the course and off. Especially with the quarantine at the beginning of the semester, it has been helpful to enter with a built-in group of friends.
Looking forward: Obviously, I hope to return to a level of normalcy. I am probably most excited to compete with the golf team and perform in person with the Dischords. I’m also excited to have more freedom, especially to be able to explore the local area and have fewer restrictions on social life.
Observations from Jacob Watts ’21
Honors: 2020 Goldwater scholarship, Arnold and Mabel Beckman Scholar, Alumni Memorial Scholar
Hometown: North East, Pa.
Particularly this semester, I took solace on the trails. As an Outdoor Education staff member, I am privileged to have access to mountain bikes that we use to teach classes and lead trips. The extensive network of single-track mountain biking trails has been a very important part of my Colgate experience.
Being on campus this semester has been critical for me during these challenging times. I can name any number of positive encounters that I have had this semester. Every morning, I am privileged to walk by Taylor Lake on my way to class. I go to in-person classes where I learn much more than I would on Zoom. But more importantly, I can remain an active member of the Colgate community in the limited fashion allowed under COVID-19 restrictions.
One of my favorite parts about being on campus this semester has been leading the campfires in the Academic Quad, where I can sit and talk with a variety of students, and we can escape from the world for a few hours while enjoying the crisp air. And, every evening when I come home after a long day, I can eat dinner with my family unit in my University Court apartment. Being on campus this semester has been much more positive than negative. There’s nowhere I’d rather be — except perhaps Costa Rica, examining ferns [Watts has gone on three research trips to Costa Rica with Professor Eddie Watkins].
I would like to express my gratitude to those faculty and staff who have made this semester possible.
I have always been an independent person, so I thought my nature would protect me as I unpacked my things and settled into quarantine in late August. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Waking up that first day in my twin XL bed, for a moment I forgot the circumstances of the semester, and the slow realization tore away any illusion I had about my so-called protection. During outside time, I laid in the grass in Cushman House’s backyard, staring at the bright blue sky, not sure if it was making me feel better or if it was mocking my own gloomy state. Maybe I was being dramatic. Maybe I needed to try to find more ways to occupy myself. Whatever it might have been in those first few weeks, it passed. It passed without pomp nor circumstance; things simply began to look up.
Perhaps it was the fact that my Zoom classes began to feel more normal — with all of us trying our best to make things less awkward. Some professors took the time to amuse us by changing their virtual backgrounds or simply asking how we were doing and really being present when listening to our answers. I’m not sure if I actually faced an increase in my usual workload this fall, though it felt that way at times. In spite of it all, not a single one of my professors was anything but receptive, kind, and willing to meet us where we’re at. I can only imagine what it must be like for some professors who have families and lives that have been turned upside down by this pandemic, and yet each one I know has gone above and beyond to help me feel like I had the support that, in my time here, has been one of the most meaningful and valuable aspects of my Colgate experience. Aside from classes, I’m sure I will never know the depth of the work that faculty and staff members have done to program events for us in this new virtual form. The Museum Studies Program’s B.A.M. (Be a Maker) series has been a real highlight, and the other day I was handed a candy apple by the Office of the Dean that quite literally sweetened my afternoon. The clubs and student groups I’m a part of, and other events I have attended, have given us social outlets and fun activities to do as well. These spaces have done so much to help me feel connected.
It certainly didn’t help that situations beyond Colgate’s campus are so fraught right now. Considering our current national and global context, the work we all have, and the sheer pressure of adapting to this new way of life, I think we have done an incredible job. I am so beyond proud of Colgate and everyone who has been part of making this semester what it has been thus far.
The word “unprecedented” has become so much a part of our vocabulary that it has nearly lost the impact it had months ago. As we continue to face new challenges, it will perhaps become diluted further by the ever-growing burden of meaning it carries for us. Not one of us could have planned for the heartbreak and fear that seems to color our days. That said, I am certainly welcoming every blue sky I see these days and, for now, I suppose that is enough.
— Carina Haden ’21 is an English major and art and art history minor from Whitesboro, N.Y. For the last two years, she has been a research assistant for Jennifer Brice and the Living Writers Program. Haden is also the senior adviser for the Black Student Union, the secretary of the Colgate Book Society, and has been a WRCU DJ.
Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, and Frida Kahlo are three examples of artists who made some of their best works while in isolation. Both the past and the present have shown that people use creative expression as a way of finding solace in difficult times.
Colgate’s Department of Theater built off this idea with COVID Diaries: A Festival Gallery.
“We had students who wrote plays and did artwork as a response to being in quarantine in the spring,” says Anna Labykina, the theater department’s technical director who devised, developed, and coordinated the three-day gallery. Realizing last summer that there wouldn’t be a live production happening in the near future, the department put out a call for projects — those already created and new works — that would be presented online at the end of October.
In their artist statements, many students talked about how they made their projects as a method of processing their feelings while in isolation. Not all of the students who participated were even art or theater majors. “But people wanted to produce art to cope with the current circumstances,” Labykina says. “And that was, in large part, why we wanted to do the exhibit to begin with — to show people’s reactions to the circumstances we’re finding ourselves in.”
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Lost in the blackness, with no sense of direction. That’s what Erika Fox ’21 wants users to feel as they interact with her digital project.
During a Digital Studio class in the fall, Fox and the group discussed the notion of the pandemic as a portal. “But I think that implies that it’s quick and easy,” she says. “It’s more of a tunnel we’re stuck in and struggling to find our way out of.” The project — which the film and media studies and computer science double major made using the programming language Max8 — represents Fox’s theory.
The interface allows users to navigate through the blackness of the “tunnel” looking for lights. At the brighter points, the user is rewarded with fun audio clips, like popular TikTok songs, viral YouTube videos, and upbeat instrumentals from the video game Animal Crossing.
Fox intended for these audio clips to be positive reinforcements, representing the happy little moments of culture that can be a brief respite from the darkness. (She took inspiration in finding these clips from her work as a global insights intern at ViacomCBS last summer.)
In the tunnel, there’s also a large “I’m lost” button, but every time users click on it, they are navigated to a different random point, and a COVID-19 public service announcement plays. “The more lost you say you are, the more lost you’ll be [in the game],” Fox says. “It’s a commentary on how you have to stop dwelling on when you’re going to get out and when the pandemic is going to end — because that’s not going to help anything; it’s just going to make it worse.”
The end of the tunnel is attainable through four points, at which the screen becomes almost completely light and the volume is at its peak. As the screen becomes lighter, Fox’s ultimate message becomes clear with the words: “as we navigate unprecedented times / we find little lights in the tunnel / that help us through the darkness.”
The Big Picture
A young woman sits, surrounded by flowers, holding a protest sign that says “Defund the police.”
Titled A Moment of Reckoning, this collage symbolizes the complex nature of the 2020 racial justice protests and the differing opinions people have about them. Some see the events as peaceful, while others view them as destructive.
This work is the centerpiece of Out of Context by Ethan Cherry ’23, who extracted the main image out of a Baltimore magazine. Cherry, who is majoring in political science and minoring in architectural studies, hails from outside that city. He completed this project in Introduction to Studio Art with Professor Yi Cui.
“There’s so much going on in the world right now that I’d be remiss not to comment on all the things happening,” Cherry says.
A Moment of Reckoning differs from the other collages that comprise Out of Context, but in each piece, Cherry plays with juxtaposing ideas. Ultimately, the pieces serve as a commentary on society.
“In Third Dimension, a woman’s face is split in two, and the center of her halves is filled with cascading gold coins. Commenting on our “obsession with excess,” Cherry prompts us to reevaluate our society during the pandemic and ask: “Is that what life should be anymore?”
These works “speak to a time in our lives that is at one moment a blur but also packed with moments that will define our year and redefine even more,” he says.
— Aleta Mayne