KENNESAW, Ga. | Aug 18, 2020
The first day of fall semester classes at Kennesaw State University looked a bit different in the age of social distancing, but senior Tariq Bradford still felt the same energy on campus.
“It feels great to be back,” said Bradford, a double-major in business management and marketing. “Seeing Kennesaw State be able to adjust so effectively was amazing, and I’m really happy that they’re looking out for the students. Things are a little different, but the environment is still positive.”
Bradford, the president of KSU’s Student Government Association, took part in the activities on the Kennesaw Campus Green to welcome students, faculty and staff to the 2020-21 academic year. Bradford, Kennesaw State President Pamela Whitten, Scrappy the Owl and SGA vice president Jessica Watkins cut KSU-themed cookie cakes in a ceremony that was duplicated on the Marietta Campus later in the day.
“The first day of classes always is one of my favorite days of the year, and seeing our students back on campus means even more this year,” Whitten said. “These are unique times, and we have implemented a number of measures to help our students attend Kennesaw State safely. From what I saw on the first day, our students are enthused about the semester and eager to make of the most of their KSU experience.”
Following the ceremonial cake cutting, individually-wrapped cookies in Kennesaw State colors were available at locations around the Kennesaw and Marietta campuses in a modified version of KSU’s First Day of School Cake tradition. As Watkins observed people wearing masks and practicing social distancing, she was happy to see the Campus Green active again.
“The energy and the vibe on campus is amazing,” said Watkins, a senior majoring in psychology. “It’s fewer people, but everyone is still excited and students are still engaging.”
While Bradford and Watkins were starting their senior year, freshman Bridgette Juarez was finding her way around. Juarez took in the festivities on campus as she prepared to begin her first four college classes – two on campus and two online.
“The atmosphere is really welcoming, with the cookies and everyone saying hi and helping,” Juarez said. “Obviously this is a little different than the experience I thought I’d have when I started college, but that’s OK. I’m here.”
Senior Daniel Simpson empathized with Juarez and other first-year students who didn’t have the “typical” first day of college experience that he had. However, he was optimistic that the new students’ time at Kennesaw State will be just as memorable as his has been.
“Our duty as upperclassmen is to make sure they have a good experience and want to come back,” said Simpson, an exercise science major. “I hope we find ways to make everyone feel at home and feel a part of this great place.”
A sense of KSU life gradually returning to normal also was felt on the Marietta Campus. Moments before the First Day of School Cookies celebration started in Marietta, mechanical engineering student David Kirkwood asked a passerby to snap a photo of him in front of the campus' iconic globe statue. A junior, he said it has become tradition to send a photo to his mother at the start of every school year.
"Without a doubt, 2020 will be one for the history books," Kirkwood said. "It's great to see people in person again and for a sense of normalcy to return."
The Student Government Association leaders emphasized that the socially-distanced celebration of the start of the school year ties to KSU’s ongoing message of Keep Safe and United. Bradford encouraged his fellow students to hold each other accountable and “be as safe as we possibly can, not just for yourself but for other people and other people’s families.”
Watkins added, “We really want to foster an environment and a culture on campus of being inclusive and welcoming, and being an Owl Nation family in which we all take care of each other.”
The first-day festivities were just the beginning of Kennesaw State’s Week of Welcome. Click here for the full schedule.
– Paul Floeckher
Photos by David Caselli and Jason Getz
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.