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Back in Black Bear Nation

On Aug. 31, 2021, the University of Maine opened its classroom doors to welcome students and professors back to in-person learning. This year, a majority of classes are taking place in person, as opposed to the previous academic year, where most classes were held in an online format. 

The university is offering more in-person experiences this semester per the requirement that every student must receive a COVID-19 vaccine to participate in in-person classes. 

The atmosphere on campus is much more vibrant compared to last year. Students can be seen congregating on campus and UMaine is supporting a variety of in-person activities, including the Student Organization Fair. 

Additionally, many students are finding it easier to learn in the classroom, as it is the modality they are used to. Sara Gundermann, a fourth-year food science student, describes her first week back with in-person classes as a positive experience. 

“I have really enjoyed in person classes this year thus far,” shares Gundermann.  “I find it is a lot easier to engage with the material when you are in person talking to your classmates and professors. As a Maine Learning Assistant, I find it a lot easier to help students and gage their understanding in person as opposed to through Zoom.” 

She feels that there has been a shift in the atmosphere at UMaine and that there is a stronger sense of community among students. This could be due to the fact that people are happier with their learning environments. 

“Going back to in-person [classes] has definitely been an adjustment but it’s going well. The biggest thing that I have noticed is the type of learning is much more active now instead of just listening to videos,” says Gundermann. 

Many students, including Gundermann, feel strongly about abiding by UMaine’s vaccine requirements. Having a vaccinated student body promotes a safe learning environment for all to enjoy. 

“I think that it is good that everyone is going to be vaccinated by October 15th. I believe that this is an important step to everyone feeling comfortable and safe in their learning environment,” Gundermann states. 

According to the Sept. 3 Friday Fututrecast, which is a weekly newsletter sent out to all UMaine students from the desk of President Ferrini-Mundy, “as of Sept. 2, more than 77% of UMaine full-time employees and 93% of residential students … have verified vaccinations recorded in PointnClick.” There are no statistics available on commuter students, which makes up a significant portion of the student body, but seeing as though all students must be vaccinated by Oct. 15, one can imagine that most students are taking the vaccination requirement seriously. 

In the most recent Black Bears Care update, sent out on Sept. 8, the administration thoroughly explained their policy regarding student vaccination. The email states that all students must be either fully vaccinated or have an exemption from getting the vaccine by Oct. 15, and that this information should be uploaded to the digital portal. 

These policies apply to students learning in the live classroom setting as well as remote students who haven’t submitted their exemption form. If a student does not take action to receive a vaccine or obtain an exemption, and the student does not withdraw themselves from classes, UMaine will automatically withdraw the students after Oct. 25. 

The email also explains that there will be no special refunds for room and board, tuition or student fees if students fail to comply with this university policy. If students need to withdraw from classes, it is advised they speak with the financial aid office to discuss how withdrawal will impact their financial aid eligibility should they choose to continue their studies. 

Thankfully, UMaine has made it very convenient to get the COVID-19 vaccine, as they are offering a clinic right here on campus. On Sept. 1, 8, 15 and 22 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the COE room in the Memorial Union, students can opt to receive the two shot series of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. Interested students need to bring their vaccination cards if they are seeking a second dose of the vaccine. 

Although another unconventional semester lies ahead, the ability to be vaccinated has brought a refreshing wave of hope to the UMaine community and students are thrilled to be back in the classroom. 


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