Music education sophomore CJ Tovar spent most of her summer recovering from COVID-19.

Tovar, who is immunocompromised, took nearly two months to recover from the virus, and coming back to campus this fall is something she’s reluctant about.

“It almost cost me my life,” Tovar said. “That’s definitely something that I don’t want any other student to experience.”

In March, UTA transitioned all classes online after the World Health Organization classified the outbreak as a pandemic. Five months later, and with over 5 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., UTA and universities across the state have reopened their doors to students for the fall semester.

With a tough summer ending and Tovar testing negative, she made an eight-hour drive this last weekend from Brownsville to West Hall. Although she’d prefer to stay home and attend classes online, a majority of her classes will be taught in a hybrid format since her major emphasizes vocal concentration, she said.

Her biggest concern is co-living with someone in small quarters since she already has contracted the virus once and has low immunity.

The university informed residents that they would provide them with cleaning supplies, but Tovar’s not sure how effective that will combat COVID-19 in her case, she said.

At the end of the day, she said it matters how everyone will practice prevention measures this semester.

Like Tovar, English freshman Tyler Johnson decided to live on campus at Vandergriff Hall her first semester, even if her hometown, Keller, is less than an hour away.

But unlike Tovar, Johnson is excited about staying on campus.

She’s nervous since she originally had a roommate assigned, but because of the pandemic, her roommate decided to commute. Despite that, she’s excited to live on campus and attend UTA, she said.

“I know that coronavirus and stuff kind of threw everyone for a loop, but I’m still hoping that I can join a lot of clubs and still get involved,” Johnson said.

To prepare for living on campus, Johnson quit her job to self-isolate for up to two weeks before the weekend of move-in day. The Division of Student Affairs asked students to limit any social activities and exposure to others for at least 14 days before returning to campus for the fall semester.

She plans to not work during the school year to limit her exposure to the virus and focus on school, she said.

Sociology associate professor David Arditi enjoys teaching face to face and getting to know his students, but this semester will be different since he will teach only online courses — and it wasn’t an easy choice to make, he said.

Arditi originally chose to teach face to face since he’s the youngest in his department and has no underlying conditions, he said.

However, this summer Arditi took his son to the Fort Worth Zoo when it reopened at limited capacity and was shocked to see it crowded with camps, no social distancing guidelines being enforced and no masks being worn, he said.

“After I had that experience, and I guess this was probably late June, I decided people aren’t really taking this seriously enough,” Arditi said. “Having a face-to-face class is probably bad news.”

This upcoming semester will be a learning process, he said. However, he still looks forward to engaging with his students, albeit virtually. He also encourages that students engage with their professors in return.

“Engage with your professors, don’t act like we’re just IT support,” Arditi said. “We’re here to help, and we want nothing more than to have quality engagement with our students.”

Peggy Semingson, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, is no rookie to online teaching and is looking forward to offering all her classes virtually.

“I teach in the College of Education, and we have a 100% online master’s degree in literacy, and so I’ve been heavily involved with online learning since 2008,” Semingson said.

Since the start of the pandemic, Semingson began uploading videos on YouTube for faculty to utilize and learn the basics of online teaching practices. She gives tips on how to reach out and communicate with students, whom professors might not get to meet.

Semingson said she knows everyone feels differently about this upcoming semester, but she’s excited to begin teaching and feels at ease with online learning.

“I just want to make sure that the students are successful,” she said. “If I need to make extra videos to help them learn, then I’ll do that, but I think we’re all gonna learn along the way.”


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