Students Return, Spring Semester At WCC Begins with Excitement and Gratitude
The hallways of Wyoming Catholic College’s Augur and Baldwin buildings in downtown Lander have been unusually quiet for the last few months. The College’s rescheduling of the end of the Fall and the beginning of the Spring semesters created a longer-than-usual period of academic inactivity, but that silence is coming to an end at last. On Monday, February 1st, classes resumed, and the campus was once again alive with the sound of learning. While the College’s students are always grateful to get back to their studies after the break, this year’s return was the opportunity for even more gratitude than usual, given the uncertainty caused by the presence of COVID-19, and the policies and protocols that attempt to contain it.
Dr. Glenn Arbery, the College’s president, noted that the ongoing pandemic will make this semester look a bit different than many of its predecessors, but is confident that Wyoming Catholic College students are up to the task. “The unpredictability of last semester is likely to carry over into the spring,” he said, “but the energy of these students and their contagious enthusiasm for their studies will serve us well in the coming months.” “This semester,” he continued, “we’re able to make COVID testing a key part of our ‘back-to-school’ efforts. We’re confident that we can safely provide the transformative education our students are here to receive.”
Most of the students returned to town a few days ago, during the last weekend of January. But the Freshmen arrived a week earlier for their Winter Trip (near Jackson and Pinedale), a rite of passage for all first-year students. After a week in the mountains (and a full day of skiing with the College’s faculty and staff at the White Pine Ski Resort), they return to Lander and joined their fellow students in preparing for in-person classes. “The weather was perfect” said Dr. Tom Zimmer, Director of the College’s Experiential Leadership Program. “Not too cold, and just enough snow for our students tocreate the quinzhees (snow huts) they needed for shelter. Combining the Catholic liberal arts with a robust outdoor program like ours might seem strange at first, but they fit together perfectly. Outdoor education renews wonder, strengthens the imagination, and cultivates virtue. The heart of our college will always be in the classroom, but the outdoors is essential to what we do.”
Father Brian Hess, a priest of the Diocese of Cheyenne who accompanied one of the student groups, was equally enthused by the trip. “This has been my fifth time participating in the winter trek,” he said. “I consider all of Wyoming my home, but Jackson Hole is a particularly special part of that home, and I love the chance to share it with the College students. It’s a particular joy to celebrate Mass for them, in a place where the beauty of the environment God has provided can’t help but draw their hearts toward Heaven.”
Next on the horizon, Senior Orations Week, when the regular class schedule is suspended and the College’s seniors deliver their senior orations to the community—a thirty-minute presentation, often delivered entirely from memory (though a few notes are permitted), followed by up to half an hour of questions from the assembled audience. President Arbery says that “it is always a beautiful and moving thing to see our students step into this public arena, where they measure themselves against their professors and the distinguished visiting speakers who have spoken in similar circumstances. While it won’t be possible so share these presentations quite as fully with the larger Lander and academic communities this year, we’re still looking forward to these next few days. We’re tremendously grateful to be able to carry on with this important work.”