By Caroline Randall
In June 2019, I started as the new Director of Admissions in Santa Fe. Having fallen in love with St. John’s three years ago, I was thrilled to be a part of this community. My excitement and passion for this school has grown over the past eight months as I find my footing in this new world. I am beginning to understand the Johnnie way of life, I am reading more of the books from the reading list, I am connecting with outstanding future students, I am planning my trip to Annapolis for the famous croquet match, I am attending campus events and classes, I am building relationships with tutors and staff members…and then COVID-19 descends on our world.
Now I find myself in constant meetings and email chains with leaders from both campuses as we decide the best way to move forward in these difficult and constantly changing times. How do we best serve our current students? How do we help them to travel home or find a temporary home? How does our unique curriculum translate into an online world? What happens if someone on our small team gets sick? How do we host campus visits with an empty campus? How do we help students finish their applications? What happens this summer? What happens this fall? I have seen the heartbreak and concern from our leaders, our tutors, our staff, our students, our parents, our alumni, and the outside world. This level of personal and professional panic is not what I expected in my first year, but here we are.
Despite this chaos, I have found reasons to love this school even more. When we come together with a mission to help our students, great things can happen. This is a campus which greatly values books and in-person conversations more than technology – but they have moved quickly to find online solutions for classes that won’t take away from the personal connections we seek. We have alumni and staff opening their homes to students who don’t have a home to travel to or donating to student emergency relief funds. We have staff who are bringing groceries to students on campus or taking care of fish or plants when our students leave. We have teams who are finding ways to connect to each other virtually and finding the humor where they can.
We also know that this will end. We will be able to go back to the rich conversations around the seminar tables, we will shift away from virtual meetings, we will welcome our students back with hugs instead of elbow bumps, and we will introduce the Johnnie life to a new group of freshmen. Until then, I am grateful to be part of a campus community who can act quickly to protect our students and find the best ways to educate them despite the barriers. On the other side, we will be a stronger team.
Director of Admissions
Santa Fe | Annapolis