Seniors reflect COVID-19, four years at USI


Photo by Tegan Ruhl

Makayla Schirmer, senior health services major, smiles in front of the Cone at the University Center.

Tegan Ruhl, Staff Writer

Five graduating seniors put their heads together after a Christian Fellowship’s Church meeting to come up with a quote that best describes their four years at USI. 

Sitting on a large white rug in CFC leader Lindsey Wilson’s living room, seniors Danielle Daily, elementary education major, Katherine Drone, elementary education major, Sarah Barnes, elementary education major, Miranda Sermersheim, nursing major and Kylie Skepnek, business major, recounted their four years of school together. 

They worked to condense all the memories into a single quote. They eventually chose their specific words that highlighted their experience and created their ideal group quote. 

The group elected Sermersheim to be the one who announced the finished quote out loud. Standing on her knees with her head up so everyone could hear her, Sermersheim said,

“My time at USI was marked by gracious friends, genuine faith and growing knowledge.” The five seniors laughed and smiled at the sentence they had constructed together. 

The CFC group are far from the only seniors reflecting on their tumultuous years at USI.

For many students of the Class of 2022, the past four years have been anything but the typical college experience. From the beginning of quarantine through the two-year time span of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Class of 2022 is the only class currently on campus that had a normal academic year before the pandemic.

Since case numbers have decreased and mask mandates have lifted, graduating seniors are excited for at least a taste of normal in their last year at USI. 

“Four years at USI was definitely different than I anticipated,” said Makayla Schirmer, senior health services major. “It’s definitely been different now even with the mask mandate being lifted and the excitement of having maskless, in-person graduation.”

Schirmer graduated with her first degree from the Occupational Therapy Program in 2020 and had an online commencement ceremony. She said, “It was the weirdest experience of my life.” 

Schirmer’s online commencement consisted of her and her family sitting in the living room watching as her name appeared on the screen to congratulate her on her degree, and then eating dinner in her cap and gown. 

“My four years have been really good,” said Joel Ybarra, senior radio and television major. “I think after COVID hit, it stumbled me a little bit. My motivation just kind of went up and down, and that was a little hard. But I think that this year, it went up a little bit. I’ll be happy to graduate, and I’m going to be a little sad to leave USI, but I’m happy to see what’s going to happen afterward.” 

“I really didn’t realize how much I enjoyed college until COVID hit,” said Nicholas Wester, senior electrical engineering major. “Once COVID hit, I realized, ‘Wow, I’m really going to miss USI when I’m not here anymore.’ This has been really a blessing in disguise because now that we are back to normal, I’m enjoying every day of it. I’m on campus most of the day, even though I’m a commuter student, trying to enjoy and squeeze every second I can out of this experience.” 

Despite all that has happened in the past four years, many seniors are excited for a maskless commencement ceremony 

“This year, graduating with my second degree, I get to have a normal college graduation,” Schirmer said. “Which is really, really exciting.”