By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer
With pandemic safety precautions in effect, Roane State students, faculty and staff ushered in the fall semester with the traditional “Welcome Back Week” observances at each of the community college’s campuses.
Roane State President Chris Whaley praised the patience and diligence of both employees and students as fall semester kicks off, saying everyone has “worked hard to be safe while having remarkably good attitudes.”
Keeping everyone safe is a “balancing act,” Whaley said, noting that many Roane State students have opted for online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite that, turnout for Welcome Back Week activities “really has been better than expected,” said Jennifer Fugate, the college’s student engagement coordinator. “Even online students have turned out to get their goody bags.”
Bumper stickers, pens, a t-shirt and other Roane State memorabilia were included in those red bags emblazoned with the college’s emblem.
“We’re just happy to be here,” said Clinton resident Katie Wood as she and fellow student Alice Tran of LaFollette clutched their hauls of swag.
They’re both in the college’s dental hygiene program, “and there’s no way to learn that online,” Katie said. Both students said program director Melinda Gill and clinic coordinator Michelle Jones “did everything they could do” to make the program as safe as possible.
“We truly feel appreciated and honored,” Alice said.
Also stopping for a goody bag was Knoxville resident Shayla Williamson. She’s in the school’s radiology program. “I wanted to come back” on campus, she said.
Welcome Back Week festivities, a tradition for more than 20 years, were held August 24 through August 27 on each of the college’s nine campuses and included free lunches.