Truman Symposium adapts to COVID-19

In the 2018 fall semester, Ryle Hall freshmen took part in the trials for the symposium. Since then, courses have been socially distanced. Photo from TMN Archives

The TRU:100 Symposium class at Truman State University is now a required course for freshmen that began this year, as part of The Dialogues curriculum. 

The course has three components which include shared experiences, discovery and action projects. Because of COVID-19, the professors in charge of the class had to make changes, including having online options and modifying some of the initially planned experiences.

“The shared experiences have been the most challenging because we really were relying on everybody to be able to be in one place and watch something and … we really wanted to showcase some of Truman’s great arts programs,” Amanda Langendoerfer, associate dean of libraries for Special Collections and Museums, said.

Now, because of the coronavirus, these shared experiences have been virtual, with minimal in-person attendance. Students have heard from University President Sue Thomas and multiple Truman alumni. They will continue to hear from various Kirksville and Truman community members for the rest of the semester. 

Another change that is taking place is related to the student’s Action Projects. Each symposium class will still be doing a project, but they will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safety guidelines.

Students in the TRU:100 READ class will be doing projects such as setting up a free library in Kirksville, having a story corner at the farmer’s market and other outreach activities to connect with the community. 

The last part of the TRU:100 course is Discover, where students can explore campus while learning about their new community. Students are encouraged to visit Kirksville landmarks, like Thousand Hills State Park and the Farmer’s Market, and try new things on campus.

Since the symposium class is so new, there wasn’t a preexisting plan to go off of before the pandemic happened. 

“Because it is such a new class, and we are trying it for the first time anyways, aside from the pandemic it was still going to be a learning experience,” physics professor Vayujeet Gokhale said.

With all the challenges associated with the symposium as a new class, and all of the new safety measures in place, both professors and students have had to adapt quickly and find new ways to connect, learn and reach out to the community. 

“We were able to meet in person, but recently we’ve been doing Zoom calls instead,” freshman Lauryn Robinet said. “We’re learning how to make it work with COVID.”