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Class of 2020 Will Have On-Campus CelebrationPresident Bradley announces plans during first “Virtual Tea with PB”

Vassar's Class of 2020 will be having Commencement remotely this year, but the college is making plans to throw a big, on-campus celebration for the graduates some time in the future.

President Elizabeth Bradley made the announcement Wednesday night during her inaugural “Virtual Tea with PB,” a digital get-together she hosted with Dean of the College Carlos Alamo-Pastrana and students Ivanna Guerra ’20 and Francisco “Frannie” Andrade ’22.

Melanie Susman '21, has fun watching President Bradley and friends at her first "Virtual Tea with PB."

“I’m happy to be able to tell you that the college has committed to having an in-person, on-campus celebration specifically for the Class of 2020,” Bradley said. “Right now, we cannot predict when it will be safe to be able to be back on campus but we know that eventually it will happen.”

The president said a committee, including students Heather Nguyen ’20 and Prashit Parikh ’21, had already been formed and would be reaching out to fellow seniors “for thoughts and ideas on how you might celebrate this momentous accomplishment.”

Prior to her announcement about the plans for the celebration, Bradley, Alamo-Pastrana, Guerra, and Andrade talked about their experiences living through the COVID-19 pandemic. They shared their favorite “quarantine snacks” (tangerines for Andrade, Reese’s peanut butter cups for Alamo-Pastrana, chocolate of all kinds for Bradley and Guerra) as well as ways they’ve found to relax.

Alamo-Pastrana said he enjoys doing the dishes to clear his mind of the stresses of his job, and he said his 9-year-old son had introduced him to a new relaxation technique: taking baths instead of showers. “He told me I ought to try it, so I got some bath bombs and put some music on and it really helped,” he said.

Guerra, a history major from Douglas, AZ, said she’s been doing some cooking and watching Disney movies (“in both English and Spanish”). Andrade, an education and media studies major and a member of the Posse Veterans cohort, said he was using technology provided by Netflix and YouTube that enable him to watch movies together with friends.

All four participants in the “virtual tea” said being mindful of the stresses they were feeling and sharing those feelings with others was especially important.  “I miss the spontaneity of meeting people on campus,” Bradley said. “I still get to walk around, but a lot of times you have to make a Zoom appointment and that makes me realize how much I miss just running into students and chatting.”

Guerra agreed. “I miss the energy I used to get experiencing a professor’s passion in the classroom,” she said. “Email and Zoom is just not the same. But just sharing these feelings we have with others makes us realize we’re not alone.”

Andrade noted that many of the distance-learning techniques he is being forced to learn for his own classes this semester could be useful to him in his future career. “I think I’ll be able to use this knowledge I’m gaining from this experience,” he said.

Bradley said she and other members of the Senior Team were constantly brainstorming about ways to help everyone in the Vassar community cope with the stresses triggered by the pandemic. “The hardest part is not knowing how long this will last,” she said. “Some of the information we have received says the surge will happen in the next two or three weeks, but others tell us six weeks,” she said. “I wish I knew more.”

The next installment of “Virtual Tea with PB” will be held April 1 at 9:00pm—an invite with a Zoom link will be sent via email. Topics will include social distancing, working from home, and engaging with family.

Bradley said she thoroughly enjoyed hosting the first event. “The students’ experiences were really engaging, and we talked about everything from favorite quarantine snacks to best practices in using tech to create community to mental health and family,” she said. “It was all there. And who knew Dean Alamo likes to take baths—

with bath bombs?”