Psychology Annual Senior Seminar Celebration—COVID style

For the past several years, the psychology faculty have hosted a breakfast brunch on Tuesday morning of fall semester finals week to acknowledge the completion of the Psychology Senior Seminar course and to celebrate the seniors graduating in December and May. The event has been held at a faculty’s home with faculty and students, with a range of 25-35 people crammed into every nook and cranny enjoying homemade food, lots of memories, a group photo, sometimes a humorous psychology-related song or two, and always ending with the students reciting the famous (and very funny) Psychology Graduate Pledge written by Professor Emeritus Bob Dunn.

Unfortunately, there was no way to do such a celebration this year, so the psychology faculty developed a new plan to celebrate in a COVID-safe manner. On the brisk but sunny morning of Tuesday, November 17, the psychology faculty set-up in the Hennessy parking lot for a drive/walk-thru celebration. Students were treated to coffee, cupcakes, door prizes, a gift bag, masked conversation, and photos with their beloved Hennessy Hall. Twenty-four of our 28 Senior Seminar students were able to participate. Madison Holerud (’21), completing degrees in Psychology and Neuroscience, commented that, “The COVID-style Senior Sem. celebration was refreshingly simple and so appreciated! It was a cold morning, but sharing laughs and conversation with peers was something I will appreciate for years to come!”

With the actual Senior Seminar course being fully online this fall, many, including myself, experienced joy just being able to see one another in person. Shania Kelly (’21), a graduating senior double majoring in Psychology and Kinesiology, who will be taking advantage of Loras’ free 9th and 10th semester next year, shared, “I felt it was really nice to be able to celebrate as a class and see all of our professors again. Personally, the hardest part about the pandemic has been not seeing my professors and classmates I have grown with the past four years.” Rose Gottschalk (’21), majoring in Psychology and Creative Writing, agreed, “I hadn’t seen some of these classmates in person yet this semester. When we got to see each other in a safe way and celebrate our accomplishments, it felt like there was so much joy and comfort in that small lot.”

As we were wrapping up our hour of celebration, Hayden Merkel (’23), a seminary student double majoring in Psychology and Philosophy, shared with Dr. Omarzu and me his gratefulness for the community we created that day and throughout his studies. When I asked if he could pen a few words, he shared the following: “All the seniors coming together for a celebration, even in a year like 2020, speaks highly of the community experienced within the psychology program here at Loras College. I have attended three other higher-education institutions throughout my college career before Loras College, but I found the psychology program here at Loras College to be closer and more personal, more caring, and more invested in their students’ success than anywhere else. There is a true desire for each student to reach their potential in the students’ own unique way. The professors are focused, not on rote memorization, but on practical applications of psychology so we can be successful wherever we end up in our journey. COVID-19 did its best to thwart and disrupt our way of life, but it is in times of trial that we come together to recognize what is important: relationships and our well-being. The Senior Sem. Celebration was a way for us to come together one more time in our multiple-year journey together.”

Celia Balderston picks up her gift bag.
Madison Holerud (’21) displays her door prize.
Sharing memories in the parking lot.
About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2020, Loras was ranked the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the fourth consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 12th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).