New book exposes inner worlds of first-year OSU-Cascades students during pandemic

OSU-Cascades students move in to the campus residence hall in fall 2020.
Dec. 14, 2021

Journal entries recorded by a class of first-year students at Oregon State University - Cascades have been turned into a new book documenting the students’ experiences and their introduction to college during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The book, “There is No College in COVID,” features writings submitted by 28 students who took a course offered annually and taught by Jenna Goldsmith, a writing instructor at that time. The course connects new students to the college experience through writing and typically includes assignments where students seek out, interview and write about members of the campus community. 

With students’ in-person interactions limited due to the pandemic and OSU-Cascades engaging in remote and hybrid learning from spring term 2020 through spring term 2021, Goldsmith instead assigned twice-weekly journal entries.

“Though finding creative ways to connect with one another would become crucial to our well-being during the pandemic, I also felt that reconnecting with ourselves …. was key,” Goldsmith writes in the book’s introduction.

The book’s more than 80 entries portray young adults experiencing a range of emotions, and ultimately personal resilience and growth, as they navigated remote and hybrid learning, isolation, frustration, loss, grief, social connections, and family and personal relationships.  

“I can’t quite tell what I’m struggling with that’s based on COVID and what is just college,” wrote one student named Lucy F. To acknowledge the private nature of their writings, students sign the entries only with first names and the first letter of their last names.

“It’s been strange over the summer and into the fall, not being able to go see friends in-person. I don’t want to get used to only video calls,” wrote Hope S.

Student Gulian C. wrote a poem after his grandfather died because of COVID. “I miss you Abuelo. It sucks you left us this way. At the hands of this virus.”

Goldsmith selected the title of the book from an entry written by student Spencer V. that contrasts a traditionally expected first year of college life with the experiences he encountered in 2020.

The book was made possible with a grant from the OSU Foundation Women’s Giving Circle. It is published by Belt Publishing and includes a forward written by Andrew Ketsdever, interim vice president of OSU-Cascades.

About OSU-Cascades:  Oregon State University’s campus in Bend brings higher education to Central Oregon, the fastest growing region in the state. Surrounded by 2.5 million acres of mountains and high desert, OSU-Cascades is a top-tier research university where small classes accelerate faculty-student mentoring. Degree programs meet industry and economic needs in areas such as innovation and entrepreneurship, natural ecosystems, health and wellness, and arts and sciences, and prepare students for tomorrow’s challenges. OSU-Cascades is expanding to serve 3,000 to 5,000 students, building a 128-acre campus with net-zero goals.