by PATRICK BROWN
The number of students reaching the 3.5 GPA threshold to make the UMW Dean’s list has increased since the start of the pandemic.
Between the spring of 2017 and fall of 2019, an average of 787 students made the Dean’s list each semester. In the spring of 2020, 918 people made the cut, and last fall 899 people made the list.
The Dean’s list is broken up by college, and individual colleges are also seeing the trend.
“I also noticed the small increase,” said Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Keith Mellinger. “For the [College of Arts and Sciences] Dean’s list, it’s about a 5 percent increase from fall 2019 to fall 2020. It will be interesting to see what happens with spring 2021.”
Some first-time Dean’s list students attribute their success to online classes.
“I had not made the Dean’s list in the past. I think online courses were easier, and I think just the fact that I got in [the Dean’s list] when I had not before, proves it,” said senior Spanish major Liz Echevarria Serrano.
Echevarria Serrano believes the decreased time spent on driving helped as well.
“I’m a commuter and I think the whole commuting part made me not focus as much on school as I did when I was able to just do everything from my house,” said Echevarria Serrano.
Mellinger acknowledged the struggles students are facing due to the pandemic.
“I would like to think that UMW students have learned to adapt to the new world,” he said. “While things are undoubtedly more challenging for many of us, it also has heightened our attention to that which is important. Sort of like when somebody loses their eyesight and their other senses become stronger.”
Some students did not find classes to be easier, but still made the Dean’s list.
“I’ve been on the Dean’s list before,” said junior English major Rosemary Pauley. “I think online classes are harder because there is constantly work to be done so I don’t have as much down time as I did when I was taking in person classes on campus.”
Some students felt that the online classes were challenging but helped them work at their own pace.
“I made the dean’s list in the fall of 2019 as well,” said sophomore environmental science major Carolyn Wilmore. “I’ve found online courses to be harder regarding my comprehension of the material that I’m learning, but a little easier with managing my own time and workload. With many of my courses posting video lectures and online or asynchronous labs, I’ve found that I can take my time with the material and go at my own pace, but at the same time I personally don’t comprehend information as well in an online format compared to an in-person lab or lecture.”
For some students, some aspects are harder and others are easier.
“I have made the Dean’s List in the past and it was an immensely exciting achievement. It’s always nice to receive that notification,” said junior English major Marisol Powell. “I have to say that when we first started online, I found professors to pack on assignments as if to make up for our lack of in-class opportunity. This resulted in hours of unnecessary work and extended computer usage. My eyes suffered more than when we had in-person classes and I found my posture worsening as well as backaches.”
Powell had different thoughts about the spring 2021 semester.
“I think most professors have learned from their mistakes,” she said. “The workload is more palatable and applicable instead of simply existing as busywork. I think it’s honestly doing too good of a job. Some classes are rather lax. I have found myself beyond bored this semester. There are no present challenges, which has left me a little stagnant. I’m actually considering signing up for free online classes offered by other institutions in tandem with my current schedule. I read for genuine enjoyment now which, I regretfully admit, is something I have not done in a long time.”
For freshmen, online college classes are all they know.
“I’m a freshman so this was my first time making the Dean’s list, and hopefully not the last time,” said freshman business major Zoe Harrington. “I only struggled with the workload of the online class last semester. I’ve taken online classes in high school using Canvas, so I found it super easy to navigate all the classes.”
Mellinger commended students for their hard work.
“I would like to think that UMW students have – in general – found a new level of focus on their learning,” said Mellinger. “They want to be in school and they want to finish. And they powered through the challenges of the pandemic. Again, this is only my opinion and not based on data. Whatever the case may be, I am very proud of our students right now.”