What Will the “New Normal” Look Like?/by Kyle Hamrick

It has been six weeks since the dome fell over the Mississippi College community. 

In that time, students, forced to adapt their daily routines of independent college life to the rhythms of home, have done their best to meet the double-edged challenge of completing the remainder of the semester online while maintaining their sanity. In a world shrunk down to include themselves and their immediate relations, students have managed to stay connected with friends and organizations via social media, sharing 30-day song challenges and words of encouragement to get each other through the quarantine blues. 

I have found that I can accomplish an in-person work and school day in the span of a few hours. What once took several hours of classes and campus group meetings now takes 10 fingertips and 10 minutes. I am exaggerating, but the point is that I have more free time here than I did at MC. Walking to class down a sidewalk shaded by trees, chatting with friends in a crowded Cups coffeehouse while “writing” a paper for the next class, “studying” for a test with a group in the library moments before midnight⸺all those things take up time, I guess, for better or worse.

To remedy the surplus time I have found on my hands, since public congregation has been temporarily abolished, I have endeavored to solve the world’s problems. I exaggerate again, but I have given some thought to what the future might hold after this new age of social distancing and all things takeout. 

I do not think anything will really change. There will still be restaurants and concerts and public beaches, I think, when the dome rises and the world is made right. People will still meet, bros will still bro-hug, and handshakes will endure as they have since Roman times. 

Yet, at the same time, we should not be afraid of change. Just as the Black Death gave way to the Italian Renaissance, the present time will give way to something new. You will have to ask me later on what that something new is after I have written the definitive history, but for now you must be content with the following ideas put forth by a handful of my fellow students on what the “new normal” might look like.

Luke Williams, junior: “Hopefully, we are all able to resume normal activities in the fall, but even if life isn’t as planned then as it is now, our God still faithfully reigns.”

Anna Clayton Nagle, senior: “My hope is that people are more careful with spreading different sicknesses and germs. I’m also hoping that people never take physical community and interaction for granted, and spend more intentional time with people as things finally come back to whatever normal may be.”

Bradley Lewis, junior: “I think the new normal will be a continued pursuit of God’s will in our life. Despite this pandemic, God has been on the move in many lives. I think just how God used Christ’s death for our ultimate good, our continued life after our separation will still be for God’s good!”

Isabelle Dean, sophomore: “When COVID-19 social distancing is over, I hope we have a deeper appreciation for one another, our families, and a burning desire to fully live out the calling God has for our lives. I hope and trust that social distancing is teaching all of us not to take a moment for granted and to recognize the brevity and obscurity of life. I think post-COVID-19 will restructure the way we view ‘The Church,’ and give us a better appreciation for the things we often take for granted.”

Parker Brooks, junior: “It’s gonna be weird at first going back to school and not having to stay put all day, but I think we will slowly shift back into life pre-COVID-19 within a few weeks. I think everyone will be more conscious of washing their hands and keeping themselves clean, but people aren’t going to stop shaking hands, holding hands, and giving hugs that contact will resume fairly quickly.”

While nobody knows what the future will look like, these comments have one theme in common: hope. Each hopes that humanity will leave quarantine with a greater sense of worth toward oneself and others, and will embrace life with passion and enthusiasm. Humanity will endure as it has endured, no matter what tomorrow looks like.

Student Success/by Austin LaBrot

The Mississippi College Office of Student Success is typically housed in Leland Speed Library; today, it is housed on Google Meet. Regan Atkins, the office’s director, has been working tirelessly to make sure students have an outlet for all their learning needs. 

Since COVID-19 was found in Mississippi, moving classes entirely online, many staff members at MC have also begun an online presence. 

Atkin’s job during the spring semester typically involves hiring for Blue and Gold 101/201, advising students for the upcoming fall, and many, many meetings. She continues to do all these things, just under her own roof. 

“My job is to meet with students and help them,” Atkins said. “The ‘how’ has changed,” but not her office’s mission. Her schedule is packed full of time with students. 

Atkins offers some advice as MC students work remotely. First, make a clear schedule for yourself. If you would typically be in American Literature from 9:25 to 10:40 a.m., then work on American Literature during that time. Second, have a set, consistent sleep schedule. Third, finish schoolwork early in the day and enjoy the outdoors and family time in the afternoon and evenings. Lastly, give yourself breaks. 

“I am here to help and talk,” Atkins said. “I want to help students figure out this transition.” 

According to Atkins, one positive aspect of having a virtual office is the clear schedule. “My schedule is more organized, and I am able to have one-on-one moments that are more intentional.” 

However, Atkins misses the spontaneity her MC office brings. “Students will just pop right in and want to talk.” She added, “My office is so organic.” 

In the upcoming weeks, Atkins will hire Blue and Gold leaders for the fall semester. She will also be taking part in some important meetings with administration. But mostly, she is here for you. 

“I want to be on the forefront, a resource for students to have,” she said. 

Reach out to Atkins for any help you need or if you want to chat about classes and/or life. Her email is ratkins@mc.edu

“The Lord has us,” she noted. “We are here for you.”

Standing Firm: The Debut Album of Jared Vardaman/by Ethan Coats

 It is no secret that MC is full of many, many amazing and talented people from the fields of Hederman Science, to the studies of Jennings, to the disciplines of Aven, and everywhere in between! Our campus seems to be bursting with individuals of different talents and abilities.

     Among them is Jared Vardaman, a junior communications major, who has been blessed with an amazing singing gift. Jared has been in numerous school productions; he sang at Dr. Thompson’s inauguration; and most famously, Jared went viral with a video of him singing of the arrival of Chick-fil-A on his campus in a rendition of “God Bless You, Chick-fil-A.” Most recently, Jared has released his debut album, but anyone who knows him knows that this was a long time coming!

     Through the years, Jared has always been involved in music, specifically the Southern Gospel realm of Christian music. Jared comes from a family of talent, his family having released an album in 2015. The album featured both his father and mother, along with himself, and features such songs as “If You Love Jesus (Raise Your Hand),” “I Just Stopped By,” and my personal favorite, “It Should Have Been Me.” Since then, Jared has released two singles, “Close to You” in 2018 and “Anyway” in 2019. For the past year, Jared has been working on his debut album Standing Firm, which he released earlier this year. 

     Before spring break, I had the privilege to listen to some demo versions of the songs with Jared. He leans deeply into his roots in Southern Gospel while also giving it his own familial touch. Songs such as “Standing Firm” and “Unashamed” speak to his devout obedience to the teachings of the Bible and also how that affects his worldview.

     In “Nevertheless,” Jared speaks of the willingness of Christ to die on the cross and what that act means for you and me. A heavy theme of the album as a whole is the reliance on the person of Jesus not only as a teacher but also as a Savior and a foundation. The album sounds like something you might have heard for years growing up in the Gospel south, however one does not need to have been in that atmosphere to glean the truth within the work.

     Jared and all those who helped him produce this album have a message for us found right in the name: stand firm. It is interesting how comforting it is to listen and remember how true the promises of God are in these trying times. The final work of the album is definitely my favorite. “Forevermore” features a duet between Jared and his father, Tal Vardaman. The song speaks of the omniscient power of God and the finiteness of our present being, echoing the opening theme of standing firm in the present time, yet pressing on to what is to come. 

    

“The Virtual NFL Draft”/by Elliot Reeder

On April 23, the first round of the 2020 NFL draft will take place. Thirty-two players will be selected to continue their football careers at the pro level. After that, 233 more players will be selected over the course of the two days following. There will be seven rounds and 255 total players selected. This will not be your normal NFL draft though. The coronavirus has forced everything to change. Almost everything has been affected, and the NFL draft is no different.

Usually the NFL draft takes place at a central location where hundreds of thousands of fans flock. There is a huge stage. Representatives from all 32 NFL teams are there. There are media members galore. The NFL Commissioner comes out to call the name of the players drafted (in the first round at least, usually former NFL greats, and other special people announce picks after that). A handful of players are at the draft. When they get selected, they will waltz up on stage and shake hands with the commissioner. It is a big party. Now, obviously ALL of that breaks almost every guideline that we have gotten over the last month from the experts and the governments at every level. The NFL was forced to cancel all of its festivities. They then had a decision to make. Do they postpone the draft, or do they try to still have it and just convert it to a virtual format?

The NFL elected to still have the NFL draft under the idea that they are trying to remain as “on schedule” as possible since the NFL is still operating under the intentions of beginning play at its normal time in September. The league then had to decide exactly how to take this huge festival and turn it completely virtual. 

They decided that instead of each team having a “war room” (a room at the team’s headquarters filled with the team’s general manager, owner, head coach plus tens of other scouts and high ranking personnel), the official decision maker would be in their own homes and would be in communication with the league executives in order to relay who they will pick. That decision maker then also has to sort how he will remain in communication with all of his scouts and coworkers, who will all be at their homes. The team must also figure out how they will stay in communication with other teams about potential trades as the draft goes along. They also have to figure out the simple task of who will call the respective player to tell him that they have decided to draft him and when each call will be made.

In regards to the commissioner announcing picks, information has been released that he will be announcing picks…from his basement. Yes, the NFL commissioner will be announcing the official picks on ESPN while in his basement.

In lieu of having players come onto the stage to shake the commissioner’s hand, some 50 or so players had a large camera and light set-up shipped to their house, which will relay feedback to ESPN, who will show us the reactions of these players and their families when they are selected.

Now, we do not know exactly how all of this will go. It is a completely unprecedented draft layout that has been caused by this virus. Your guess is just as good as mine on how all of this will look. It might look good enough to where the NFL implements some of it into its draft production full time after our return to normal. It might also be very bad. There will likely be a myriad of technical issues and glitches. It is bound to happen that communication with a team will be disrupted at some point in time (whether due to WiFi issues or a general manager’s child accidentally tripping over and unplugging wires). 

The draft itself has not been the only thing affected. The entire lead-up to this draft has been halted. The vast majority of players were unable to have Pro Days (an event where a university will invite scouts to see their players perform drills among other things). Teams have been unable to conduct in-person meetings with players. Also, and maybe most importantly, teams have been unable to have their team doctors perform medical evaluations of players coming off of injuries or with a vast injury history. That will likely affect those specific players more than it does anyone else because some teams very well might just decide to not draft them due to the uncertainty. All of these things getting scrapped has caused some general managers and team owners to push for the draft to be pushed back, but the NFL has decided that the draft will remain April 23-25 (and then told those managers and owners that they were not allowed to speak out publicly about not liking the draft remaining when it was). 

Some things in the draft will remain certain. LSU star QB Joe Burrow will almost assuredly be selected #1 overall by the Bengals. The teams that need QBs will still need QBs. This is still a very deep draft at Wide Receiver (with potentially seven or eight receivers being drafted in the first round alone). But this particular draft brings a ton of uncertainty, some of which stems from the draft always bringing uncertainty. Most people have no clue what teams will do. Trades will show up out of nowhere and blow up draft boards, players will inexplicably fall, a general manager will fall in love with a player’s tape and draft him way before anyone thinks he should. All of that will happen, but this virus will bring astronomically more uncertainty. So much that I will be glued to my telly for the entire seven rounds (nothing new).

Not all 255 players selected will become millionaires; most won’t. Some of them will never appear in an NFL game. Some will though. Some will get their dreams fulfilled. Some of them will get generational wealth. Some of them will become multiple time pro-bowlers. Some will turn into Hall of Famers. This is a draft unlike anything we have ever seen before, but the point remains. Players, 255 of them, all around our age, are going to see some form of fulfillment on something that they have put years of work into. Just for 3 days, we are going to be able to forget about everything and focus on something good, but even more importantly, 255 young adults are going to get the greatest phone call they have ever received.

To The Editor/by Dr. Reid Vance

To the Editor:

My first letter to an editor of a newspaper was sent in the late 1980s, to the Jackson Daily News, on a topic I now can’t remember.  In the decades since, I’ve been tempted to fire off other opinionated missives on any number of issues vital to societal discourse—for example, how video replay technology will lead to awful unintended consequences in baseball (narrator: “he was right”)—but I’ve always refrained.  

Until now.

The recent Collegian opinion column of Mr. Elliot Reeder, an excellent writer and outstanding student, though well-formed and painstakingly documented, was, to quote the presumptive Democrat presidential nominee, malarkey.  I come now to the defense of a universally beloved figure in American life and to express a vital counterpoint of the utmost cultural importance: Pam Beesly is most certainly not overrated.

Rather than refute Mr. Elliot point-by-point (which I totally could do, totally), I’ll instead offer several character attributes of Pam Beesly that add to her charm and endear her to millions, even in reruns.

Pam is faithful.  Pam gives her fiancée Roy Anderson every possible chance at salvaging a relationship until his rage makes a permanent union untenable.  Roy is the last one to realize what everyone else already knows: he doesn’t deserve Pam.  No man does.

Pam is creative.  Pam’s art inspires Michael Scott (admittedly, not a difficult thing to do), and her painting of Dunder-Mifflin’s Scranton office building is the last thing viewers see in the series’ final episode.  Pam is also a key member of the party planning committee.

Pam is fashionable.  Pam won the Whitest Shoes Award at the 2006 Dundees.

Pam is bold.  Pam takes initiative in premiering her art at a local showing, and then pursuing her art career while navigating a long-distance relationship with Jim Halpert.  Pam also steps out from behind the receptionist’s desk to help form the new Michael Scott Paper Company, a risky career move if there ever was one.

Pam is selfless.  Not wanting to expose the salacious and illicit Angela Martin-Dwight Schrute relationship—a move that would invite scorn and bring possible corporate discipline to her colleagues—Pam volunteers to have co-workers’ complaints read about her in a round of office conflict resolution.

Pam is easy on the eyes.  (See: “Casino Night.”)

I could go on, but I have papers to grade.

All these characteristics and others make Pam Beesly an inspiring figure and a woman worthy of admiration.  Moreover, these character traits also make Pam worthy of Jim’s affection.  Again, we turn to “Casino Night.”  What man has not been that Jim, baring his soul, risking rejection, for the attention and affection of his own Pam?  Indeed, Jim knows that the heart wants what it wants—or else it does not care.

Fellow men of Earth, hear me: I found my Pam, and I hope you find yours.  She is out there, perhaps even right in front of you, if you care to look.  As was true for Jim, the love you long for may not be in some faraway place like Stamford, Connecticut.  Rather, she could be the friend you know best, the one you see every day sitting at that same desk, right across the room.

Far from being overrated, Pam Beesly—and all the Pams of this world—are worthy of our love, appreciation, and admiration.  For as scripture says, “Many women have done excellently, but Pam Beesly surpasses them all.”

 

Reid Vance, Ph.D.

Clinton, Miss.

What Are the Students Saying?/by Kienna Van Dellen

In the past month, Mississippi College has had to change the way they operate drastically. Students switched to online Zoom classes, professors started teaching from home, and the MC leaders have had to make numerous decisions in a short amount of time. 

On Thursday, April 16, 2020, MC President Blake Thompson publicly announced that the MC board of trustees had approved a plan that will provide students with prorated credits or refunds for the unused portion of their Spring 2020 room and board charges. “COVID-19 has disrupted our daily lives and left our futures uncertain, but it has not changed the love and concern the Mississippi College community feels for our students,” said Dr. Thompson. The refund amount takes into consideration the student’s type of housing and meal plan. Students must complete a form of where they wish to direct their funds by April 30. They have also created an MCcares fund in order to further assist students in crisis. 

For MC students currently scattered across the globe, this brings us closer to our college home. It shows how much MC truly cares about each of their students and what struggles they are currently facing. 

So what are the students saying about the refunds?

Many are expressing their sheer gratitude towards the staff at MC for making these funds available. Various students are facing the difficulty of losing their job, and their parents now unemployed, making this seemingly small amount so meaningful during this pandemic. For students like myself paying their own way through college, every little bit helps when it comes to saving money. Some are moving their balance to roll over to next semester to assist with payments; then, this takes off some future stress and pressure on both students and parents. “I think MC did the right thing. For a private institution to return funds without obligation reveals much about the institution’s priorities. Clearly, students are MC’s first priority,” said MC junior Kyle Hamrick of Corner, Alabama.

While some students are confused as to how their balance has been established, the team at MC has agreed to walk through with the students how they have calculated everything to get the final numbers, trying to clarify any confusion. The whole situation of COVID-19 is frustrating and scary, so most students agree that rather than complaining about specific amounts, they are happy to get some refunds. The world is going through a financial struggle right now, and the students of MC are grateful to get a portion back to assist with their future. 

 

Scenes for Quarantine/by Meredith Stratmann

By now, there’s only a few weeks of school left. Everyone is tired of being cooped up in their homes with what seems like nothing to do. I encourage you to pick up a new hobby, but if you’re like everyone else, the easiest thing to do is start a new show. I’ve watched a fair share of new shows and movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime and I’m here to give you the hot take on what to watch and what to leave alone. 

Let’s start with a gem of a show–Better Call Saul. This prequel to Breaking Bad is made by the same people and has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It follows the story of Saul Goodman, who goes from working in a mail room to a fully fledged lawyer with questionable morals. Better Call Saul is equally as witty and well-made as Breaking Bad and I actually like it better, which is saying something.  The fourth season dropped recently so there’s plenty of episodes to keep you entertained. 11/10 would recommend

A new movie that is well worth the watch is Love Wedding Repeat. This delightful romantic comedy is about Jack, who tries to make sure his sister’s wedding day goes according to plan, and also woo the girl of his dreams. It’s one of the funniest and least cringey romantic comedies I’ve ever watched and I would happily watch it again soon. 10/10 would recommend 

Unfortunately, not all cinematic pieces are as well made. Such is the case for Too Hot to Handle. I’m ashamed to admit this is the trashiest show I’ve ever watched. The premise is that stunning people addicted to dating apps and the hookup culture are placed on an island and then pushed to better themselves and their relationships by abstaining from all sexual contact. It’s very bingeable and there are a great variety of beautiful people from all over the world, but it is not quality television. 4/10 would not recommend 

If you’re looking for a dating show that maintains some class, try Dating Around. This show is six stand alone episodes in which each episode focuses on a series of blind first dates for a lucky man or woman. They have drinks, then dinner, and if the couple is hitting it off, sometimes they hang out after dinner. After all of the blind dates, the title single gets to pick one person to go on a second date with. Dating Around is classy, takes place in New York, and worth the watch. 8/10 would recommend 

If you don’t have Netflix, head over to Amazon Prime and watch Troop Zero. This movie is absolutely precious. It follows the fictional story of Christmas Flint, a little girl who forms a misfit scouting group in order to have a shot to leave a message for extraterrestrial life. It’s a classic tearjerker and worth sitting down with your mom to watch. 10/10 would recommend 

I realize these titles listed here are just a small portion of all of the movies and shows out there, but that’s what I’ve been watching. My next show to catch up on is Ozark.  I would also recommend The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, You, Love is Blind, and Tiger King if you haven’t caught up on those. All in all, enjoy this increased time at home. We’re in college and home may look very different after graduation. Use this time to start a new show with your family.

We’re Almost to the End/by Marquisha Mathis

 It has been really hard staying at home and not being at Mississippi College. At first I was excited because of spring break. I needed a break from schoolwork and campus. However, the coronavirus has begun to spread all over the world. The world went into panic! I went into panic as well, but it wasn’t about the virus, it was more so about the idea that I would be missing out on school and being back on campus.

     My first thought was “How am I going to do my work?” Then I got an email from the school talking about classes that will be moved to an online format on Moodle. I left all my books at school, and I did not want to drive back to campus for them.

     Since everything was going to be moved online, I thought maybe the professors would provide materials and resources for us. And they did just that, so I didn’t have to drive almost three hours back to MC.

     However, I don’t like taking classes that involve my major online. I think face-to-face interaction is more important. It allows you to really learn what your professor is talking about.

     As a communication major, my classes involve projects, such as interviews, PR plans, and sales presentations. So, I was a little worried about how that was going to work, but it’s turning out to be fine.

     We came into this about two weeks after spring break so lost, trying to understand how all of this was going to work, but we are making it.

     Online classes have been tricky for some students who have found it hard to do their work online, especially those in certain majors. I prefer those online classes that I know I can still learn from but which are not involved in my major. For example, a nutrition or English class.

     However, there can be some benefits from online classes, such as professors who are willing to have face-to face interactions with you. You don’t feel like you’re talking to a ghost.

     Many of us are wondering how finals are going to work now that they’re online. We’re worried about our grades and will it be timed, but I want us to remember that we’re almost there. What I thought would make me mad about online classes has made me appreciate them more.

     Online options exist. Our education is still ours. Because our professors want to help us succeed, we have an opportunity to learn even in this state.

     We’re in the month of April, and we’re still holding on. It may be getting harder, or it may be getting easier, but we’re getting there. In my opinion, this virus will only defeat us for now. We will be back to real life in the fall. Don’t worry; we’re almost to the end.

Staying Physically Fit/by Jordon Gray

If you are like me, then you are struggling to stay fit during this pandemic. With public gyms being closed, at-home workouts seem to be the way to go. The problem is that working out at home is kind of difficult. For many people, home is a safe haven and place of rest. It can be challenging to reprogram our minds during this time. Getting up early in the day if you are a night owl or just getting out of bed when you know you don’t have anywhere to go are prime examples of struggling with mindset during quarantine.

Well, I have some solutions to trick our minds into getting up and making the best out of any situation. The best thing to do is either go in your garage or somewhere quiet in your neighborhood. Once there, YouTube is your best friend to find simple yet effective workouts. If you are just getting started, do not put too much pressure on yourself to work out every day. Start small to work your body and mind towards being physically active gradually. I would suggest finding three days out of the week to get yourself accumulated. Another tip is to pick days out of the week where the weather will be really nice. I seem to have the lowest energy when it is raining or cold outside and find that working out when it is sunny gives me an extra boost of energy. What makes working out so amazing, especially during these times, is the significant benefits it provides. 

“I am constantly doing activities around my home, and I walk at least 3 miles once a week around my neighborhood,” said Megan Hendricks, a Mississippi College student. “It relieves stress and makes me feel at ease because this pandemic has not been easy.” Times are forever changing, and it has never been more imperative to stay fit and healthy. The most crucial step to take to achieve this is to simply start. It doesn’t matter if it’s once a week or every day, just getting some form of exercise is beneficial.

Lastly, I urge everyone to stay safe and listen to your public officials. There are nearly 40,000 COVID-19 deaths in the country and 151 in Mississippi. Even with everything mentioned, it means absolutely nothing if you are putting yourself and others in harm’s way. Workout safely to reap the benefits of your effort, and be responsible. 

Onward We Go/by Morgan Miller

On March 6, Disney and Pixar released Onward into theaters across the world as the newest film to come from the two studios’ successful partnership. It combined the voice talents of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, promising an entertaining story about two brothers and the fantastical journey they undertake. Reviews were favorable, and the film seemed to be on track to be a success for its companies. 

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that essentially shut theaters down, the film’s theatrical run was cut short, and it was sent to DVD only two weeks after its initial stint in theaters. On April 3, less than one month after its release, the film was then made available on Disney+, allowing those who missed the chance to see it in theaters to experience it in the comfort of their homes.

I didn’t know much about this film outside of its cast, but while I was browsing for something to watch one day, I decided to give it a try. Disney films, particularly those made with Pixar, have always been able to balance endearing stories with heartwarming emotion, so I had no reason to believe that Onward wouldn’t be good. 

And after watching the film, I’m happy to say that it was every bit as good as I’d hoped, plus a little bit more.

The story takes place in a fantasy world where magic has been replaced by the convenience of technology. The creatures live essentially as we do, albeit with a slight blend of their mystical heritage and modernization. Two brothers take center stage of the film, and they are given the chance to bring back their deceased father for 24 hours with an ancient spell. Due to their inexperience with magic, however, the spell only half works, meaning that half of the father is brought back. Following this, the two brothers race against time to figure out how to bring back the rest of their father before their 24 hours run out. 

The film then plays out as a quest to find the item that will bring the father back, but it’s also full of moments that push the characters into becoming better people. One brother learns to stop doubting himself while the other learns the importance of living in the moment, and both are brought closer to one another in the process. There’s triumph and sadness, realism and magic, and plenty of laughs to go around for all. It’s the epitome of the idea that the journey is more important than the destination, especially when one brother realizes that everything he’s ever wanted was with him the entire time.

The film is a wonderful addition to Disney’s lineup, equal parts strange and satisfying that doesn’t sacrifice substance for style. Hearing Tom Holland and Chris Pratt play off of each other is a joy in itself, and the animation elevates an already charming story to a thing of beauty.

If you’re looking for a film to escape in for a little while, I recommend giving Onward a try. It can both warm your heart and make you laugh in the same sentence, reminding viewers that there’s still a lot of good to be found in the world and people around us.