These community advisors persevered through the end of the semester

Alex, Agape, Melissa and Audrey outside of Skyline residence hallPhoto/Mike Lovett

Alex Holtmann ’21, Agape Niyobuhungiro ’20, Melissa Nicolas '21, and Audrey Grotheer '20.

When COVID-19 brought most Brandeis operations to a standstill in mid-March, a small number of community advisors remained on campus, along with students who were granted exceptions to stay in residence halls. The CAs have helped answer questions, and provided assistance and support for students still living on the Brandeis campus.

"It has been so important to have student leadership within the residence halls through this singularly unusual semester," said Timothy Touchette, assistant dean of student affairs. "It has been a totally different type of challenge and I’m very grateful for the work our community advisors have done."

Community advisors were given the option to stay on campus, but none were required or expected to do so. When many flights home to Germany were canceled in March, CA Alex Holtmann ’21 chose to stay. In the final days of the spring semester, he described an eerily hushed Brandeis campus.

“Some people have been walking and keeping fit. There have been small groups talking to each other from a distance, or maybe two or three people walking to the dining hall, but students are very careful,” he said. “It makes the community much more quiet. It’s been a weird time for all of us.”

The students who stayed on campus moved to new rooms in different buildings, and the community advisors were assigned new residents to advise. Sherman Dining Hall offered takeaway food and Einstein's Cafe in Shapiro Campus Center remained open, but most other buildings were closed.

"I think the biggest change has been that it’s just empty. Most of the public buildings are closed and, of course, the classroom buildings are closed; the dining hall is different," said CA Audrey Grotheer ’20. “A lot of the CA role is to build community, and we have usually done that with in-person gatherings, but the priority has to be health and safety right now.”

Campus social gatherings were strictly limited, and those rules have largely been respected, said CA Agape Niyobuhungiro ’20. 

"I appreciate how responsible people have been, and how responsible the university is being, in terms of not trying to rush back into our normal way of doing things," he said.

While campus has been quiet, students have done their best to stay upbeat and get through the semester, Niyobuhungiro said. He has been zooming with friends, holding Zoom movie nights, and playing online games to keep in touch, while also studying for finals and preparing to apply for medical school.  

"We might not be enjoying this time — we miss our families. But I feel that, by and large, students on campus have been able to make the best of the circumstances," he said. "We're living the same as anyone else is at home, but we're on campus."

Categories: Student Life

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage