Ds Scholarship

Graduating during a time of pandemic: A 2021 Eberly College student’s experience

University Park, Pennsylvania – Distance learning and social distancing have affected all students differently. For Seth Ragen, a student at Penn State Eberly College of Science, he not only missed the personal connections of being in the classroom and with his peers, but also made his upcoming graduation date seem intangible.

“I will say, that almost makes graduation not yet real,” said Seth Ragen, a member of the Spring 2021 graduate class at Eberly College of Science.

On March 11, 2020, Penn State notified students that spring break will be extended due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. Only a week later, the university made the final decision to move entirely to distance learning. Today, after more than a year, the campus is cautiously beginning to return to normal. For the first time since fall 2019, the ceremony was once again held in person. In fact, for the first time since 1984, the alumni were able to celebrate their big moments at Beaver Stadium.

Ragin was one of 798 Eberly students who finished college last May. Before graduating, he shared an insight into what his experience in Pennsylvania was like before and during the pandemic. Rajin explained that by going to college, he already had a passion for mathematics and was ready to graduate a year earlier. In Summer 2018, join the Eberly community on campus as a new member of the Millennium Scholars Program. During the months leading up to the official start of the school year, he had the opportunity to meet his peers, attend classes, and meet some of the faculty. Through this program he met one of his teachers, Nate Brown, a professor of mathematics.

“The Millennium Scholars Program is an opportunity for students who are underrepresented in STEM fields to receive resources to help them enter research labs, graduate school, or whatever their dream goals may be,” said Rajin. “It really helps to have another support system on campus, especially as a minority. Not only has Nate Brown teaching my math classes for the months leading up to my first year of term in the fall, he has also been a great teacher in helping me navigate the Math courses for classrooms that I needed to load up on.”

Over the next two years, Rajin trained with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), working on administrative support teams dealing with budgeting, reporting, and IT support operations. When the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in 2020, the Food and Drug Administration moved Rajin’s work online so he could continue his projects throughout the semester.

“She is preparing me to join the workforce a little earlier, which is nice, but it has also been a challenge,” Rajin said. “Because this was my last year in school, I knew I was at the point of no return. I had to really control my classes, and it was hard to be virtual, especially the math lessons.”

Rajin shared that one of the greatest lessons he learned in college was to surround himself with support. He credits his classmates with contributing to his overall academic success and personal life as they have been a lifeline throughout his time in college. His advice to other students is not to be afraid to depend on others and to rely on friends in and out of class; College is about teamwork.

Distance learning and social distancing have affected all students differently. For Ragin, not only did he miss the personal relationships of being in the classroom and with his peers, but he also made his upcoming graduation date seem intangible.

“My motto this year was blind faith,” he said. “I just had to move on without knowing what I was going to get to but I know I need to keep grinding because I will get to the goal I want in the end. I am looking forward to sitting on the court and having this opportunity to feel like I really graduate and let that settle.”

On May 8, Rajin graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a degree in Business. Since he spoke, Ragin has accepted a position as a budget program analyst for the Food and Drug Administration.

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