Signs of life have been returning to Cal State Bakersfield campus ahead of its opening on Monday. That marks the first time the university will offer in-person classes since the pandemic closed down the campus.
"We're really excited," CSUB President Lynnette Zelezny said Friday morning. "You can feel that we have a lot of folks on campus today. We're revving up, the faculty are back, our staff are back in all the offices."
Ahead of its opening, students have been on campus preparing for the semester, checking to see the location of their classes, collecting their required textbooks and getting their required vaccines.
Freshman Lula DeMars and her mom were on campus Friday morning, checking out the dorms and making sure she knew where her classes would be held. DeMars hails from Denver and she was impressed with the campus she would soon call home.
"I like the campus a lot," she said. "Everything seems good. The dorms are nice."
New transfer students and freshmen like DeMars were also on campus early to pick up a new iPad as part of a new Cal State University initiative called CSUCCESS. CSUB is one of eight campuses in the CSU system piloting the program, whose goal is to bridge the digital divide.
"It's absolutely vital for our students," Zelezny said. "Most are first in their families to go to college, and most are on grants. It's important to get them personal access to technology to succeed in school."
Students will have access to them for the duration of their undergraduate career. The program is "sustainable" and will continue for future classes, Zelezny said.
When schools from preschool through doctoral degrees went online, it exposed a divide in the community that long existed, said Associated Students, Inc. President Stephanie Magaña.
Ignacio Castillo, vice president of University Affairs for ASI, said securing a hotspot from CSUB's IT department became crucial for him to continue his studies. When CSUB switched to virtual learning, he was sharing an internet connection with other family members attending school. Like many other students, he needed extra technological help from the university to have reliable internet.
That will continue this year, because virtual learning hasn't gone away. However, students have more choices. Zelezny said that this semester 40 percent of classes will have a face-to-face component. The university wanted to give students flexibility. She said most students seem to be opting for a combination.
CSUB has 22 specifically designed "flex" classrooms, which allow live classes to be streamed simultaneously. It also has 40 mobile flex carts that will allow any classroom to be turned into a "flex" classroom. Students taking these classes can decide whether they would like to attend class face-to-face or at home.
That was the case for senior Tiffany James, a senior who missed the networking and socializing that are such key parts of the college experience.
"I am very excited to return to campus to see the professors in person and to actually see some of the students that I worked with throughout my college career," she said.
But James said also chose some hybrid courses to give her the option to attend appointments and give her flexibility if she needs it.
DeMars, the freshman student from Denver, was a little disappointed to see that not all of the classes that she wanted would be available in person. She's eager to be in a classroom with her professors and fellow students.
"I wanted more in-person, because that's why you go to college," she said.
Emily Sanchez, a transfer student from College of the Sequoias, said this semester she's taking all her classes online as she eases in to her new university. Next semester she believes she'll feel more comfortable returning to classes on campus, and she's looking forward to it.
"It will be new scenery and everything, especially with how beautiful the campus is," she said.