New Pharmacy Students Mask Up For First In-Person Orientation in Two Years

By Karmen Robinson

Her sigh represented the long-anticipated return of face-to-face classes and events.

“This is amazing. My jaw is dropped if you can’t see it under my mask,” said Stowe, as she welcomed 96 first-year students, all of whom were masked in a spacious lecture auditorium.

“We’re excited for the first day of class in a way that I can’t recall in many, many years. We’re excited to be back together again,” she added.

Nearly all in-person events were shifted to a virtual platform as the college adjusted to the new normal that limited engagement and interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For nearly two academic years, we’ve planned so many virtual events but always hoped to host them safely in-person. While we are absolutely thrilled to finally meet face-to-face again, our priority was to ensure we planned for a safe return to campus,” said Lanita White, Pharm.D., the college’s assistant dean for student affairs.

“Dr. Angie Choi and her team worked so hard with meticulously planning, problem-solving and using innovative ways to create connections in a safe way,” White continued. “It took the effort of so many from each of our students and faculty and staff members who were dedicated to making orientation safely come to fruition.”

As the new pharmacy students prepared to enter their next academic chapter, they were eager to transition back into the classroom – a pandemic luxury that seemed like a distant memory for many students, as some admitted their struggles with virtual learning over the past 18 months.

“I had to take some of my hardest undergraduate classes virtually, so I couldn’t imagine having to do it again in pharmacy school,” said first-year student Dorian Gwinn of Mount Ida. “I’m glad we get the advantage of being in class this year, and I’m excited to learn material that will be centered on the career I want to go into.”

Members of the incoming class were divided into small groups throughout the three-day orientation, with opportunities meet each other and learn from current pharmacy students. And many students were simply glad to safely interact with their new classmates in-person.

“I’m really happy to be here, and I’m excited to get to know people,” said first-year student Ireh Jeon of Little Rock, as he walked around the student organization fair to learn more about different groups within the college.

“Before orientation, I never thought about doing student organizations because I thought I’d be buried in the books in pharmacy school, but they piqued my interest, and it’s a good way to connect with people,” said Jeon.

“It’s good that I’m here on campus and in the classroom, so I can get my bearings and have the opportunity to cultivate relationships. I couldn’t see myself doing that without being on campus,” he added.

Through a series of sessions and meet-and-greets, the freshmen were also introduced to P1 faculty and several other campus departments to get them acclimated to a new environment in a newer time.

“We know it’s going to be different, and there will be things that happen that we probably won’t predict, but I think it challenges us from the very beginning to get to know each other better and build even stronger more meaningful relationships,” said Stowe.

“This is the beginning of a phenomenal journey. I can’t think of a better time to be in pharmacy school,” she said. “Our college focuses on creating leaders and individuals who are going to enter practice and be willing to change and adapt. I believe our students will be right at the beginning of a massive advancement for our profession and how we do our work.”