INDIANAPOLIS — Harpreet Sandhu is in her senior year at Marian University and even though we're still in this pandemic, she's looking forward to returning to campus in-person this year.
"I'm really excited to be back and my discussions, lectures, and everything because those were really fun during freshman and sophomore year,” Sandhu said.
She said clicking mouses and staring at a computer screen doesn't compare to seeing other people. "It was just mind-boggling cause you didn't have anyone to talk to, right next to you."
Now, she won't be alone on campus. An estimated 460 full-time freshman students are now coming to campus in-person.
"It was really hard as a commuter to find a place to study. And I'm excited to see like, everyone go back, and to like couches, mostly," Sandhu added.
The social environment of chatting on the couches aside, everyone’s at the university to learn.
"We often refer to great teaching as an intimate communication between two souls. We like the relationship part,” Marian University President, Daniel Elsener said.
He explained that it's the relationship people build at Marian, that he holds in high value. "So, we want to get back to what we consider normal,” Elsener said.
For now, "normal" at Marian means in-person learning.
"The reasons we've had good growth, the way that I would explain it, is last year we did everything possible to be in-person safely," he added.
Like everywhere else, the university eventually had to move to all remote instruction due to COVID-19, but Elsener said the university trained for it in advance and handled the quick transition diligently.
To return to in-person learning safely, means face masks are required inside of academic spaces like classrooms and large gathering areas, but not outside, in smaller spaces or non-academic areas; and the COVID vaccine is strongly encouraged, but not mandated.
"Frankly, in my 20 years as president of Marian University, when you appeal to this community to do the right thing, to do good things, to pay attention, to care about yourself and people around you…we get good results," Elsener said.
Marian's website shows they'll get rid of the mask requirement by Sept. 10 if the reported number of fully vaccinated students reaches at least 1,500 and at least 700 staff or faculty are also fully vaccinated.
Masks or not, Elsener said reuniting the campus face-to-face makes a difference.
"I think there's going to be enthusiasm, because there will be more energy involved, and students will be around, and we'll be able to do some of the things that bring a lot of joy and excitement to a campus that we so love,” Elsener said.
For students like Sandhu, she hopes they start and stay in-person this year, her last year to soak up the college experience.
“I hope that everyone’s healthy and safe before they come back,” she said.
When it comes to COVID-19, Marian University officials said they follow city, county and CDC guidance, and an exemption from the vaccine is possible for religious or medical reasons.
However, you must be vaccinated or have an exemption if you are a student athlete, participate in a study abroad, major in performing arts, or are in the health profession program that works in clinical settings.
Even during an extraordinary 2020, Marian University's president said the incoming freshman class is qualified to thrive at Marian.
They have a 'test blind' admissions process, which means students do not need an ACT or SAT score to be admitted, but Marian's president said this year's group of incoming freshmen have the highest GPA's they've seen to date for a full-time class.
“Character, leadership, follow through, it seems to be a pretty good indicator," Elsener said. "And it usually shows up in their high school GPA."
WRTV continues to follow our community's experience returning to school. We know pandemic polices seem to evolve a lot, so we have the latest information for you under the back-to-school section.