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GATOR CHAMPS: CHAPLAIN JANE ELLEN NICKEL

Updated: Aug 6


Something that was easy to almost shove aside during this time happened when I was still answering phones on campus. We had just announced students were not returning for the remainder of the semester and a mother had called. She said her daughter had over $300 worth of plants in her room and was very concerned about their well being while her child was away from campus. She asked if there was any way they could come get them or have someone water them.


Well, when we were checking to make sure everyone had left the dorms, the Dean of Students April Thompson had actually been in that room so when she came back, she immediately knew who I was talking about. We were able to first all the plants to our office and then Kerstin Ames who does the Carrden and takes care of plants in the green house was able to move them there. She even asked if we were able to release the student's name so she was able to contact her and see if any needed special care at all.


So, it was not only the student's mother, but it was Kelly and me and even other staff members like Casey Cole and Tricha Young that helped transport and are now taking care of the plants through the summer. We could have easily said that human life was more important but we put our heads together and figured out a way to help save these students’ plants.


When this began I was very busy assisting with getting people off of campus but now I’ve actually been in charge of retrieving life-sustaining items from rooms on campus.


I’ve been working from home for a little over two weeks now and each day I come to my dining room table at about nine o’clock in the morning, which is when I would try to get to the office.


I do a range of things. I do things I would normally -- like communicate with on- campus religious organizations around the time of Passover and Easter. So, we’ve been sending out emails and online resources for students that may not be with their families but still want to celebrate, just to let them know we're thinking about them.


This is a lot of common work but now I’m transferring it to an online platform. There are also a few of us in the Dean of Students office that are paired with two or three students out of the 30 that are still on campus. We check in with them each day and just text or video chat to keep face-to-face contact and keep their spirits up.


I get a lot of emails about students leaving items in their room but as of now we're only retrieving life-sustaining items. I do the coordination between the student, Residence life and the Office for Public Safety to get the okay to go and get the missing item. I have daily video meetings with students and colleges. The Student Life staff meets every other day. In addition to these things I also deal with issues of grief.


We just had a recent alumni pass away in the past few weeks so I’ve been reaching out to his family and some of the students here that were affected. But I also have been putting together a protocol on if and most likely when someone in our community is affected by COVID-19, how Allegheny will respond to that.


I also had to do other non-student related things like reaching out to a bride who was planning to use the chapel to get married and notifying her that we are canceling summer activities on campus. On top of that I’m teaching in the fall, so I've been helping to register students for that. I’d say it’s a combination of our ongoing work and trying to be present to people while they feel isolated, all while helping the Dean of Students. 


If I could say anything to the Allegheny Community, at first I thought, it would be "hang in there", or "this will pass", but then I thought -- you know, the thing I've seen over and over as Chaplain, since I deal with community deaths, is how the school comes together.

I’m always amazed at how much members of the Allegheny Community care for each other and will go the extra mile for each other.

There’s different things on social media or classes, such as yours, finding ways to take care of each other even though we're scattered.


By doing this we are able to come through this even stronger, and with a stronger community.


~~ Jane Ellen Nickel (Campus Chaplain, Allegheny College). Interviewed by Zoe Konzel (Class of '22)

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