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Navigating a Turbulent Semester

October 15, 2020

Growing up in Manhattan, Cassidy Drummond came to college curious to explore life outside of the Big Apple. She was ready for the college experience in a part of the country that was completely new to her. Ultimately, it was the beautiful campus and environment that brought Cassidy to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. 

Cassidy, a class of 2020 alumna, reflects with the Department of Political Science on her years here, as well as the turbulence of her graduation during a global pandemic and the switch to remote learning.

Virtual Graduation and the Challenges of a Remote Semester

Cassidy was finishing up her last semester of college and working multiple jobs when the University of Minnesota initiated its campus-wide shutdown. She recollects the incredible challenge the shutdown was for her and many other students. While thankful to have had the first part of the semester, the change to remote classes after spring break was especially difficult for Cassidy, who already knew that she had never preferred online classes in general. 

Particularly disheartening was the cancelation of graduation celebrations. “I’m a first-generation student, so I was really excited for graduation,” Cassidy reflects. 

In dealing with the disappointment, Cassidy mentions appreciating the smaller efforts to recognize and celebrate the class of 2020 within departments. She notes the nice touch of things like slideshows and miniature graduations from the political science and global studies departments. 

Support Through it All

As a student paying for college independently, Cassidy found a city shutdown stressful, as it limited options for students like her who rely on on-campus and off-campus resources. Nutritious U, the CLA Emergency Fund, and the CARES Act proved particularly crucial for Cassidy during the turbulent times. 

Cassidy notes that paying for college on her own has always had its challenges, but COVID-19 introduced new uncertainty. She recalls the stress she experienced when it came to finding reliable places to purchase food, losing hours at work, and even fluctuating days when the rent was due to her Dinkytown landlord. 

Had it not been for the University’s emergency resources, Cassidy would have been left to deal with these on her own.

Reflections of a Gopher

Overall, Cassidy leaves behind a memorable time at the University of Minnesota. She recalls two of her favorite classes: Education and the American Dream with Professor Scott Abernathy and Psychology of Mass Behavior with Professor Howard Lavine. She comments, “[Abernathy] was just, as a person, incredible and so friendly.” 

For Cassidy, it was Professor Abernathy’s educational background in public policy that first interested her in the field where she now hopes to build a career. 

Additionally, Cassidy says that the information in Professor Lavine’s course is something that she still actively uses today, despite taking the class back in her sophomore year. The course, which focuses on explanations for why people think and vote the way they do, is something that Cassidy encourages all students to take.

Cassidy also left her mark on the activities she participated in, including philosophy club and student government, where she hopes her advocacy for higher wages for UMN student workers will continue with the students who are still involved. 

While UMN student worker wages remain lower than the minimum wage for the city of Minneapolis, Cassidy is passionate about increasing compensation for the important work that student employees provide at the University of Minnesota.

Finding Her Way

Cassidy is currently starting a fellowship to work on a congressional campaign in Illinois and is hoping that the coming election will result in job openings in various think tanks and policy institutes, with which she hopes to become involved. With her combined interest in the importance of the November election and experience, Cassidy expresses that she is happy to be working with the campaign.

She describes her stage of life right now as “just finding [her] way…figuring out what [she] wants to do with [her] life.” Cassidy expresses interest in public policy but notes the challenge of building connections in order to break into the political world. 

Despite the obstacles that COVID-19 has created in the job market, Cassidy explains the silver lining of long-distance job opportunities being presented online. “That has been really nice—everything going remote has given me the opportunity to apply all over the country without having to worry about relocating,” she comments.

While recent times have been difficult, Cassidy expresses a unique optimism about the mutual struggle. These uncertain times have left no one unscathed, but she believes that while things aren’t ideal right now, most college students and graduates are all in the same boat, together.