By: Jane Hwang 

Among the list are students and faculty who have done extraordinary things since the pandemic begun 

Somewhere in the beginning of 2020, millions of people were told to stay at home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, forcing them to adapt to an unpredictable online environment in the matters of days. However, that didn’t stop some of Pacific’s students, teaching faculty, staff, and alums from taking actions and implementing changes that would assist Pacific and other people for the better. 

After Peter Witte, Dean of the Conversatory of Music, devised an idea to ship instruments and other musical devices to students at the beginning of the pandemic, Professor Perdicaris, (Associate Professor of practice in trombone and Director of Operations for the Conservatory) took it upon himself to make sure that the Conversatory met its students’ needs before online classes started. He handled all the shipping himself by asking which students needed what instruments, searching for the exact box sizes and packing material for the instruments, then dropping the packages at Pacific’s mailroom. He also helped keep electronic and hard copies of the musical instruments and tools’ loan agreements and took returned brass and wind instruments for an ultrasonic cleaning. Professor Perdicaris says that students last year got to hold onto their instruments during the summer. However this year, the Conservatory will decide this on a case-by-case basis.

“The pandemic has been a shock to all of us,” Professor Perdicaris notes. “Especially to those of us in the music world but we have adapted and shown resilience. I tell my students when the economy reopens, there will be many new opportunities, and this is the time for them to prepare and be ready for the renaissance to come.”

To make certain that the School of Engineering and Computer Science (SOECS) could still host its annual Senior Project Showcase in spite of the pandemic, Ms. Keely Canniff, the Digital Projects Manager and a 2019 alumna from SOECS, decided to utilize her passion for virtual reality (VR) for the showcase’s benefit by setting up a platform on Mozilla Hubs that was Game of Thrones themed. With assistance from SOECS faculty members Michael Canniff and Dan Clliburn and staff member Christian Cardona, Ms. Canniff was able to complete the project in a month and its launch was a huge success. Students could chat with each other and other people through the spatial audio feature that imitated real life conversations, take miscellaneous pictures, create their own avatars, and put up emojis. One can find a video of the event here: https://youtu.be/6xWTxOq1dvk 

“The event went fairly smooth considering the fact the people were still learning Zoom and virtual interactions,” Ms. Canniff states, “but a funny thing that happened is that right after the event, I allowed the students to spawn 3D objects in the virtual environment. The first thing the students spawned were food models like cheeseburgers, hot dogs etc. and they started to have an impromptu food fight. It was very funny to watch and it was great seeing the students relax after a day of presentations.”

When Cierra Williams, a 2018 aluma from Benerd College, and her family discovered in 2017 that William’s mother needed a kidney transplant after all the treatment from her previous cancer and transplant, she immediately applied to be an organ donor. After the approval came through in 2018, the Williams family scheduled the surgery for July 10th, 2020 but because of COVID-19, Williams and her mother had to take extra precautions and steps such as getting COVID tested four days before, entering the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center by themselves, and making sure that other family members didn’t bring COVID from work to home. Everyone was so elated when they discovered that Williams was medically a perfect match for her mother and even more so when the surgery went smoothly. Williams wants to highlight the fact that her mother is a courageous warrior who has been through so much but endures it all for the sake of her family.

“My mom is absolutely unstoppable, against so many odds” Williams said. “She is 0 vs. 4 (two cancers, two transplants). Her score card is remarkable, I’ve never met someone with such strength yet such joy. You’d never know the battles she’s won, she emulates happiness and kindness wherever she goes. I know that life can be unfair or it can knock you down, but staying down is a choice. My mom has always chosen to get back up and fight. Her attitude makes me appreciate life because in the face of the pain, she chooses to focus on the positive. Words don’t convey how proud I am to be her daughter. I appreciate the little moments life has to offer, I’m grateful for every day.”

Taking on leadership roles was not something that Semaj Martin, Sociology ‘22, planned on doing during her online year at Pacific but she decided to take some initiatives after she realized that the Black community at both Pacific and Stockton felt as if their voices for change weren’t heard. After her friend Zaunamaat Nuru-Bates, Sociology, ‘22, had the idea to create Brave Black Voices, a community that is dedicated to eliminating anti-blackness through events, Martin contacted many Black Pacific students and faculty members to receive their thoughts, inputs, and concerns then created a document to send to administration. She also helped co-chair Black History Month celebrations, making sure that all events were open to the public and asking students about which speakers they wanted to see.  

“Five years ago, I probably would have never imagined myself in operating in these positions,” Martin admits, “but once I started to think about how there has not be an incredible amount of change between the time from when my mother attended Pacific to now; I’m talking about the treatment of the black community, the consideration, practices, and overall campus culture, which led me to feel like there was something really wrong. I want black students from this and the next generation to realize that they have many options for receiving a higher education and feeling a sense of belonging.” 

Though all of these Pacific community members had many obstacles that come with being remote, they all pushed through and made a tremendous impact for the benefit of Pacific, its students, faculty, and community through their spectacular projects and initiatives.

Cierra and her mom at the hospital