Adapting to COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed everything — how we learn, work and play. The Otterbein community has met the challenges of this pandemic with a variety of responses that are defined by grace, humility, humor, and ultimately, resilience and hope. In checking in with our community, we found shared truths that remind us we are not alone in what we feel, how we are coping and what we are learning about ourselves in adapting to this temporary but challenging COVID-19 world.

Sarah Bouchard


Sarah Bouchard, a professor in biology and earth science, describes adapting to the pandemic in phases. “At first, it was all crisis management: Who needs a computer? Who needs help with their wi-fi connection? Does everyone have a safe place to live?,” Bouchard said.

Then, after the dust settled and it was time to “get down to the business of teaching and learning,” Bouchard said it felt a bit like staring into an abyss. “I knew my students were all out there, but I wasn’t sure what was going on with them.”

Now, she says she’s discovered that with careful planning, creativity and flexibility, she can still capture much of what it means to be teaching and learning despite the challenges.

“Although it has been hard, my classes are all benefitting from the revisions and adaptations that I have had to make,” Bouchard said. “The pandemic has really highlighted how much I value the close, personal relationships that I’m able to have with my students.”

Bouchard, named Otterbein’s 2020 Master Teacher, is a physiological ecologist, active researcher and active part of the Zoo and Conservation Science program.

Fernando Jose-Chairez ’23

The biggest challenge I’ve faced during this pandemic has been trying to stay financially afloat while trying to grow as a person. Financially, I am on my own more than ever. Growing as a person is another challenge — it’s hard to know who one is if all you can do is mostly stay indoors, online.

Adeline Almendinger ’19

Adeline Almendinger ’19 turned an internship into a full-time job as an assistant merchant at Express when she graduated. Until March 2020, she reviewed and planned timelines and sales from week to week, arranged store “looks” and worked with multiple teams to decide which styles will sell. But how has the fashion retail industry dealt with a pandemic when people aren’t shopping in stores, dressing for work or going out to eat? Almendinger said it requires a different approach to decision making. “COVID has made things a lot harder from a retail perspective because we are not able to physically see the product,” she said, adding that making connections with her teams also has been challenging.

Theory of Relativity:

“Otterbein University’s deft first streaming production brims with ardent singing and honest emotions.”  Those are the words of theatre critic Michael Grossberg, The Columbus Dispatch, about Otterbein’s first socially distanced production, The Theory of Relativity. The departments of Theatre and Dance and Music partnered to safely produce the musical, filming fully staged performances in advance — complete with lights, sound, scenery and costumes — and streaming to audiences online from Oct. 8-11.

Paul Wendel

So how are the teachers who are preparing the future teachers adapting? “We’ve learned to hold good classes in configurations ranging from entirely online
to half in-person and half online. We’ve learned to conduct socially distanced in-person experiments with online lab partners, sometimes conducting the
experiments outdoors.”  The adaptations go beyond Wendel’s classes into his students’ K-12 field placements. “Our students are teaching classes in person
and online, learning a wide range of online tools in the process,” he said. 

This award-winning educator offers the perfect lesson to this situation. “With a good deal of humor we’re all adapting, learning and growing together as educators — and we’re finding we can handle just about anything,” Wendel said.
Wendel was named the 2020 Exemplary Teacher and proudly describes his students as his future colleagues.

Lisa Minken ’03


Promoting CAPA’s Broadway in Columbus Series changed dramatically for Lisa Minken ’03 in March when she learned during a Columbus run of My Fair Lady that the State of Ohio was restricting theatre performances. “The show opened on a Wednesday and by Thursday gatherings were no more.” Since then, her work has focused on keeping fans engaged until theatre makes a comeback. “Normally we would be in our current season and we would have already had a show,” she said. Predicting the future during the pandemic is difficult, but Minken is hopeful Broadway in Columbus can return by spring 2021. “Every day is a day closer to having our theatre doors open.”

Sara Anloague Bogan ’18

Since March, Sara Anloague Bogan ’18 has been supporting the incident command center at OhioHealth’s flagship hospital, Riverside Methodist Hospital, from home. Her goal is to keep OhioHealth associates and leaders informed and resilient through these hard times and support OhioHealth’s back-to-business efforts. “COVID-19 intensifies the need for clear, engaging communication. Because of the change of pace, there is always something that makes my job challenging,” she said.

Randy Mobley ’80


Each spring, Randy Mobley ’80 would complete final planning and oversight tasks and gear up for the regular season to start. This season was different.  “We shut down in March and began reworking our schedule, thinking we could start as early as late May. You look back now and think how silly we were,” Mobley said. Now, Mobley is unsure about the future. Minor League Baseball teams continue to lose revenue while Major League Baseball is seeking to alter its relationship with the minor leagues. “We’re going to do what we can do,” he said, “but for now we’re along for the ride.”

Evan Brandao ’22


I have been using this time to think about what my passions are, how I want to pursue them and how Otterbein can help me. I’ve been reaching out to local professionals to get advice, and it is amazing how much insight people are willing to provide if you take the initiative to reach out.

Jeremy Llorence


Jeremy Llorence, an assistant professor in English, has encouraged his students to find activities or hobbies that they find fulfilling to balance their worries. “You can use things you enjoy doing to recharge after all of the video calls you’re going through,” Llorence said. “Whether for socialization, for classes or for work, video calls can be really draining. I think it’s important for your mental health to take that time for yourself to do things that you find fulfilling — whether that’s creative work or just reading a book that you really love.” Llorence acknowledges that these are difficult times — but he’s taking heart. “If I’ve learned anything at Otterbein over my career here, it’s that we are a strong community, we are capable and we will get through this together,” he said. Llorence was named the 2020 Best New Teacher and is the faculty advisor for Otterbein’s Quiz and Quill literary magazine.

Lily Burnside ’23


I found a hobby of gardening. Working at the Otterbein Community garden was perfect because it was easy to social distance with my coworkers and because of the mental health benefits of being outdoors.

Anna Egensperger ’23


The biggest challenge I have faced during the pandemic is the inability to focus during online classes. I was frustrated with my lack of concentration, so I decided to take action to combat it.

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