Returning to the Nest | University of Northwestern, St. Paul
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Returning to the Nest


By Sarah Arthur, Assistant Dean of Graduate, Online & Adult Learning on Tuesday, August 10, 2021

bird's nest

The UNW Eagles are returning to the nest! Preparations on campus and online are in high gear for both the new hatchlings and for those returning from summer migration. However, as we put plans in place, the faculty and staff are also needing to put into practice all the skills we’ve learned in the last 18 months on how to navigate an ongoing pandemic.

UNW entered the summer with a plan to be laying groundwork for a back-to-almost-normal return. When we left campus in May all signs indicated that by July we would likely be enjoying a relatively normal summer. National and state restrictions were being dropped and the teams that had worked diligently throughout the previous year to keep us successfully in person and on campus were expecting a return to more familiar fall routines. The stage was set for our UNW Eagles to feel safe in the nest, maybe not with every twig in place and a perfectly smooth lining, but at least comfortable compared to the tsunami of a year we had in 2020-21. Then…enter stage left…The Delta variant. Now we are back on the roller coaster of escalating case numbers and changing recommendations for protocols. While we have absolute confidence that we will have another successful year on campus, we are also expecting continued COVID uncertainty.

We all love certainty. Having all the answers gives us confidence. Knowing that everything will be alright puts our hearts at rest. As parents sending our students off to college, sometimes for the first time, we long for a reassurance of safety and security as we approach the school year. Our students also rely on us to help boost their confidence. When our own confidence is shaky…well, that’s hard to do. Unfortunately, even if the pandemic weren’t a cause for worry, most of us would be fighting our fretful natures anyway. As parents and guardians, we are almost never in a position of certainty and we are super skilled at finding cause for concern when it comes to our kids.

I am in the unique position to be both a parent of a UNW student and a contributor to several of the staff and faculty teams diligently “lining the nest” for the upcoming year. My confidence as a parent is bolstered by an inside view of the hard work that is going into the preparations on your students’ behalf at UNW. The response teams that were assembled at the start of the pandemic have continued to meet routinely throughout the summer. We’ve become a well-oiled, collaborative group that studies the latest research and lands policy in accordance with both our mission and CDC’s recommendations. The Delta variant may have delayed our ability to peg every detail of the plan but nothing feels precarious. We have become really skilled at rebuilding the nest when the policy needs to change, readjusting the orientation of the nest for the safest position, and teaching the eaglets when and how to travel in and out of their home base for the best learning experience.

My confidence as a Christ follower, however, is built on something far more solid than our campus committees. Our Christian community already has the certainty we long for on the things that matter the most.

· Without a doubt, we know that God is for us. Romans 8:31 proclaims, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

· Without question, the Lord has already determined the days numbered for us. We need to care well for our health and be good stewards of our bodies, but we do not need to be consumed with worry. Psalm 139: 16-17 tells us, “Your eyes saw my unformed body: all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”

· Without a hint of uncertainty, we know that the Lord is not the author of fear. The “do not fear” passages number in the hundreds. Isaiah 41:10 is a favorite of mine, bringing me assurance of Gods protection. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

· Without even knowing the exact course of our futures, we know for sure that our Father in heaven has mapped every detail. Acts 17:26 reminds us that, “He determined the exact times for us and the exact places we would live.”

· Without our own eyes on it yet, we know with certainty that the ultimate nest is already being prepared for us. In John 14:2, Jesus Himself reassures us, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?”

· Without a doubt, we can trust that even when we have questions and face challenges, God has our best in mind. Matthew 7:9-12 illustrates God’s good intentions. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

God is the author of our peace at UNW. Ours is an educational ministry with a focus first and foremost on Him. Isaiah 26:3 tells us that He will keep our campus community, and your family, in perfect peace when our minds stay steadfast on trusting Him. Parents and guardians, the evidence is already there that we can anticipate a good year ahead at UNW. We already have a very successful season under extremely challenging conditions under our belts. We are far more skilled, resilient, flexible, and prepared than we were a year ago. As parents, you can trust that your UNW staff and faculty team are ready to adjust as needed to changes in the pandemic landscape. We already know how to work as a team to welcome our students back to the nest more prepared than ever…even if that means being prepared to be flexible or prepared for more change.

However, as parents and guardians, perhaps the greatest gift we can give our children as they return to what you might call our “now normal” is the reassurance that OUR confidence comes from the Lord Himself. If your students are looking to you for encouragement, perhaps you can send them off with the comfort that you receive from the greatest of encouragers. Consider that you don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to have 100% certainty. You don’t have to be the ultimate confidence for your kids. That’s what God wants to be for them. Consider sharing HIS reassurance with them. Line their nests with HIS words. Lace your conversations and prayer time with your family with Scripture over these next few weeks to let the Sword of the Spirit uphold them as you walk into this next season together.

Welcome back, Eagles!

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