Southwest Minneapolis’ college students adjust

Fulton resident Chloe Church (third from the left) had been looking forward to the spring season on the Smith College rowing team before the pandemic. Photo courtesy Chloe Church

The coronavirus pandemic has forced college students with roots in Southwest Minneapolis to adapt to a semester in which online lectures and videoconferences replaced in-person classes and labs.

Students said they were sad to leave campus and that the experience of remote instruction wasn’t the same, even though many of their classes translated well to the online format. Some were forced to get creative for performance-based classes and athletic training.

Here’s a look at what the semester was like for four college students who attended high school in Southwest Minneapolis.

Chloe Church, Smith College


Church, a 2019 Southwest High School graduate, said she was enjoying her freshman-year classes at Smith, a Massachusetts-based all-women’s liberal arts school, which included French, costume design and ancient Indian religions, before the pandemic.

She said she got along well with her roommate, loved her house and enjoyed being a member of Smith’s rowing team after taking up the sport in the fall.

Church said her classes translated pretty easily to remote instruction but that she would have preferred to have them in person. She did rowing workouts at home on a school-provided indoor rowing machine, but she said she was sad about missing the spring season.

“Everyone was so excited for that,” she said.

Church isn’t sure of her summer plans, though her former supervisor at Caribou Coffee said there are hours available for her if she wants them. She doesn’t think she’d want to go back to Smith for the fall semester if classes are still online.

Ama Kuwonu, Roosevelt University


Kuwonu, a 2019 Washburn High School graduate who spent the year studying musical theater at Chicago-based Roosevelt, said remote classes weren’t on par with in-person classes, though she was still glad to have them.

Kuwonu created a makeshift ballet studio in her kitchen, did acting presentations to her classmates via Zoom and practiced for her keyboard class on an electric piano loaned by one of her friends.

Professors tried to make the most of remote instruction, she said, but it wasn’t the same.

“It’s kind of hard when you’re an arts student to translate that creativity online,” she said.

Kuwonu said she had been hoping to visit out-of-state college friends this summer and that she plans on looking for a job in Minneapolis.

Savannah Spirov, Hamline University


Spirov, a 2016 Washburn graduate, is wrapping up her final college classes and preparing to graduate this spring with bachelor’s degrees in communications and social justice. Her original post-college plan was to teach English abroad, but now she’s applying for jobs in the U.S. and living with two of her older siblings.

The pre-coronavirus spring semester had been a busy one for Spirov, a 2016 Washburn graduate, though she only took three classes. She was on the university-wide programming board, taught dance classes and was on the dance team, among other activities. She also worked in the university’s student center and at Stewart’s cafe and bar in St. Paul, taught dance at Justice Page Middle School and choreographed the school musical, which was cancelled.

Spirov said she got ahead on her school work after spring break and has been spending less time on it as of late. She said it was bittersweet to miss her final months on campus, noting that she and her classmates didn’t get to participate in traditional college-ending milestones.

Mitch Taylor, University of Minnesota


Taylor, also a 2016 Washburn grad, took five classes this past semester as he worked toward a bachelor’s degree in marketing and mass communication. He will take two more classes in the fall before graduating college in December, and he plans on looking for a consulting job.

Taylor interned this spring with a Minneapolis-based financial firm and wants to continue there through the summer after his summer internship with Shoreview-based Deluxe Corporation was cancelled. He stayed in his four-person Dinkytown apartment through April but now is back at his parents’ house, where he plans on staying during the fall semester.

Unlike most students, Taylor said he wouldn’t mind if college was remote during the fall, because then he wouldn’t have to commute to campus. He said the online experience this spring was fine but that he imagines he would have missed a lot of networking opportunities if he had been a sophomore or junior.