A Slice of Widener at Home

Hilary Bentman, Assistant Director of Communications

Many members of the Widener Class of 2024 haven’t stepped on campus since visiting; some have never been here. 

Dreams of what that first semester of college would look like have been temporarily dashed by COVID-19. Though a disappointing way to start their college careers, these students – and their families – are proving to be a resilient bunch. 

Room with table and chairs and Widener Pride flag on the wall
The Pride study lounge in the home of Julia Siess.

The newest members of the community have embraced the phrase that has come to embody the Pride spirit in 2020 – We’re All Widener, Wherever We Are.

Though separated from campus and each other, these students and families are sharing their pride for being part of the Pride.

Across social media, students and families are sharing photos of their at-home Widener setups, which include home “dorm” rooms, Pride cafes and lounges, and lots of blue and gold to go around.

We salute their grace, good humor, and creativity, and highlight just a few here.

Pride Pod 

Four students sitting around a table at their home learning pod space
Longtime friends and nursing majors Julia Siess, Skyla Lombo, Jenny and Summer Freund take classes together in a learning pod in the Siess home.

Welcome to the Pride study lounge in Chalfont, Pa., where four longtime friends – Julia Siess, Skyla Lombo, and Jenny and Summer Freund (twin sisters) are taking classes. All four are first-year nursing majors and members of the cheerleading team.

The lounge, a converted bedroom in the Siess home, is a so-called learning pod. 

Julia’s mom, Bridget, read about the pod concept, mentioned the idea to her daughter who “completely ran with it, designing the whole space. She felt that it would help her friends feel supported (academically, socially, and emotionally) if they could really go through this together and had a physical space where they went to do class or work."

These friends never set out to go to the same college, but all chose Widener. “So funny how things work out and wow how important that ended up being this year in particular because they are a great support to each other,” said Bridget Siess. 

Family in Widener gear in front of firetruck
RJ Johnson (middle) is part of the live-in program at the Glassboro Fire Department.

In-Residence at the Fire Station

Nursing major RJ Johnson may not be living on campus, but he’s not living at home either. His residence this semester is a firehouse.

Johnson, of Pitman, N.J., is part of the live-in program at the Glassboro Fire Department, living at the station full time.

“He is able to experience dorm life away from home, study for his nursing degree, and give back to his community by being a firefighter and running calls four nights a week,” said his mom, Tiffany Johnson.

Carving out their Own Space

Student sitting at a desk in his bedroom
Kristoff Bien-Aime in his home "dorm" room.

Many parents of first-year students said they wanted to create a special workspace for their students. 

In Dallastown, Pa., JaNeene Powell drafted a sewing desk and guest room into use for her daughter, DeAnna Williams, an elementary and special education major and Presidential Service Corps Bonner Leader.

“Let the adventure begin,” said Powell.  

Kristoff Bien-Aime’s family is replicating campus living in their Lake Ariel, Pa., home. The robotics engineering major and saxophone player in the marching band has moved into a basement bedroom where he has his own bathroom, desk, fridge, and even a mini snack bar for convenience.

Mini fridge, snacks, and Widener sign
Kristoff Bien-Aime's home snack area.

“I am pleased with the decision to go virtual even though it’s not how we wanted his freshman experience. So we decided to make his freshman year at home as close to his dorm experience as possible,” said his mom, Sunita Bien-Aime.

Geneane Yourl calls the basement of her Harleysville, Pa., home the “Widener satellite office.” Her son, Peter, is a civil engineering major and member of the Pride football team.

The space has “all the accoutrements of a dorm,” and an added bonus of this set-up is the “free meal plan,” said his mom.

All in the Family

For Caroline Kunze, Widener runs in her blood. Her mom, Shannon, is a two-time Widener alumna; her grandmother worked at the university and would often have lunch with Caroline in the campus dining hall.

And Caroline grew up wearing a Widener T-shirt for pajamas. 

Student working at a desk
Caroline Kunze at her home workspace.

But despite the ties to the university, Caroline chose Widener on her own, said Shannon Kunze.

And mom is over the moon. “She will be walking the same campus I did 20 years ago. She will leave a mark on that school that is far greater than the one I left.”

For now, Caroline, a physics major, PSC Bonner, and Honors student, is taking her classes at home with some Pride gear around her, still wearing Widener shirts and a smile.

“This whole high school Class of 2020 and now college Class of 2024 is exceptional,” said Shannon Kunze. “They are truly forging a new path.”

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