Young woman in cap and gown holds diploma between an older woman and man.
Lizz Panchyk '24, shares a proud moment with parents Caren Prommersberger, '91 and Richard Panchyk '92.

From overcoming COVID to embracing AI, the Class of 2024 had a college experience like no other. But as we are sent off into the real world, new opportunities are blossoming.

On May 21, my fellow classmates and I in the Class of 2024 gathered in caps and gowns at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and walked across the stage, one by one, to receive our diplomas. We waved our Adelphi banners in the air and cheered for ourselves, acknowledging what we went through and what we have accomplished since March 2020.

Saying Goodbye to My Senior Trip to Disney

In the spring of 2020, my senior year of high school, I was looking forward to our senior trip to Disney, our senior send-off boat trip (our version of prom) and saying goodbye to everyone at graduation. Then, in March, everything that I was excited about, everything that was preparing me to begin a new chapter of my life, wasn’t happening.

Instead of senior celebrations, my classmates and I were home, only seeing one another on computer screens.

Starting College in September 2020

I would describe starting college as lonely and intimidating. Instead of Adelphi’s previous Orientation—where you stay on campus for a couple of days, do fun activities, and learn about campus clubs and organizations—our Orientation was held online in Zoom sessions.

I only had one in-person class during my first semester. Everyone on campus was required to wear masks both inside and outside, in addition to social distancing. Before entering any building, we had to answer questions on the AU2Go mobile app and show a green screen (meaning we were cleared and without COVID-19) to someone stationed at the door. Vaccinations were also required, with some exceptions, to ensure the campus was a safe place for all students.

The Ruth S. Harley University Center was still under construction, but it hardly mattered, as there was barely anyone on campus (which made for great parking). There were really no events besides the occasional tabling event with free stuff.

It was hard to make friends and even harder to enjoy my time on campus when there were hardly any activities or people to talk to. It was a time of isolation for our class, a first-year experience that we’ll never get a chance to do over again.

But in my first semester as a communications major, I joined The Delphian. It was fully online at this point, with only Zoom meetings once in a while. I continued the next semester, this time having all my classes online. I think I was on campus a total of three times the entirety of the spring semester. In fall of 2022, the paper was finally brought back to print, which was so exciting to me. I was able to hold a newspaper that I wrote for and give copies to family, friends and teachers. This was particularly rewarding to me being that I was a journalism concentration.

The Ups—and Downs—of Online Classes

The past couple of years have made up for it, with Adelphi going to all lengths to provide on-campus activities and promote togetherness, and I have never felt more welcome.

Even though we are a generation that is used to technology, I definitely think that the transition to online classes and spending our days in little boxes on bright computer screens had a direct effect on my class. It became draining and easy to lose patience or become distracted. Asynchronous classes made it difficult for me to connect with the professor and classmates, but they also taught me to use my time management skills more effectively. I think that having hybrid classes, which are combined in-person and online, was the most effective for me. But at the end of the day, I prefer the in-person experience to Zoom.

The mask wearing continued until March of 2022, when I was a sophomore. This is when the campus truly started to open back up, as the cherry blossoms bloomed a bright pink all over campus—something I didn’t get to see during the previous spring semester.

Reshaping Education Through AI

But another big change was coming—artificial intelligence large language models like ChatGPT launched in the fall of 2022. Professors and students are still grappling with how to use AI. While AI type formats are meant to help humans, they offer a frightening suggestion of what’s to come. AI can be very useful in regard to giving background information, brainstorming ideas or just being quick with information release. However, we live in a world where it is up to us how we want to use it, and that may not always be for the right reasons.

I think we live in a scary and unique time. Scary, in that we can’t predict how AI will impact jobs and careers.

Case in point: I will close this story with a Chat GPT entry. I just gave this prompt: Conclude this article about graduating in 2024 with COVID and AI experiences. Here is what AI created:

As the Class of 2024 steps into the future, we do so with a blend of experiences that uniquely prepare us for the evolving world. The trials of the COVID-19 pandemic have instilled a resilience and adaptability that are invaluable in facing unforeseen challenges. Concurrently, their immersion in an era of rapid AI advancement equips us with the skills and knowledge necessary to harness these technologies for innovation and progress. As we transition from students to professionals, we are poised not only to navigate but to shape the future, using the lessons learned from both the pandemic and the rise of artificial intelligence to build a more resilient, connected, and intelligent world.

Impressive—and yes, a little scary.

Overall, even though it’s been a roller coaster of technological adjustments and changes, Adelphi has been a wonderful experience for me, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.


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