University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., announced in March that classes would remain online for the rest of the semester amidst the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. University classes, just like many others from various colleges across the country, have been held on Zoom.
The ordinary virtual class can be a little boring depending on the subject, but some students were in for a surprise when Father Peter joined their class earlier this week.
Professor Stephen Kelly of the School of Business asked Father Peter to join one or two of his classes on Zoom.
“I thought the Seniors would really appreciate and enjoy a visit from Father Peter, and I thought perhaps Father Peter would enjoy visiting our virtual classrooms as a way to engage with students while they are away from campus,” Kelly said.
Kelly explained that all University faculty members are striving to make their online classes memorable and engaging, especially for seniors who have had their final semester at school disrupted. He extended an invitation to Father Peter to join a few of his classes with seniors if it worked for Father Peter’s schedule. “What a wonderful testament to our Villanova community,” Kelly said, “when Father Peter said yes.”
“I thought it would be fun to drop in,” Father Peter said, “just for a couple minutes, to check in.” Father Peter joined two different classes and shared some thoughts and stories with the graduating seniors.
One of Kelly’s classes that Father Peter joined was a VSB capstone course, Strategic Thinking and Implementation. Kelly allowed Father Peter to share some of his own experiences developing strategy for the University over the years.
“When he first joined the Zoom, I actually didn’t see him,” senior Kiera Quinn said. “A girl in my class had put in the big group chat, “Hi Father Peter :),” and I was so confused. I thought someone had changed their background or something funny like that. Then, I looked around the screens and found him. I was so surprised.”
Quinn added that Professor Kelly also had not noticed when Father Peter originally joined, as some students were giving a presentation. Kelly thanked the student who let the class know in the group chat that Father Peter was present, and the students turned their attention to Father Peter.
Father Peter mentioned that when he joined the Zoom session, while the students were shocked, many had questions regarding graduation and an in-person ceremony. Although these questions were expected, Father Peter assured them, just as he has assured the entire student body, that a celebration will be held for those graduating as soon as it is safe to do so.
“He was only on briefly, but we all appreciated him making the effort to say hi, and it definitely woke me up,” Quinn said. “I’ll start paying very close attention for anymore surprise visits.”
Many students took the time during the class to express their appreciation for Father Peter, who took the time to visit the seniors and share his thoughts with them during the short but meaningful virtual interaction.
Father Peter acknowledged that it has been a little challenging to adapt some courses to a distance-learning setting, and he even reminisced on the difficulties of teaching a class like Theater Improv online. Although acknowledging the obstacles some teachers have faced, Father Peter commended the adaptability, creativity, and dedication of the faculty to reworking classes to make them fit a virtual classroom.
Joining the Zoom classes gave Father Peter “a chance to see what they do and how they look.”
“It was certainly fun to see,” Father Peter said.
One student wrote an email of gratitude to Kelly after the class.
“Having Father Peter drop into our Zoom session is definitely a new highlight of my time at Villanova,” the student said.
When Father Peter was asked if he would join more classes, he responded, “Maybe I’ll do a few more after Easter. I enjoyed it.”