As the coronavirus turned the world upside down in spring 2020, Elon College alumni rose to the occasion, using their skills to aid communities and nations. They demonstrated the necessary and adaptable skills honed by liberal arts and sciences disciplines — along with healthy doses of grace under pressure.
Tim Anderson ’07 responds to the call of duty
Tim Anderson ’07 felt called to be a firefighter from his earliest days. He chose to attend Elon in part because the town’s fire station was close enough to campus for him to volunteer there as an undergraduate. He earned a degree in history and returned to his home in Philadelphia, where he is a firefighter and first responder with Philadelphia Fire Department Squad Co. 72. He described a spring of greater personal risk of exposure to the virus — providing CPR and emergency aid — but gratitude to be of service to those in need. “I’m lucky to have a profession I feel called to, and I’m thankful to have a job,” Anderson said.
Religious studies alumni shepherd congregations through COVID-19
The Revs. Jonathan Chapman ’07, Caleb Tabor ’09 and Sarah Majors ’16 live and work in different areas along the East Coast but responded similarly as clergy to the common needs of their communities this spring. Chapman leads Westfield United Church of Christ in Killingly, Connecticut. Tabor is the young adult missioner for Episcopal Campus Ministry-Raleigh in Raleigh, North Carolina. Majors leads Cherry Point United Methodist Church in Havelock, a small city on the North Carolina coast.
For each of their congregations, services and Holy Week ceremonies shifted to live online or pre-recorded messages. They worked to heal and comfort their communities, delivering meals and school supplies, providing regular online meetups and checking on senior parishioners.
“One of my hopes is that we come out of this with a new understanding of what ‘holy space’ is,” Majors said. “Without access to the physical space of the church, how can our homes be transformed as the place where we see God? How will we find God in the places where we sleep, eat and live?”
Amber Christino ’10 helps U.N. respond to COVID-19 in Africa
As a communications specialist for the International Organization for Migration, a branch of the United Nations, in Burundi, Amber Christino ’10 spent spring 2020 helping deliver health campaign messages to populations along Burundi’s borders. She was particularly focused on her co-workers’ mental health and personal care during the frenzied first weeks of that country’s crisis. A French and international and global studies major, Christino’s usual duties involve working with U.N.-funded economic and business projects with Burundian communities, which she calls “the best job ever.”
“There’s a high demand for information about COVID-19, and so it’s really important to get that information out to our colleagues and the general public,” Christino said. “We’re here responding and we’re a key player in the fight against COVID-19.”
Cedric Pulliam ’12 takes CDC role with White House
Cedric Pulliam ’12 navigated from his Elon degrees in political science and international and global studies to a successful career in public health. Now a senior public health adviser with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, he was responsible for assisting Georgia agencies in meeting their health missions during the pandemic. In June, he shifted to the CDC’s Emergency Operations Center in Atlanta, teleconferencing with the Executive Branch’s coronavirus task force and creating national plans for pandemic response.
“My hopes and aspirations for how we get through this COVID-19 pandemic are that we make sound, smart and logical decisions,” Pulliam said. “That means personal decisions backed by thinking things through and common sense. There are so many things we have to work on, and work on together so that we can keep people safe and healthy.”
Nichole McCormick ’18 provides emergency care for COVID-19 patients
As a registered nurse in the emergency room at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., Nichole McCormick ’18 faces the unknown every day. McCormick earned a degree in exercise science and now works 12-hour shifts three days a week, sometimes picking up overtime, providing care for emergency room patients who require various levels of medical attention. Her job demands multitasking, time management and an empathetic mindset in order to provide exemplary care for her community.
“The support from the community has been so overwhelming,” McCormick said. “COVID-19 has pushed me to limits I didn’t know were possible and I am so proud to have been a nurse during this time.”
Maddy Wetterhall ’18 volunteers as EMT in New York City
Maddy Wetterhall ’18 volunteered to be an emergency medical technician in New York City this spring with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, leaving her EMT job in Atlanta temporarily behind to help at the nation’s epicenter of COVID-19. She worked 16-hour days for a 50-day deployment with only two days off. The grueling and overwhelming work came with rewards of human kindness, empathy and support from New York residents.
“It is such an honor and privilege to take part in some of the most intimate moments in my patients’ and their families’ lives,” Wetterhall said. “It brings me joy to know that I have helped, if even only a little, to make their day a little brighter.”
Educator Sean Wilson ’16 shares his experience with online learning
Sean Wilson, who graduated with a degree in philosophy in 2016 and earned a Master of Arts in teaching, entered his first year of teaching high school social studies and English in 2019 at the Durham School of the Arts in Durham, North Carolina. Like educators across the country, he had to shift to remote learning this spring and help his students and their families make that transition.
“A goal of mine as a teacher is to get students to work with each other, share their experiences with each other and consider important issues together so as to develop a democratic community within the classroom,” Wilson says. “This is simply much more challenging to do virtually, at least with the tools that we currently have access to.”