Remote Learning Takes Gordon’s Mission Around the World

For the first time in Gordon’s 131-year history, undergraduate and graduate students can opt into a fully remote learning experience from anywhere in the world thanks to new online offerings and the spring launch of four fully online undergraduate programs. Last fall, 100 students chose to do just that. It’s a new era for Gordon.

With any new era comes a fresh set of challenges. “The way in which we’ve come to understand the Gordon experience has been in that traditional residential way,” says Dean of Student Success Chris Carlson. “So how do we also create an experience for students that are not going to be physically present?”

Recognizing this immediate need, Carlson created a team of students and staff to serve as the connecting point between on-campus resources and off-campus students. “Now, there might be multiple ways of having a Gordon experience,” Carlson says. “And so anybody that needs to reach out for some extra assistance or encouragement should do that with their faculty member or one of their remote student advising team members.”

Gina Miyares, residence director of Evans Hall, is a member the remote student advising team. Joining the Gordon community in 2020, she understands the experience of new students better than most. Miyares says, “My goal is that students would feel like they belong here at Gordon—that if someone asks them where they go to school, they can say, ‘I go to Gordon College. I have friends there. I love it there.’”

Understanding that the residential experience is not possible for some students, Miyares is eager to welcome those who choose to learn from a distance because of financial, health or family reasons. “As an institution, we can really move forward with the times,” she says. “If we can continue to improve, maybe in the future we can broaden how many students we can have learning through Gordon and growing in community.”

Chris Landry ’22, a remote student and member of the advising team, is grateful for the effort to include all students in Gordon’s community. “One thing I appreciate from Gordon is the real attempt to make sure that no one is abandoned or left behind in this,” he says.

A junior this year, Landry has experienced life both on and off campus, which has helped him to recreate social and spiritual aspects of the residential campus experience for a group of remote, first-year students. This includes biweekly Bible studies and game nights on Zoom. “I’m encouraged by some of the relationships I’ve seen grow, even in this strange time,” Landry says. “There are students that I might not have ever met on campus that I have laughed, prayed and bonded with this semester. We get to experience the newness of this time together.”

As Gordon grows, its Christian identity and heart for community will not be lost. Landry likens this new kind of community to the Apostle Paul’s long-distance relationships with the churches and communities of Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae and Thessalonica. Throughout his ministry, he wrote letters to people living in faraway places. “If he could do it 2,000 years ago, hopefully with Zoom and Skype and FaceTime and text, we can do it now.”

While residential life will continue to be an important part of many Gordon students’ college experience, this step toward remote learning and living is a positive one because it allows for the Gordon mission to reach more students than ever before.

Carlson says, “I think that’s what I hope for Gordon—is that there’s a connection about having a common alma mater. That the heritage and mission of Gordon is this bigger thing that shouldn’t be missed.”

By Anna Kinkade ’21psychology and communication arts