Excitement, and a tinge of nervousness—the feelings begin just before the family vehicle turns onto the PCC’s Main Drive. The first semester of a new school year sparks similar feelings in most, but soon, campus will feel familiar again.
Up and down the mall of the Administration Building, in the Commons, and across sidewalks, returning students worked on the usual list of preparations—wrapping up class registration, collecting textbooks, and setting up their new semester rooms. Sprinkled throughout campus, small bunches of new students with their families steadily made their way through several firsts, some pausing to capture the moment with a quick photo. From receiving their first Student ID to learning their PCC mailbox combination and finding their residence hall, campus slowly started to feel like a home away from home.
Incoming freshman Calin Pettit (TX), who is studying English, is hoping to use her degree to become a magazine writer or editor. After arriving on campus, she met one of her roommates and, as a student in the Work Assistance Program, has been encouraged to hear about how welcoming the student workers in her department will be. “Everyone’s been so friendly and so helpful. It’s just been smooth sailing since we got here,” said Calin.
As a returning sophomore, Paul Roofner (VA), who is studying business management, is looking forward to enjoying experiences that weren’t offered during his freshman year. “I’m excited for all the stuff that we can do with the collegians because I had fun last semester, but everyone was talking about how great it was before, so I’m excited for all those things,” he said.
During the weeks prior, staff and faculty were busy getting campus ready for the return of students. Staff readied work areas and arranged new work schedules, and faculty prepared and finalized lesson plans for the fall semester. In addition to class preparation, faculty attended several sessions together with author and speaker Dr. Del Tackett that focused on engaging students through love to build a strong biblical worldview.
“I am looking forward to seeing how God is going to make this semester unique,” said Daniel Skutt, a natural sciences faculty member who will be teaching Calculus I (MA 221) and College Trigonometry (MA 131). “No two semesters are ever the same. God always brings something unforeseeable into each semester that makes that semester memorable. It could be a challenge, an opportunity, or an occurrence. God has something special in store for PCC this semester. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I’m looking forward to finding out.”
Nikki Martinez and other English faculty used the preparation time to improve their classes. This included preparing tutorial videos on the learning management system, Canvas, and introducing new pieces for her American Literature class (EN 252). She’s especially looking forward to seeing all her students face-to-face again. “I’m extremely excited about the more normal capacity. I always love to walk around my room as I teach, but I did not want to do that last year under the circumstances,” said Martinez. “This semester, I’m excited to be able to do some of those simple things that I took for granted, while still taking measures to protect my students’ health.”
Currently scheduled events promise the potential for new experiences! Anticipating the return of PCC traditions such as Eagle Mania, Midnight Madness, and full Greek Rush and Christmas Lights Celebration experiences, many students could be participating in events for the first time since 2019. And a new fall semester opportunity offers a time for students to connect with hiring businesses in early November—Career Fair.
Philip Robinson (Sr., AR), who is studying to be an electrical engineer, has relished the shared energetic feeling on campus. While he’s looking forward to graduating, he’s also grateful for the reimagined semester experience.
“I just enjoy coming back to campus, getting to see a bunch of people. And then it’s also just a lot of fun getting to see random people shouting from across the Commons like, ‘Is that Jackson?’ There’s a lot of excitement because a lot of people haven’t seen their friends in three months, including me,” said Philip. “And I always enjoy Christmas Lights. I really do. And I’m looking forward to Fine Arts this year. The Christmas one is A Christmas Carol, so I’m very excited about that.”
Opening Convocation, traditionally held at the start of the semester, offers time to focus on and be encouraged by God’s Word. No longer holding multiple services, the large Crowne Centre auditorium felt a little smaller. The loud and excited chatter of students filled the room as they and their families filed into each row on the main floor and in the balcony—a welcome sound that many have missed for well over a year.
After reflecting on the time passed since the last time students have shared in a full service together, Dr. Troy Shoemaker, president of the College, expressed his cautious enthusiasm for the weeks ahead. “Together this semester and this year, we’ll do a lot of things. We’ll pursue academic excellence with a biblical worldview. We’ll encourage each other to grow and take the next step spiritually. And without being presumptuous or unaware of current conditions, we’re asking the Lord to allow us to operate a complete semester calendar with a full complement of academic and co-curricular activities,” he said. “Tonight, it’s a privilege to welcome each student to PCC whether you’re an incoming freshman, excited about the adventure of a college career, or whether you’re a senior ready to graduate.”
In his message from Joshua 1:1–9, guest speaker Kurt Skelly, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Virginia, shared how God’s presence and support is unwavering even during times of transition or change, such as moving from home to college for the first time. “God speaks in a very clear way during transitional times,” he said. “When God is moving you, listen. God has moved you to Pensacola, Florida, ‘for such a time as this.’ Listen. I challenge all of you tonight to make a recommitment to this book [the Bible].”
Welcome back, students old and new! Whether you’re pressing forward or just beginning your PCC journey, we pray that God will use this time to provide growth and direction in your lives.
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”—Joshua 1:9