on Thursday, February 11, 2021

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College celebrated the return to in-person learning on Feb. 8. Even with masks and social distancing, students embraced the return to some semblance of normalcy.

“We are grateful to be able to host our students in class again. Both the faculty and the on-campus students value the opportunity to be in the same room learning together,” said Norris Grubbs, NOBTS provost. “I was so excited to walk into our student center and hear the noise of conversation and learning. You could certainly tell that everyone was happy to be back face-to-face.”

Before starting the fall 2020 semester, school officials planned to suspend in-person class meeting after the Thanksgiving break to limit the chance of COVID-19 spread. A post-Christmas virus surge in the New Orleans-area led city officials to introduce stricter measures. As a result, NOBTS and Leavell College spring classes began in an online format with the intention of returning to classroom learning as soon as possible.

Due to swift action by the city of New Orleans, the spread of the virus slowed during the first few weeks of 2021, and the city moved back to modified Phase 2 protocols, allowing the seminary to return to in-person classes on Feb. 8. The seminary will resume in-person chapel services on Feb. 18.

According to Thomas Strong, dean of Leavell College, the first three weeks of school went well despite not meeting in person. But even with the effectiveness of the synchronous online learning environment, he said that students and professors were excited to be back in the classroom.

“We are absolutely thrilled to resume our classes on campus this week,” L. Thomas Strong III, dean of Leavell College. “The excitement level among the students and faculty is noticeable both in the classroom and in the discussions.”

Strong believes the return to in-person learning will be beneficial to the spiritual formation of his students.

“We are now looking forward to the more personal contact through our class time. A genuine learning community made up of individuals seeking to grow in Christlikeness is of great value -- and that is what we are experiencing at Leavell College.”

Another exciting moment came on Feb. 9 when Jeanine Bozeman, a faculty member since 1985, returned to the classroom for the first time since the onset of COVID-19. On Tuesday afternoons this semester, Bozeman teaches an in-person course that prepares students to minister to people experiencing grief and loss.

The return to in-person learning helped facilitate the launch of in-person campus life events. During the morning of Feb. 9, the women’s life organization “Together” hosted a socially-distanced gathering to foster community among campus women. Later that evening, the Leavell College House System hosted an outdoor, socially-distanced “Back to School” hangout.