Jamison Guice, Campus Carrier features editor
Jana Morning, Campus Carrier asst. features editor
Coleman Fannin, assistant director of the honors program and adjunct instructor in the department of religion and philosophy, said his family has a running joke, that if you have to quarantine then “there’s probably no better place than on [Berry’s] campus.” Married to Jordan Rowan Fannin, assistant professor of religion, their family consists of 11-year-old Cora and 8-year-old Hutch who both attend Berry College Elementary and Middle School (BCEMS).
Living on campus, Coleman said his family has taken advantage of the wide-open space by going on more walks, daily runs, bike rides and shooting hoops. He emphasizes that his family is very fortunate since both him and his wife work at Berry, and it also makes the pandemic easier since both kids attend BCEMS.
“We had a good place to go and to be and to feel safe,” Coleman said. “I, at one point shortly after the pandemic started and during that week Berry took that extra week of spring break, for 10 weeks, I never left the campus.”
Even though they rarely ventured outside of the bubble, Coleman said that his family still had plenty of space to play. Even though it was not ideal to be home all day, they handled it largely because of the different recreational activities available on campus.
“You have more of that time, even then, where you’re really focused on the time with each other rather than so much about the things that you’re doing or the things that you’re seeing,” Coleman said. “I don’t know that we would rather have that than what we would have had without the pandemic.”
As the pandemic continues, Coleman said that his family will continue to enjoy the usual activities that were already a part of their lives pre-pandemic. These activities have reminded the Fannins why they wanted to live in Rome and on campus. He comments that the pandemic reminded his family how much there is to do.
The pandemic has looked a little different for Nate Pearson, director of the Berry Center for Integrity in Leadership. He and his wife, Marika Pearson and their two children, Gabriel and Ella, have grown closer by venturing outside the “bubble” during the late stages of the pandemic.
Six-year-old Gabriel and four-year-old Ella attend Glenwood Primary in Armuchee, Ga. which has not had to shut down due to COVID-19 since school began last fall.
Pearson said it is pretty remarkable that no one in the family has had to quarantine, especially since his children attend public school.
“When we came [to Berry], we very strongly considered Berry College Elementary and Middle School,” Pearson said. “It’s a magical place, but there were a few factors that had us pursue public school. First and foremost, we wanted to connect with the community.”
Pearson and his family first lived on campus but they moved last summer because he feared that if they lived on campus and their children went to school on campus, they would be very much in the “Berry Bubble.” He wanted to connect with the Rome community as much as possible and knew that would be less feasible if his children attended BCEMS.
When they moved, Pearson and his family bought a house with a pool. Considering the pandemic, he said it was perfect timing and their new home allowed for built-in activities, social distancing and being able to enjoy each other’s company outdoors.
“I feel like we’ll look back at this time as life kind of kicking back in, and all the activities life brings and think ‘Wow, that was really special that we were all together,’” Pearson said.
Pearson is thankful for how supportive Berry has been when it comes to taking care of his kids.
“I’m grateful Berry has been very flexible and understanding,” Pearson said. “If I’ve got to pop home, I can do that and be with the kiddos if my wife has an obligation.”
Pearson and his wife believe their situation is very unique, given that they have not had to drop everything and homeschool their children.
“I think we’ve learned a lot about the resilience of kids,” Pearson said. “They get used to things, like wearing masks, when adults set the example and that becomes the norm.”
Back to on-campus life, Melissa Mullins, director of the Writing Center, said that she likes to focus on silver linings. Last spring, Mullins and fiancé John King balanced a work-from-home schedule with their two boys, eight-year-old Liam and six-year-old Ciaran. From learning the Zoom app, creating virtual classrooms for students to homeschooling both Liam and Ciaran, Mullins said she quickly adapted to the unconventional schedule.
“I think I had an overwhelming feeling of appreciation for the people who do those jobs, and I also think that it became abundantly clear that I was ill-equipped as a college professor to teach small people,” Mullins said.
Liam and Ciaran now attend BCEMS but at the beginning of the pandemic, they both attended a small Montessori school, which is a school that allows children to make creative choices in their own education that includes self-directed activity and collaborative play. Since much of the schoolwork required help, Mullins began to feel an overwhelming amount of appreciation for early childhood educators.
On the flip side, Mullins said that this experience was an opportunity to adapt by building patience along with personal grace and mercy. For example, one practice included treating herself with kindness.
The family adjusted to the pandemic by spending time outside hiking, camping, road-tripping and swimming in warmer weather. Her family already spent a lot of time outside but they just amped it up by finding more things to do.
“My suspicion that adaptation was one of the most valuable qualities that a person can embrace was certainly affirmed this year, as we all have had to adapt,” Mullins said.
The family has continued to create new rituals and activities in the wake of COVID-19 in an effort to provide more mental stability. Mullins mentioned that she, Liam and Ciaran now walk the Old High School Trail loop that follows Victory Lake every day after school to discuss feelings and to “play with stick swords.”
“Sometimes you need to have a push from some outside thing you can’t control in order to find the value in uncovering those little rituals that, regardless of the pandemic, having rituals like that, that give you that sense of mental stability and connection, are really good,” Mullins said. “But sometimes we don’t discover that or we don’t really see that until we’re really forced to by this big outside, kind of horrible thing.”