Perseverance is a quality that the Bob Jones University students are learning and practicing as we crossed the mid-point of this semester. God has truly blessed us and has allowed the University family to remain mostly healthy. Please continue to pray for his protection for our students, faculty and staff.
In today’s episode, I talk with students about several events that have taken place on campus. One of those events was the senior picnic. We discuss what senior year means for students and the history of the senior picnic.
Additionally, this past week we celebrated Bruins Spirit Week and Virtual Homecoming. I welcome our men’s and women’s student body presidents to my office to discuss the events of the week. I also ask them for an update on how the students are handling the pressures of school life.
Transcript: Recapping Bruins Spirit Week and a Mid-Semester Update
Rumpf: Welcome to Highest Potential with Dr. Steve Pettit, a podcast that explores how Bob Jones University empowers individuals to reach their highest potential for God’s glory.
Pettit: Welcome back to my office for a new episode of our podcast. I’m here today with Sarah Rumpf. Sarah, how are you?
Rumpf: I’m doing well. How are you?
Pettit: Doing great! Well, we’re kind of like two months into the semester. So, how are students at Bob Jones University doing right now?
Rumpf: I think we’re doing well, but I would say we’re a little tired.
Pettit: I think tiredness is setting in. I think that good old perseverance is having to kick in.
Pettit: Especially for our freshmen. They’re probably not used to this longevity in pressure. And how are you doing?
Rumpf: I’m doing well. I feel the same as many students, good but tired.
Pettit: Well, you’re a senior so you’re just an old pro at this.
So, last week we had our senior picnic. And tell us about that event, what we did that day.
Zimmer: Yeah, it was so fun. It was down in the Activity Center, as you know, and y’all catered Henry’s Barbeque, which was so good. Henry’s is a local barbeque shop, and you guys served homemade barbeque and then mac and cheese and coleslaw, and then we also had ice cream truck which came.
Pettit: That was pretty cool.
Rumpf: Yeah, it was very – I had cookies ‘n cream and it was really, really good.
Pettit: Well, you can’t, I mean, in South Carolina, picnic equals barbeque, so …
Rumpf: Yeah, I loved it. The coleslaw was great.
Pettit: And our senior class, they’re kind of from all over the world, so we wanted definitely to make sure that they got good old-fashioned South Carolina culture.
Rumpf: Yes, before we graduate.
Pettit: Absolutely. So, there were other things that we did. What were some of the other things?
Rumpf: Yeah so, we also had the BJUgrass playing, which was a really nice addition. It kind of added to the Southern theme for the evening. And then we were able to just hang out together as a class and just spend some quality time with friends.
Pettit: So, when you come to your senior year – I think like any school you start out as a freshman class and you don’t know people. And then, what happens over the period of the next few years in relationships?
Rumpf: Yeah so, it was funny because my roommates and I were actually talking about that this week because we were reminiscing about when we first came as freshmen and how we were overwhelmed and how we kind of felt like, “I’m never going to have close friends,” and it’s cool to see how God has provided great friends throughout the years and how your circle might have gotten smaller but the relationships have just gotten so much deeper.
Pettit: Yeah, that’s kind of typical. You start out your freshman year, and it’s very broad and a little shallow.
Rumpf: Yes. Yeah, and every year you get progressively closer to your friends.
Pettit: That’s absolutely correct. And I think it’s pretty nostalgic too, realizing that before you know it, you’re going to be graduating.
Rumpf: I know.
Pettit: And your college career is over with and yet, when you first start you think it’s so far away, and here you are at that very point of graduation.
Rumpf: Absolutely. Yeah, it’s going to be so sad graduating because of friends.
Pettit: Yeah, this year’s class has been – you know, just personally, I think it’s just been a great senior class, I think because everyone in this class has to bear the weight of the COVID – COVID suffering. I think it’s affected the class in a lot of positive ways. What are some of those ways you think it has affected the class?
Rumpf: Yeah, so I think there’s a lot of unity in our class. Everyone was just so excited to head back to school this semester and jump right into senior year and just pick up right where we left off.
And so, I see a lot of seniors still involved in a lot of things, which, you have the tendency to kind of say, “Oh well, you know, I’ve been here for four years; now I’m comfortable here.” But you don’t really see that with our class for the most part. You still see a lot of seniors heading out to events and still loving Bruins and just loving our student body.
Pettit: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting to me when I think of the fact that our student body and our seniors in particular really have a lot of things that they could complain about in comparison to a year ago. And yet it seems like with the restrictions, with having to follow the protocols for COVID-19, for some of the limitations that have come, it actually seems like they’re happier. And I’ve often thought about the fact gratitude covers a multitude of sins.
Pettit: And when people are thankful it makes everything good.
Rumpf: Absolutely, yeah.
Pettit: And that’s what so encouraging to me about this senior class this year.
So, the senior picnic is something that is historical. So, what do you know about the history of the senior picnic?
Rumpf: So, I don’t know much, to be perfectly honest. All I know is that for the past four years, every time the senior picnic rolls around, I’m like, “I wish I could go because that barbeque looks really good!”
Pettit: Well, the history, of course, begins with the Jones family and for many, many years, the seniors would go over to the home of the Jones family which is in the corner of the campus. And for many of them, that would be the only time that they would be able to go into the house.
Pettit: So, they would go there and it was open house. And then they would have food outside and everybody would be able to greet the Jones family.
Pettit: And it’s really cool, and I’m so grateful for the Jones family and the wonderful work that they’ve done at the school over the years.
When I came as the president, I didn’t live in the Jones house. So, my situation was, you really couldn’t come over to my house because I lived on back campus for a short period of time. So, we moved it to the Activity Center and really focus our attention on the meal itself, and then picture taking and just connecting with everyone. And then also providing good old Southern barbeque, so …
Pettit: And then, of course we brought in the bluegrass group, because barbeque equals bluegrass in South Carolina. So, it’s a fun event and I’m really thankful we’re able to do it and especially to be able to honor our seniors and the great spirit they’ve had here at school.
Well, this past week was Bruins Spirit Week and Virtual Homecoming. We had lots of events like the Bruins games, the first Artist Series of the year, the World’s Most Unusual Game Show, virtual reunions and a student-led fundraiser. And today, I’ve invited Judah Smith and Allie Zimmer who are our student body presidents to come by my office so that they can share more about this past week.
Pettit: Well, good afternoon, Judah and Allie. How are you guys doing?
Smith: Good, how are you?
Pettit: I’m doing great. So, we just finished a big Bruins Spirit Week, and I think everybody’s a little tired right now.
Smith: Actually, this weekend was very relaxing, but on Friday night – yes. Very tired.
Pettit: So, this week, because typically in our university we would have a fall break, and students would have about four days off. We don’t have that, so this year, what’s happening this week everybody’s …?
Smith: Oh, we get a Day of Rest which is very exciting.
Pettit: Yeah, I think it’s going to be a day of crash and burn; everybody’s going to drag out of bed by suppertime or something like that.
Well, Judah and Allie, we so appreciate the work you guys do as student body presidents, and I love working with you guys and see the passion that you have for the student body.
And so, last week was our Bruins Spirit Week. So, tell us a little about the week, but let’s start with the big question: why do we do something like this and why is it important for our students?
Smith: Sure, I think it’s really important at this time in the semester, especially this year in the middle of COVID and all the restrictions that it places on our student body, to have a week where we can really focus on the fun and the community that we enjoy at college. And you get a bit of that the first week of school when you get to see everyone and you get to be together again and there’s a lot of fun and excitement. But by the middle of October, by the first week of October, that the school grind is moving along and you’re in a gridlock of assignments, and you just need a breath of fresh air. And that’s really what we wanted to do for the students.
Pettit: And of course, it’s typically during Homecoming.
Smith: Typically, during Homecoming.
Pettit: And this week was a little bit different. What did we call it?
Pettit: Homestaying, because so much of the week was virtual, and we weren’t able to really have folks come onto the campus.
So, tell me about the week, and tell me why it’s so important it’s student led as well.
Zimmer: Well, for a couple events that we had, one of the big things I really enjoyed we had our prayer and worship night out on the Activity Center fields, and students were just able to come out. We just had a time of prayer and just reading Scripture and singing; that was really nice. We had a decade day …
Pettit: It was particularly nice because we’re not able to sing in chapel.
Zimmer: Exactly, exactly. So that was a blessing. We had a decade day, and we were actually really impressed with how many students participated in that. We had …
Pettit: So, tell me about decade day, what does that mean?
Zimmer: OK, so for decade day, we just had like, a competition for students to dress up with any decade that they preferred. So, like, 20s, 40s, 50s – we had a lot of 80s – so, that was really fun. Like, we had a really large participation, which was really exciting.
Pettit: So, there were awards for …
Smith: Yeah, we gave $50 to the first-place winner, $25 to the second-place and 15 to the third-place winner.
Pettit: And they’ve already been chosen and picked and …
Smith: Yeah, we’ve already given them their award.
Smith: Pearson Johnson wore his letterman jacket that his dad wore in college. Hilarious.
Zimmer: It was funny.
Smith: You should definitely go check it out.
Pettit: Nice, very nice.
And then, of course, I think we showed the new Sheffey.
Pettit: And I think Tuesday night was what?
Zimmer: We showed Overcomer, and we …
Pettit: And of course, a former Bob Jones student was in that.
Pettit: Jack Sterner was in that. Very good.
And then coming into the weekend, tell me about it.
Smith: Well, we had most of our events planned for Friday and Saturday, actually. So, we had, on Friday we had a big student-led chapel planned for Alumni Stadium where we were going to get the whole student body together and where we were gonna finally sing for the first time since March as a whole student body, so that was going to be very exciting. But we had to postpone that partly because of rain and some other issues, but we’re looking forward to hopefully doing that tomorrow on Tuesday, and just moving it up a couple days.
Pettit: Yeah, the weather’s been kind of shaky.
Smith: It’s been a little bit shaky.
Pettit: Hurricane and that coming out of Louisiana.
Pettit: And the other events?
Zimmer: Yeah, so we also had planned a couple of soccer games which did take place. So, we had a picnic down in the lower fields, and then we have a color run but that was postponed, but we are going to be setting a date for that shortly. And there was also a faculty/staff car wash, but that will also be postponed, so the dates will be coming for that soon.
Pettit: OK, very good. So, a big deal during the Homecoming week is a student-led fundraiser. So, tell us about that and why this is such a big deal.
Smith: Sure. So, our Community Service Council takes that initiative every year. They look for an organization that Bob Jones could partner with and that students would be really excited about. So, our director, Abby Rocha, this year did an excellent job finding a great organization, Rice Bowls, which is a faith-based organization that has homes and facilities across the world, especially in India and places in Africa. And they provide meals for orphans, for children that need food and then it enables them to get education and improve their lives in those locations. And connects them too with the Gospel in a church, which is just an amazing opportunity.
Pettit: So, how do you sense what the students would be excited about?
Smith: That’s a good question, and again, this is our Community Service Council who put this all together. But I think in our own, our spheres of influence, we hear different things that people are excited about. And it is interesting when you have different people in leadership there’s different emphasis on different Christian organizations. So, for instance, I’m in medicine, so things that are along the pro-life vein of fundraising I get very excited about. Anything that has to do with medical missions I’m all in because I know about those and I’m excited about those.
Smith: Abby is an education major, so she is obviously very invested in the lives of children. And so, I’m sure that something like Rice Bowls plucks at her heartstrings, in a way, and gets her attention. So, it’s great that we have a diversity of leaders at Bob Jones that are tuned to specific different fundraising opportunities, and I think that’s valuable to have on the team.
Pettit: And how about you, Allie? Because your background is a little different.
Zimmer: Well, I also, I would say – so, I grew up overseas internationally, so I love being able to see how we can, even from America and from a different point of view, we can still reach people all around the world. And I think that’s why Rice Bowls is really fun, because we are reaching into different communities and different cultures and places that we may never even go, but we’re still able to have a part and play a role in these kid’s lives and share the love of Christ with them, even though we might not be there physically. And I think that’s really special.
Pettit: Well, since we’re just a little past the midway point of the year, and I think it would be really good for people to hear from you guys about how you’re viewing the semester from the students’ eyes in light of the COVID-19, because we’ve been here now, like I said, already eight weeks. And I’d like to – you know, when you hear it from the administration point of view, we’re going to bring it at a particular point, but hearing it from a student’s point of view and having to follow the protocols and then maybe hearing reports or what your concerns would be, or what’s the overall spirit of the students, so I’d love to hear it from you guys.
Smith: For sure, yeah, I think the overall spirit of the students has been overwhelmingly positive since day one. And again, like I mentioned earlier, everyone was just so excited to see each other for the first time when we all came back in August. And, in a way, that’s always hard to maintain, especially when you are dealing with school and very busy schedules too, but for the most part, I think the majority of students have a very grateful and humble attitude about the situation. I don’t think we have very many issues at all with people not complying with the rules we’ve set in place for health and safety.
Pettit: Yeah, it seems like people have been, “Like yeah, whatever we need to do” attitude.
Smith: Yeah, I mean, people forget from time to time.
Smith: I forget from time to time but it’s nothing intentional and it’s nothing malicious or rebellious.
Pettit: Do you think the primary motivation behind their being pretty compliant is what?
Zimmer: Well, I think that they – I think that everybody knows that the risk of going home is really great, and we really, I think we have a great student body, and we love our university. And I think that the experience online is not the same as being in-person. And so, I think that people remember from last semester what it was like to leave, and people don’t want to go through that again because we love being together, we love our faculty, we love being in chapel all together, and so I think that is a really big motivator for students in just remembering why we’re here and also why we have these protocols in place.
Pettit: So, are there any underlying fears among the students? Do you hear any conversation on that, about where things are right now?
Smith: Yeah, I mean we all have friends that go to different universities, and we know family members in different states. And if you look at how those universities are doing, some of them are closing, some – I think in Delaware – closed permanently, you know. So, we see those headlines, and we hear from our friends that things aren’t going well, and that’s a little disturbing. But what we see at Bob Jones is so different, I think, then what many other colleges are experiencing because our administration and our health professionals here have put in so much work on the front end of things. Over the summer, they worked tirelessly constructing procedures that would allow us to get this far and further. I think there’s a lot of confidence in the way we’re doing things, and I think that relieves a lot of fears. So, even though the circumstances are different in different places, at Bob Jones things are going very well.
Zimmer: And I think also we have a lot of confidence because it’s really a blessing to be at a Christian university because we all have that confidence in our Lord as well. So, regardless of what happens, we know that it’s according to God’s plan, and I think that as believers, we have a really huge advantage throughout all of this really uncertain times.
Pettit: So, looking forward, and I’m not projecting any realities in this question, but is there any conversation like if we get through this semester, how – what are the expectations for what next semester’s going to look like?
Zimmer: I think it’s been really – I don’t think there’s a lot of expectations at all right now. I feel like everybody’s just taking it day by day, which I think is really good, because everything’s really uncertain, and I think that’s just kind of become like a new normal for people is, you just kind of expect things to be cancelled or postponed or changed, and that’s just like how life is right now. And I think the flexibility and that mindset is really healthy in this time.
Smith: Yea, I’ll ditto that. I don’t think many people are thinking about second semester right now.
Pettit: Well, I think the spirit of gratitude is kind of like huge, you know, because to me there’s more to complain about if you’re into complaining, and yet there seems to be as happy or happier spirit, I think because they’re grateful. And then I think they’re just flexible, so their expectation levels are probably fairly pretty well curbed.
So, I have a question. This is from my perspective. So, when I make announcements about where we are and how many have tested positive, what goes through your head if you hear like an increase, does it create fear, or we’ve got to clamp down, or it’s just the way it is?
Smith: To me, I think the most we’ve heard today was 17 students today, which is more than usual but still in my mind, processing that it’s like, “Oh, we’re doing fine. 17 students – that’s not 400 students.” You know, that’s still a very small percentage of our student body. I mean, obviously when we see trends going up, it does – and I think this is true for most students – it makes us think twice about, you know, how we’re doing with our masks, how we’re doing with washing hands, you know, just being honest and diligent with our reporting on the app too. So, it definitely reinvigorates our desire to want to do well and want to stay in person in class.
Pettit: One of the things I’ve been impressed with is that our students are sensitive to the way they feel. So, they’re feeling something, they’re actually a little more apt to go in and get checked because they don’t want to have COVID. Most all the tests – everybody’s coming back, as a general rule, coming back negative. We do have some exceptions, and most of that is coming from off campus. So, wherever they go off campus, it’s generally not like it’s here, and then suddenly, you know, it just kind of pops up here. It’s the outside coming in.
So, we seem to, be at this point in a groove, and hopefully, we can stay in this groove and finish out and have a great semester and really look forward to the next semester.
So, you guys, both of you are seniors?
Pettit: Judah, your plans after graduation?
Smith: I’m going to take a gap year, work and then prepare for med school. So, do my application and the MCAT this summer and start med school in August 2022.
Pettit: OK. And Allie?
Zimmer: I’m going to stay in the area for a couple of years while I get my master’s, hopefully in Teaching English as a Second Language.
Pettit: And then long term?
Zimmer: I’m planning on going into missions, so I’d love to like to teach internationally, partner with missionaries, I don’t know where exactly but praying that the Lord will lead.
Pettit: Well, we really appreciate you guys. You’ve been a great blessing this year. It’s been unusual but you all have done an outstanding job, so thanks. Thanks for your service.
Smith: Thank you.
Zimmer: Thank you so much.
Pettit: Thank you.
Rumpf: Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Highest Potential with Steve Pettit. Don’t forget to find us and subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks again for listening. We’ll talk to you next week.