Gator Nation Stays Connected During COVID-19 Pandemic Danielle Randle & Eden Miller

The Monday after a relaxing Spring Break 2020, University of Florida (UF) seniors arrived back to campus in Gainesville, FL expecting to attend classes and finish the final semester. However, the widespread COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed students’ plans. On March 9, 2020, university leaders made the decision to transition all course work to an online format to follow social distancing practices to ensure the safety of students and faculty members.

Classrooms laid empty.

As courses transitioned online, it required not only seniors, but the entire student body and faculty to learn how to navigate the fully-online class structure. A need for digital communication grew drastically.

Zoom meetings - the new "normal".

Students were able to attend class during normally-scheduled times via Zoom, an online video conference platform. The ability to digitally communicate was vital to the success of graduating seniors and classmates, as they adjusted to remain successful.


Zoom has a lecture-recording feature which allowed professors to post their lectures, after live sessions. Students could then remotely access the information at any time. This aspect of digital communication is an asset for students to still take notes and be immersed in a class format.

Digital communication also helped seniors adapt to maintaining relationships, as well saying goodbye to professors, friends, and classmates. From social media to digital learning platforms like Zoom, everyone did their best to make the most of a difficult situation.

After the initial announcement of the online course transition, seniors were quick to adapt and accept the challenge to complete their semesters online. However, on March 17, when graduation was postponed from May 1 to July 31, many seniors struggled. Many expressed sadness and disappointment over the graduation ceremony change, as they would no longer be in Gainesville to attend a delayed event in August.

UF's Spring 2020 Graduation Ceremonies Postponed to Later Date

Karry Butdorf, a UF graduate student majoring in early childhood education in the Unified Early Childhood ProTeach Masters Program, said, “Although I am very thankful that UF moved graduation to a later date so seniors have the chance to walk the graduation stage and get their diploma, I unfortunately will not be able to attend. As a masters student, I am starting my career in August as an elementary school teacher in the state of Georgia. With school usually starting the first week of August up there, I will be busy putting together the final touches in my classroom and lesson plans the entire weekend the postponed graduation is scheduled. Again, I am so thankful UF pushed the date but I know I am not the only person who will have to forego graduation because of an upcoming job!”

Seniors not only faced the challenge of a postponed graduation, but many of them also had to move home, still pay rent, find a job, and say goodbye to Gainesville.

After President Fuchs urged students to return home, many graduating seniors followed his directives. They urgently uprooted from Gainesville to return home and practice social distancing with loved ones instead of by themselves.

UF's Reitz Union - a ghost town after COVID-19 disruptions.

Danielle Randle, a fifth-year Agricultural Education and Communication student, said, “Over the past five years as a student, I only have the opportunity to return home once during the Spring semester. After President Fuchs' email, I moved three-fourths of my apartment home by myself. This sudden shift to living at home full-time has been both stressful and relaxing. I have enjoyed spending quality time with my parents. Yet, it has been challenging to leave my roommates, friends, and the place I have called home for so long. Ever since I was a little girl it was my dream to be a student at the University of Florida. As I near graduation, it is heartbreaking not to be able to take in final moments such as studying at Marston or grabbing coffee with friends at Pascal’s, a local coffee shop. As a Gator I have adapted to working from home and am constantly striving to uphold the same work ethic that I had at school.”

The ever-changing economy also impacted graduating seniors. As the nation fought to reduce the spread of COVID-19, businesses both small and large were impacted drastically due to social distancing. Companies were forced to lay off or furlough employees and place a hiring freeze on new jobs. The tumultuous job market directly impacted graduating seniors in their job searches.

Hiring freezes and layoffs created an economic crisis.

As UF seniors neared the month of May, it was vital to look back on their time at UF and reflect on how much they grew personally and professionally. In an unprecedented time, it was important to remain positive and remind themselves that they rightfully earned a degree from a top institution.

Fifth-year University of Florida Agricultural Education and Communication graduating senior, Eden Miller, said, “It is hard not to be sad when imagining the countless memories and fellowship not to be had during the rest of our senior year. However, we are Gators. We don’t let something like this keep us down. After all, in all kinds of weather, we’ll all stick together.”

Throughout this semester, seniors learned to become more resilient, adaptable, positive, and open-minded. Their skills helped show potential employers that they are able to handle change, without skipping a beat. As Spring 2020 UF graduates embarked into the world, the Gator Nation was everywhere, supporting and cheering them on every step of the way.

The Gator Nation is everywhere.

Hi, my name is Danielle Randle and I graduated form the University of Florida in the Spring of 2020. I graduated with a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Education and Communication specializing in Communication and Leadership Development with minors in Event Management and Leadership. It has always been a dream of mine to be a student at the University of Florida and now as a graduate I am so thankful for my time at the university. Throughout my five years at the University of Florida I was involved in a variety of leadership opportunities that allowed me to gain practical experience in working with large groups and events. I loved every second of my time being a student from classes to involvement to meeting fellow Gators. I have learned a lot and I look forward to using these experiences as I enter into the professional world.

Hey y'all! My name is Eden Miller and I am a graduate of the University of Florida's Agricultural Education and Communication program. I serve in many different leadership roles in local county, state, and national cattlewomen's associations. Through my involvement in these different agricultural organizations, I have developed a staunch passion for storytelling. I owe my amazing experience at the University of Florida to the one-of-a-kind faculty and staff of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

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Eden Miller


Created with images by Glenn Carstens-Peters - "If you feel the desire to write a book, what would it be about?" • Fusion Medical Animation - "New visualisation of the Covid-19 virus" • Rubén Rodriguez - "untitled image" • Gabriel Benois - "Home School, quarantine :(" • Manthan Gupta - "Waiting." • Mikayla Mallek - "Ripped jeans and MacBook" • Markus Winkler - "Crisis " • Anne Nygård - "untitled image" • Rolands Zilvinskis - "I used this photo for one of my latest photo manipulations on my Instagram account, and thought I’d upload it here, I’m sure someone will find it useful in some way." • Vasiliki Volkova - "Gator at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga "