The Deconstruction and Reformation of Community and Its Place Attachment Among Warren Wilson College Students in the Wake of COVID-19

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COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the normal functioning of and social processes throughout the world. Warren Wilson College, as have at other colleges across the country and the world, has had to respond and adapt to these changes. Much of the focus of how COVID-19 has impacted higher education has been superficial and mostly focused on its structure, not yet looking in-depth into student experiences. Using mixed methods, this paper focuses on changes the COVID-19 pandemic has caused among the student community and its attachment to the traditional, physical Warren Wilson campus. These changes are examined through the lens of cultural geography, disaster studies and other concepts like liminality. The WWC student community attachment to place has always been and will continue to be important to its community identity in general. With the Spring 2020 closure as the inciting incident, sense of community and community attachment to place, particularly the physical campus has shifted and become disrupted. This attachment to place is both influenced by and frames changes happening within the student community. At the center of these changes is a dichotomy between solidarity and division. Shared experiences among students have been a site for solidarity, while factors like decreased social interactions and greater time confined to living spaces have worked to fragment the student community. Other factors, such as individual stress, comfort, familiarity, and the impact of online learning also play a role in these changes.
Capstone, social sciences, sociology, community, COVID-19