Alumni Reflect on the Effects of COVID-19


Media by Nicole Licavoli

Nicole Licavoli, senior, eats dinner with her older sister Allison, Class of 2017, and her parents Nick and Cindy. Allison said she faced a challenge living far away from home in her first few years of college. “My family is very close,” Allison said. “We keep a family tradition of having dinner together every night. They’ve always supported me and helped me get through tough times.”

Allison Licavoli, Class of 2017, saw her dreams for her newly established career in higher education spiral downhill in a matter of days as the coronavirus pandemic escalated. 

Licavoli wasn’t aware of the encroaching ramifications of the outbreak, until a trip to Disney World with her family became a turning point as the day following, Monday, March 16, all Disney parks announced a closure. A day later her co-op with Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC, and in-person attendance at Auburn University faded into a journey from Birmingham, Ala., back to St. Louis due to safety concerns for non-essential workers.

“It definitely sunk in at that point because I didn’t ever imagine I would have to end my work term early due to a health crisis,” Licavoli said. “What definitely was hard for me was leaving the experience behind and not having the opportunity to learn.” 

Licavoli’s life pursuits—of a degree in civil engineering; of being the president of Chi Epsilon, a civil engineering honor society, this year; and of earning a paycheck to afford her housing and sorority dues—have been paused as she resides in her parents’ home.

The unexpected changes in Licavoli’s life reflects those of at least 25 million other U.S. college students affected by efforts to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to Entangled Solutions, giving rise to financial, academic and emotional problems. This can include dorm closures, transitioning to online classes, cancellations of commencement, internships and performances. 

Embracing an appreciative outlook, Licavoli said she is blessed to be at home with family as for the last two years, she’s worked continuously in classes and her co-op in order to finish her five year program in 2022. 

“I have had a great college experience in my first few years, and even though this pandemic has happened, I don’t think that it is going to negatively impact my college experience, but it will definitely alter it,” Licavoli said. “I’m hopeful that everything happens for a reason and change is good.”

While she communicates remotely with her friends, Licavoli said she’s started to rekindle the close relationships with her family members at home, even as everyone is working from home.

“Coming back home, I was definitely excited because I haven’t been home for quite some time,” Licavoli said. “I knew that coming home would be different because I haven’t been home or been around my sister for the last few years, and I had to learn how things operated.”

Licavoli’s sister, Nicole, senior, faces the struggle of not being able to experience the normal high school graduation ceremony she once witnessed her older sister participate in. 

“This year was a really big year for me because my high school career was not necessarily the easiest,” Nicole said. “Making it to high school graduation with all the people that have been able to support me is a really big deal to have them see my walk across the stage when there were times when I never thought that would get to happen.” 

Although Nicole misses aspects of her senior year such as playing on the varsity golf team and in symphonic orchestra as well as participating in service groups such as the National Charity League and Girl Scouts, she said she was lucky to experience the majority of her time in school.

“The pandemic is helping me grow as a person and remember there are more important things in life than what clothes I’m wearing or what shoes I have,” Nicole said. “I’m realizing how amazing it is that I am healthy and have a family that will be there for me, when I know other families are having a more difficult time during this pandemic.”

It’s an opportunity to take something so horrible and try to do your part and realize that you are a part of something bigger. There’s a lot of good coming out of the pandemic, but you have to take a step back to be able to view it that way.”

— Haley Munn

Haley Munn, Class of 2016, also has become reflective amidst the pandemic as she said she has grown as an individual and as a caregiver.

Munn is now preparing for her professional life as the Missouri State University nursing program allowed her to graduate early in March in an effort to increase frontline assistance to the pandemic.

“The nursing program definitely challenged me, but I learned a lot, and I had to step out of my comfort zone when dealing with patients and teachers,” Munn said. “We faced a lot of adversity, so we had to work together and try to overcome it. It taught me to voice my opinion, and we had to work together to advocate for ourselves.” 

Munn said although she didn’t feel closure for her college experience abruptly ending, she understands the importance behind these decisions, and she’s appreciative to have finished the intense work involved. 

“I am really thankful to have the opportunity to become a nurse and have entered into the nursing program and still graduate,” Munn said. “People are starting to see it takes a lot to be a nurse and a health care professional because in instances like this, you have to put your health at risk to help someone else, and I’m honored to call myself someone who helps that way.”

Even though Munn filed for unemployment due to job loss and prospective opportunities won’t be available until June, she said these experiences are important for personal adaptation and perseverance.  

“The situation is not ideal for anyone—for high schoolers, for college students or for health care workers,” Munn said. “It’s an opportunity to take something so horrible and try to do your part and realize that you are a part of something bigger. There’s a lot of good coming out of the pandemic, but you have to take a step back to be able to view it that way.”