Jasper Smith did not spend her freshman year at Howard University studying in the red-brick buildings on its campus in Washington, D.C. Instead, due to the pandemic, she logged into virtual classes from her home, in Arizona.
Now that emergency health measures have been lifted, Smith, who is currently a junior, does participate on campus in the life of the historically Black university. And the contrast between her remote and in-person experiences has given her insight about which components of college work in each modality.
That includes experiences she considers distinctive to Howard. For example, its annual Homecoming celebrations were hard to pull off virtually, she says. But when it comes to the classes she took remotely early in the pandemic, Smith has a different outlook.
“Even though it was a virtual environment, I still feel like my education was very unique to the HBCU experience,” she says. “It comes down to the curriculum — being able to talk about the Black experience in class, even if it is online, in almost every field, from economics to political science.”
Digital tools may not fully convey the experience of going to HBCU football games and step shows, then. But college courses?
“I think it is very possible to replicate that in an online platform,” Smith says.