ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — Milligan University is wrapping up its year by offering COVID-19 vaccines to students, faculty, and staff.
As the vaccine clinic was set up in the campus wellness center, a number of the university’s best and brightest students received end-of-the-year awards on Thursday morning at the Seeger Memorial Chapel.
Missing from the audience was their parents, many of whom were watching the ceremony online.
“For an institution like Milligan, you know wearing the masks and all that is one thing. But what’s been most challenging, for a place that is such a tight-knit community as this one, is just having to be apart from each other, a little more than usual,” said Milligan University President Bill Greer.
This year, Milligan’s small-school advantage of knowing everyone around campus has been challenged by distancing, mask-wearing, and canceled events.
“Friends of mine that I’ve had classes with, I don’t even know what they look like,” said freshman Abby Bright.
A member of the Milligan dance team, Bright hopes spectators can gather for sporting events next year, allowing her team to put on halftime shows. She also wants study abroad trips to return.
“I hope that the vaccine will be able to provide so many more opportunities for us here at Milligan. Such as our parents being able to come watch us. Or next summer, I hope we’ll still get to go to Europe with the vaccines,” she said.
The on-campus vaccine clinic began Thursday and will run through Saturday.
Lee Harrison, the university’s vice president for marketing and enrollment, said Milligan officials put together a safety plan this year to give students an on-campus experience.
“We’ve done everything that we could. So this is the next step in that, is to now be able to offer vaccines to make it as easy as possible, and accessible as possible, for those who had not received theirs,” she said.
Milligan’s final exams and commencement are next week.
Harrison said the university was originally supposed to receive the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine. But with the J&J vaccine still on pause, Moderna is being given instead. Students receiving their first shot on campus as the spring semester ends are advised to use vaccinefinder.org to receive their second dose in their home areas.
University officials are factoring in federal and state health guidelines as they plan for next fall.
“As of right now we have announced and are planning to do an on-campus, fully on-campus educational experience back to as normal as possible,” said Harrison. “As of right now, we are not requiring vaccines, but we will certainly be continuing to monitor the guidance on that.”
Milligan junior Chase McGlamery says the on-campus clinic helps students who aren’t from area have a familiar, convenient location to get their shot. He too wants to see larger community gatherings resume in the fall.
“I feel kind of bad for our freshman here this year. Because they never got to experience some of those really cool traditions. So I’m really looking forward to bringing those traditions back next year,” he said.