Tess Chaffee, A&S ’21

UC student Tess Chaffee. Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

First person

Personal growth and perspective in a pandemic


When I first stepped foot on campus as an official Bearcat one hot August day three years ago, I’ll be honest, I had no idea what I was in for.

I originally chose UC because of its exploratory program and sprawling urban campus — a stark and refreshing contrast to Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, the small river town with a dog for a mayor (seriously), where I grew up. They call it the center of the universe, and as a kid, it certainly always had been the center of mine. My childhood was spent darting through dusty creek beds and sipping foaming root beer from a thick glass bottle, and my high school years were most notable for dancing under the Friday night lights. But, looking back, I feel like I was drawn to UC for a greater purpose.

The last assignment in my “Discovering UC” class freshman year was to formulate an academic plan for the following semesters, and as I pieced together that final paper, things finally started to make sense. My long-held appreciation for writing drew me toward a major in journalism, but I knew I didn’t want to be a reporter. So, I paired my chosen major with a legal studies certificate and decided on a path to law school. I wanted a career that would be interesting and challenging. I wanted to use my strengths to make a difference in peoples’ lives. These days, I truly believe I’m on the road I was always meant to travel, and now I’m preparing to apply to UC’s College of Law this fall.


General Store in Rabbit Hash, KY

The Rabbit Hash General Store in Chaffee's hometown. Photo/provided


It’s crazy how fast the past few years have flown by. It was definitely weird when life came to a sudden halt mid-March as a global pandemic swept the nation, and it’s definitely been weird corresponding with my colleagues and peers solely online. I worked as an intern this summer in UC’s Marketing + Communications department writing student profiles for UC News, and despite the current state of the world, it’s worked out really well. Operating remotely has allowed me to connect with a student in Washington, D.C., and one on the other side of the world in Hong Kong. They’ve all had unique stories, but we’ve also held one thing in common with our college experiences: personal growth.

“If this professor could see that I have what it takes, then why shouldn’t I?”

I came to college simply because it was expected of me. I was just an 18-year-old kid, after all, living on my own for the first time and looking for purpose. They say college is the time you find yourself, and (as cliché as it sounds) I think they’re right. Becoming a lawyer seemed like a lofty goal, but with encouragement from one of my journalism professors — a gruff, seasoned Southern reporter with a Pulitzer, at that — I came to believe that not only could I pursue my newfound career, but I could tackle it with a vengeance. If this professor could see that I have what it takes, then why shouldn’t I? The students I interviewed echoed these sentiments of encouragement and coming into their own. UC was a place where we felt inspired, a place that helped us come to know what was always true: that we, as students, are capable of greatness. Through the study and practice of law, I look forward to investing in myself for the greater good of those around me.

These times have no doubt lent a new perspective. Transitioning to online classes has made me really appreciate those vibrant classroom discussions. It’s made me realize just how much I learn from the people around me. And it’s also brought some pleasant surprises along the way, like being able to spend more time outdoors, andslowing down to appreciate the little things that too often go unnoticed as we dash madly through everyday life.

With just a few undergraduate semesters left, I’m going to enjoy returning to campus, seeing the friendly faces of my peers (behind masks of course, but we’ll take what we can get) and roaming through the cool UC architecture that has seen centuries of enlightened minds travel its halls. Most of all, I look forward to going after my purpose and seeing where my education, and the future, will take me.



Social justice through medicine

Carl Fichtenbaum, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and one of the leaders in UC’s efforts to combat COVID-19, is still going to protest marches as his passion for social justice, personally and profession- ally, burns as brightly as ever.


Championing science amid adversity

University of Cincinnati epidemiologist Diego Cuadros is used to telling people what they don’t want to hear. The assistant professor runs the Health Geography and Disease Modeling Lab in UC’s College of Arts and Sciences, where he studies global topics such as HIV, malaria and, this year, COVID-19. He condenses data into easy-to-follow maps that predict the future with uncanny accuracy.


Bridging the divide

It’s been said that one should never discuss religion and politics in polite conversation. Similarly, race and gender have long been considered taboo topics best avoided to prevent conflict. That strategy might work at some dinner tables, but for a group of University of Cincinnati women, tackling tough conversations, challenging perspectives and being vulnerable are the keys to growth and understanding.


Remotely possible

When did the COVID-19 pandemic first make an impact on your life? March 10? That was the day the University of Cincinnati decided to change something it has excelled at for 200 years. Teaching. Educating. That day UC announced that all lectures in classrooms, experiments in labs or designing in studios would be suspended. Students started what was expected to be just an extended spring break, but then 12 days later all courses had gone virtual to protect the university community and stop the virus’s spread.

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