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Now that I’m vaccinated...

Northwestern students, faculty and staff reflect on how the vaccine has helped bring joy to the new normal
Jill Norton was finally able to spend time with her mom on Mother’s Day.

As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, the pandemic has entered a new phase, marked by renewed confidence and increased activity. Members of the Northwestern community are reconnecting, attending public events and planning travel.

Several students, faculty and staff spoke with Northwestern Now recently about how the vaccine has helped improve their new normal, paving the way for something new or old that brings joy back to their lives.

Jill Norton
Interim director of marketing
Student Affairs

It sparked an appreciation for the little things in life that I used to take for granted: being with family and friends, live music and dinner out. But it’s mostly about seeing my mom in Florida.

When I saw her in February 2020, she was dealing with my stepfather’s dementia that was getting harder for her to handle and, as I kissed them both goodbye, I promised her I would start to come down to help at least once a month. I thought I would be seeing them both soon. But within a week, it became clear I wouldn’t be able to travel.

After going through a scary respiratory failure in 2019, I was considered high risk. It was not safe for me to fly, even once travel became safer and while my stepfather was declining. I was unable to be there. He passed away in January and I never got to see him again in person. I also couldn’t be there to comfort my mom through this most difficult time in her life. I felt helpless. It was heart-wrenching and one of the most stressful points of my life.

I got my second vaccine dose in late April and bought a ticket for Mother’s Day to finally be with her again. Having her pick me up at the airport was so beautiful. I had been dreaming about the moment for so long. I spent a week with her, and I appreciated every moment. I’m going back this month. You never know when it may be the last time you’re with someone you love.

Sarah Genelly
Sarah Genelly

Sarah Genelly
Third-year student
Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Being vaccinated has enabled me to spend more time with people outside of my immediate household.

I live with multiple people on campus, so it has made me feel a lot more comfortable going home to visit my mom and spending time with other vaccinated friends on campus.

Donald Nally
John W. Beattie Chair of Music and Professor, Conducting and Ensembles
Bienen School of Music

Listening. It’s the whole focus of my art and life, and it’s been absent of content for over a year. Sure, I’ve listened to lots of people talk at me on Zoom, and there have been a few growth movements through listening to others. But the listening I’m talking about, the listening that I normally do everyday, is listening to people singing and expressing. It’s listening as a conductor, making a unity of sound, color and meaning — through my listening and the invitation for every other artist in the room to listen. None of that has been possible in the absence of in-person singing.

But we are back now — not fully, but it’s a start.

First, at the end of April, distanced and safe, singing to over 700 people over two nights on the lakefill in a new work written for the purpose of returning to group singing — not conventional, but valuable. Then, we continued in quintets, also on the lakefill; all the Bienen voice majors singing synchronized music — listening, blending, making room for each other — as one ensemble.

Never has the meaning of that word “ensemble” had more resonance, more weight, for all of us. Together.

James Jones
James Jones

James Jones
Northwestern Dining

Now that I’m vaccinated, I can get to all those home repair work I needed to do at home and for others.

But the big thing is that I can start making my ribs again. I’d been making St. Louis style baby back ribs, selling them by word of mouth, mostly to my wife’s friends. But people weren’t feeling safe, so, of course, I stopped.

It’s been an entire year, and now I’m back at it, just in time for summer!

E. Patrick Johnson
Dean, School of Communication and Annenberg University Professor

Cooking is one of the many things that brings joy to my life. I’m the youngest of seven children of the late Mrs. Sarah M. Johnson. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in her kitchen and learned one of the best ingredients in her recipes is love. My mom would always cook a dish or bake a pie or cake to share with a neighbor. Breaking bread and sharing fellowship was a mainstay in our home. When COVID-19 had us all quarantined, I was forced to pause the ritual I learned at a young age. But when the vaccine became available, I didn’t hesitate. Spending time and sharing a meal with friends and family is what I missed the most. Now that I’m fully vaccinated, what I look forward to most is cooking and communing with other vaccinated people.

Carol LaBonne
Carol LaBonne

Carole LaBonne
Erastus Otis Haven Professor of Molecular Biosciences and chairperson of the Department of Molecular Biosciences
Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I traveled to Cape Cod to teach an intensive in-person research course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. This course has run every summer since 1893 except for last summer when we had to cancel it because of COVID-19.

I’m thrilled that, with everyone getting vaccinated, we’re able to hold this course again this summer.

It’s wonderful to travel again. I generally travel extensively for work giving seminars and conference talks, and the last time I was on a plane was last March!

Sammy Goldstein
Second-year student, Kellogg School of Management and president of the Kellogg Student Association

I’m beginning to go on more in-person adventures in Chicago with my Kellogg friends, especially second-years who are graduating and my peers who were high risk before getting vaccinated. The Kellogg community showed resilience and creativity over the past year as we developed meaningful connections and friendships despite the pandemic. I’m excited to go on more outings and trips this summer as most of us stay in Evanston to complete our internships. 

On the KSA side of things, we prioritized in-person interactions and events that unite students, like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a Kellogg tradition of going to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

Bill Yen
Bill Yen

Bill Yen
Second-year student
McCormick School of Engineering

I’ve always been a fan of Brazilian jujusu, and I stopped doing it for a year because of COVID-19 since it’s a close-contact sport.

After getting vaccinated, I was able to start again with other people who are vaccinated. It brings a lot of joy in my life because it helps me relieve stress and is just something I look forward to doing on the weekends.