Students hang out in the Dravus parking lot, celebrating a socially-distanced birthday

Photo by Blake Dahlin

Over the past year, life for college students across the country drastically changed due to COVID-19, as schools transitioned to online  classes and closed campuses. Seattle Pacific moved the Autumn Quarter 2020 start date up by two weeks to Sept. 1, so students could finish their term before Thanksgiving. For the safety of the campus community, the University limited the sizes of in-person classes, converted some courses to online, canceled large events, and required health and safety protocols across the campus.

Some students opted to stay home and take all their classes remotely. But 952 students opted to live on campus in the fall, and more than 800 students returned for the Winter Quarter to experience campus life.

Many traditional college experiences — packed bleachers at a basketball game, a bustling Student Union Building at lunchtime, hall dance parties, in-person campus events — couldn’t be found on SPU’s campus due to pandemic restrictions.

Instead, professors designed new and creative ways to engage students and foster community in their classes. And students found ways to celebrate birthdays, continue their athletic pursuits, attend movie nights, perform music, progress in their coursework, and support one another as a community.

On these pages, we are sharing SPU student photos depicting campus life in these COVID times.

SENIOR CAMILLE MARRS’ 21ST BIRTHDAY in May 2020 fell just a few months into the COVID-19 lockdown. That didn’t stop her friends from celebrating her. In the Dravus parking lot on campus, Marrs’ fellow students gathered with balloons, signs, music, and cards to make her day special.

Photo by Marissa Lordahl

WHEN STUDENTS RETURNED to campus in early January for Winter Quarter, all students living in campus housing or participating in athletics were required to undergo COVID-19 testing. SPU staff, from Health Services to athletic trainers and even faculty, helped administer rapid tests. The tests yielded six positive cases out of 840 students tested.

Photo by Jacky Chen

THE SEATTLE PACIFIC WOMEN’S ROWING TEAM’S 2020 season was canceled in March almost as soon as it began due to the pandemic. In autumn, with a new coach on board, the team began preparing as hard as ever for the next season, dividing into four smaller pods for training and wearing masks during practices.

Photo by Blake Dahlin

NORMALLY BUSTLING WITH STUDENTS eating, talking, and studying, the tables at Gwinn Commons dining hall sat empty for much of 2020. During the dining-in closure, students still enjoyed the food to go, heading back to their rooms or eating outside on a sunny day. As of February 2021, Gwinn opened dine-in service to a limited number of students who were required to be socially distanced or seated with others from the same living areas.

Photo by Jacky Chen

EVERY YEAR, SPU HOSTS TRADITION, an annual Christmas event in Tiffany Loop with hot chocolate, cookies, lights, Santa, and a petting zoo. In its place, the Student Union Board hosted a drive-in showing of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Students parked their cars in Emerson parking lot to enjoy the film — and free concessions (right) — while safely distanced.

Photo by Blake Dahlin

EVEN IN A PANDEMIC, high school students both near and far are planning their futures at Seattle Pacific. Students considering attending SPU could still walk the campus grounds this year, following self-guided tour brochures available at kiosks throughout campus. With on-campus visit events suspended, SPU’s Admissions team now offers an array of virtual visit events, including a 360-degree virtual tour that can be found at

HILL HALL (PICTURED), MOYER HALL, AND ASHTON HALL sat empty last year after Seattle Pacific transitioned to fully online learning in March 2020 following state lockdown orders. The majority of students living on campus left campus housing while 338 students with special circumstances remained in the suite-style Arnett and Emerson halls and campus apartments for the rest of Spring Quarter. In the fall, all residence halls opened once again with limited occupancy. When statewide restrictions were adjusted, students were allowed to visit other rooms on the same hall floor, one at a time, masked and socially distanced.

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