Wellesley College has hired new staff members to maintain a safe college environment throughout the pandemic. Among these are the College’s COVID-19 test facilitators who assist with COVID-19 test collection. All students are required to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week, and other faculty need to be tested once a week, which required an increase in staff last academic year that has continued through the current semester. One of said employees has a particular tie to the College, however; Mbaïra Maorongarti is a Wellesley alum from 2006 and is currently part of the testing staff.
A former Davis Scholar, Maorongarti considers Wellesley to be a second home.
“I think I never left the school,” she said.
Maorongarti always knew that she wanted to work in healthcare, so after earning her associate degree in mathematics from Bunker Hill Community College, Maorongarti transferred to Wellesley and changed her academic focus to biology. After graduating from Wellesley, she continued to work at the College, prepping for courses and pre-running labs for 12 years.
“I like the professors. I like the people I work with,” Maorongart said.“I love Wellesley College in general because everybody is warm … they just want to see you shining and moving forward.”
In 2018, Maorongarti began studying nursing at Regis College. By the time she had graduated and passed her boards, COVID-19 was beginning to spread across the country. When she heard that Wellesley had open positions for testing, she applied and was accepted to join the College’s team of testers. She was excited to return to campus and give back to her community. Coronavirus testing gave Maorongarti an opportunity to reconnect with her colleagues, friends and former professors from the biology department. Maorongarti also wanted to anchor the students and remind them that everything was going to be okay as long as they kept a distance and wore their masks.
“Anything I can do to help my [fellow] Wellesley College students I will come back to do it,” she said.
Maorongarti recognizes the differences between pre- and post-COVID-19 times at the College. On top of their rigorous academic schedules, she notes that students now also must concern themselves with quarantines, contact tracing and the uncertainty of whether events like graduation will be able to take place in-person. Connecting with students is another difficulty. Where hugs and high fives would have once boosted morale, she has had to find new ways to cheer up the campus community. Despite the difficult restrictions, she says that students have been great.
Maorongarti praises the College for their COVID-19 practices. The bi-weekly testing program is a privilege that few other universities have access to. Because most of the students are already vaccinated, she believes the campus to be safer than last year. There is more knowledge about the disease itself, so Maorongarti approves the College’s decision to let students venture into Boston and Cambridge.
“It’s good for morale”, she said. “Making sure that kids are keeping in touch with their parents and friends… that is part of the general health.”
Accountability remains important, though. Maorongarti emphasizes the importance of trust between roommates and hallmates. For the College to remain safe, she said, students must call each other out and hold each other accountable. She wants to remind the students that, at the end of the day, these regulations are for their own good.
“The College has your best interests [at heart],” Maorongarti said. “We just want you guys to be successful.”