(Photo courtesy of UMass Lowell) This past summer many educational institutions such as UMass Lowell have spent time drafting an effective and efficient plan for the return of in-person classes.
It has been over a year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. These uncomfortable changes have caused many individuals to face challenges related to their mental and physical health, especially college students. Students across the country have had to find ways to adjust to these unfamiliar, often negative, circumstances. However, has this global pandemic brought upon any positivity over the past year amongst university students?
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has caused college students to feel unwanted emotions, such as a lack of motivation, stress and loneliness. During times like this, these feelings are inevitable. Learning remotely for over a year to then transition into in-person classes was a change that many were not fully prepared for. Therefore, administrators across the nation have planned and strategized ways for students to feel their best while being on campus.
Jim Whitaker, The University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Director of Residential Education stated “We recognize that there is a responsibility…we have students returning to campus this fall who have never lived with us. [We’re trying] to create an environment…that’s still responsible, given the fact that we are still in a pandemic.”
This past summer many educational institutions such as UMass Lowell have spent copious amounts of time drafting an effective and efficient plan for the return of in-person classes. Whitaker mentioned that this required both layering and structuring things out and, although planning for the upcoming semester is an annual task, this semester was set out to be intentional and executed in a specific manner.
The framework that UMass Lowell’s Office of Residence Life utilizes is known as the Residential Engagement Model, which focuses on how to engage with students. This model has four learning goals which are associated with UMass Lowell and what the university strives for their students to learn. Student Engagement is a significant aspect of the model.
Which is why Residential Advisors are conducting intentional one-on-one conversations called Hawk Talks. Hawk Talks are structured conversations that are discussed between a resident and their advisor. Sharelle Bailey, a Residential Advisor on south campus states, “Anything that can possibly be a stressor to them, so whether its home life or financials or academic work, or even their roommate, we just check in with them and make sure all that is doing well. And, if things are not okay, we can point them to other resources.”
Whitaker and Bailey, both made it clear that UMass Lowell is doing their best to interact and engage with their students. Utilizing campus’ resources and partners was the main takeaway from each conversation. It is understood that many students are going through an uncomfortable and unfamiliar time, but if all students continue to move forward and engage in a safe manner, the future looks bright.