As soon as it became clear that students and instructors would need to shelter in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus, LSA did two things right away.
The first thing the college did was move all of its classes online—that’s more than 4,000 classes serving 20,000+ students.
The second thing the college did was begin a process to check in with every single LSA student that they could—an effort that included more than 17,000 students. The project is called the “Student Roll Call.”
As part of the roll call, the college attempts to account for every student in some way. Either through engagement, conversations with an instructor or advisor, or through more direct outreach via email or phone calls. LSA faculty and staff are working to connect with each and every student that needs support, and students are encouraged to keep in touch whenever and however they can.
“LSA supports the academic and personal experiences of over 17,000 undergraduate students,” says RaShonda Flint, LSA’s assistant dean for undergraduate education and student academic affairs. “We know that our students are experiencing a variety of challenges as a result of this global pandemic and the disruption to their lives. We want to ensure students are able to not only get all of their questions answered, but also to share with us their concerns or the support they may need. As a college we are committed to supporting the well-being of all of our students, and we deployed the assistance of instructors, advisors, and students themselves to help us provide that support.”
One of the ways that students are encouraged to connect is through a dedicated email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. The email address goes to real people ready to help. And as you might predict, the challenges that students face are wide ranging, from academic questions, such as how to unmask pass/fail grades at the end of the term, to serious and persistent concerns around mental health, lack of reliable technology, and more.
All students who reach out to the email address are responded to promptly. “The student receives at least two emails,” says Selena Joarder (A.B. ’18), a College Connections coordinator in LSA Advancement, who has been answering student emails. “We send one to confirm that their note was received, and another to answer their questions—and each message we send has a tone of compassion and understanding.”
LSA alums Selena Joarder (A.B. '18) and Kai Mason (A.B. '19) answered emails sent to a special address for students who needed assistance during the COVID-19 crisis.
After the emails are acknowledged, they’re forwarded to the areas that can answer them, such as the Assistant Dean’s Office, LSA Tech Services, and the LSA Scholarships Office. The areas respond back directly to the student with answers or with additional information and resources.
Kai Mason (A.B. ’19) is another College Connections coordinator in LSA Advancement who has been working on the roll call project. Mason lists the kinds of problems she hears about: challenges with internet access; parents with small children struggling to balance work, learning, and child care; and students with immediate family members working on the front lines of the healthcare industry who are being exposed daily to COVID-19. “It's been eye-opening to be able to hear firsthand from students across all demographics,” says Mason.
The email address was busy in the first weeks after the online transition, Joarder and Mason say, but the inquiries have tapered off as many students acclimate to the new normal of online classes. Both mention how heartening it is to assist students, and how their hearts go out to students working through serious problems far—sometimes very far—from campus, classes, and friends.
“I have to say it feels like a lot of students are grieving,” says Mason. “I know students aren’t the only ones grieving—we all are. We've lost a lot of normalcy in this pandemic, and it feels difficult to deal with anything outside of the present moment, or to feel that things are going to be alright.
“The things you hear students struggling with stick with you,” Mason says. “It’s a small consolation to know that we’re doing what we can to help.”