Ursinus’ transition to remote learning is nearing the end of “abnormalness” as we enter our third week of online classes. While students from all grade levels are experiencing different levels of stress, disappointment, and confusion, it’s important that we recognize those that have risen to the challenge tremendously: faculty and staff. Through flurries of emails and updates, professors have restructured entire curriculums to adapt to the changing world, and they’ve done so with an admirable determination.
The college itself has been extremely flexible with how individual professors decide to adapt their classrooms. Many have shortened class time or opted to withdraw remote meetings all together, instead allowing students to have entirely independent work-time. This has not come without its hardships. As we all know, Spring Break was extended by a week to allow faculty to re-work their lesson plans and explore possible platforms for remote learning, such as Canvas Conference and Zoom.
According to Dr. Rebecca Jaroff, Chair of the English Department, “Having to learn how to use the technology to teach my courses online was stressful, to say the least.” Many professors cite Christine Iannicelli and Diane Skorina as being essential to their transition, as they continued to be tech-wizard resources off campus as much as they are on campus. Additionally, Dr. Jaroff stated, “It is a time of anxiety and uncertainty, but none of my colleagues or students have shown anything but optimistic support and genuine care and concern for one another.” It’s extremely safe to say that this adjustment wouldn’t be possible if not for the kindness of the Ursinus community from all ends.
On top of having to deal with a new academic environment, professors also shared insight on how this crisis is personally affecting their everyday lives. Dr. José Eduardo Cornelio, a professor of Modern Languages, shared, “I have my family and several of the people I love far from me, and I know that probably I will not be able to see them until next year.” The pandemic has not only rearranged the lives of those close to us, but has also forced us to consider the hardships of our neighbors and perhaps even strangers. The complete uncertainty that COVID-19 has unleashed upon everyone has perhaps made us more reflective of the stability of everyday life.
In regards to his teaching, Dr. Cornelio expressed that he wants “to avoid ‘normalizing’ this situation, because it is not normal and that is important to acknowledge too.” This ability to recognize the stress and fear coming from students is common among the faculty and staff that have been eager to help us. There is something clear to admire about the attitudes of the people leading our college currently; and that is their unwillingness to give in to hopelessness. Through adaptation, sympathy, and kindness, our faculty and staff have risen to an occasion that none could have ever predicted, and that is something worth applauding.