OUE Covid-19 Reflections
Transitioning iGniTe in a public health emergency, to serve and support 739 first year students in an online format in their first semester in college was challenging. However, it did open us up to new opportunities of how to innovate to better serve students – for example, are there some ways in which at least some of the services we provide are better for students in a virtual format? We were also much more able to engage with parents in a virtual format, and reach a wider audience – because we could broadcast information to their homes, wherever they are!
We pivoted the internship program to virtual and focused on working with partners and students to ensure that the experience was still a rich learning environment for our student interns and a value-add for our partners.
Transitioning to a virtual environment enabled us to be more creative with technological tools that gave us greater access to students, regardless of where they are in the world.
I believe that PGPP has become a stronger, more cohesive team since March 2020. We have grown in number and also grown together as colleagues as friends. I can’t say that we started doing things completely different in terms of caring for each other, but we connected intentionally 3 times a week as human beings. I want us to continue our non-daily daily check-ins when we’re back because the 1.5 hours we’ve spent each caring for each other has helped us return to better.
We have had the opportunity to bring in contributors from a diversity of institutions for longer-term collaborative projects, which was more challenging in a time where in-person meetings were expected of any major project. We also hosted more high-profile and non-Atlanta-based speakers for the SLS Event Series due to the more tenable cost of digital appearances.
Thus far I have experienced continuous growth and learning about demands and needs across all the other PGPP areas. While we have all faced unique challenges (pandemic and personal), I believe we have created a supportive PGPP village that has been there for each other throughout the continuously changing pandemic landscape. While supportive of building community for students and returning to work safely, I still have strong reservations and concerns with the lack of social distancing being required on campus given that many have family and children that are still unvaccinated at home.
Exploratory Advising is all about creating customized experiences for students to guide them through creating personalized academic plans that enhance their interests, skills, and career goals. The initial adjustment to virtual appointments required quick adjustment to BlueJeans and Microsoft Teams. However, once virtual appointments were available, my no-show statistics improved considerably. Students were not only attending their appointments but also expressing their happiness in being able to do some from unique, and more convenient, locations.
I learned how important the “Living” component really is to our Living Learning Community, and I spent the last year learning how to be more intentional about building relationships and rapport with Honors Program students. There is no “one size fits all” model when it comes to communicating with students, and I tried many different ways (email, Canvas, social media, Teams, etc.) to provide programming and support and to keep them engaged. Because we tried so many new things, I feel more confident in our communications plan, and I believe students have found it easier to be involved, even if they were remote.
“Lessons learned” were that the SLS team proved to be more than effective while working remotely and continued to provide top notch service to the students, faculty and community partners. We used creative and innovative ways to communicate to everyone about our programs and events, and worked diligently to keep the SLS name active with the Office of Undergraduate Education and the Georgia Tech community.
I believe PGPP really had the opportunity to look through telescopic lens of truly “how work works.” Pivoting seemed easier because as a team we were technologically prepared when we began pre-Covid by introducing Microsoft Teams into our daily practice. By doing so, we simply took effective communication to the next level, and a higher level of communication produced greater outcome results.
We identified an opportunity to expand our offerings to include non-residential learning communities and created space for that in the future by adding the larger umbrella title of “Learning Communities” where Living Learning Communities are one option.
The increased familiarity among our institutional and community partners with virtual meeting platforms and their low cost in relation to travel enabled us to expand participation in the workshops we presented, including regional events and national events in partnership with professional organizations such as AASHE.
Tutoring and Academic Support continued to effectively offer our services online to provide support for students this past year. I also focused on how to make TAS a great place to work so that our student staff are able to provide our services to the community. With events like our Fall Festival and Spring Social, we have made sure our student staff know that we value them as staff members and continually strive to enhance the community we have created for them.
During my first year at Georgia Tech, my primary focus was to learn about the PLUS program and the student population at GA Tech. In my second year, I prioritized an evaluation of how to ensure the PLUS program meets institutional needs. Moving into the new year, I look forward to continuing to provide PLUS with a blend of in-person and virtual options, building on our best practices from the past several years. I also look forward to developing more ways to support our student’s experience at Georgia Tech.”