I always anticipate seeing everyone the Monday following spring break. I include a prayer of safety and that all students will finish strong. In this case, it is the truest form of a never-ending prayer. The students are always on my mind but never before at this level as we are all missing the relationship-driven approach to everything we do in the Office of Student Life.
When the decision was made to move to an online format until further notice, IS&T assisted us in having firstname.lastname@example.org made accessible by all of the deans. Informational updates were being sent to students via email and posted on the COVID-19 webpage, but every student has a specific, unique situation, thus creating the understandable need to ask questions. We wanted to be able to give personal responses. We received close to 1,500 emails within five days of the announcement. I’m also pretty sure the phone rang every two minutes on that first day as administrative assistants managed and directed each call.
When the decision was made to remain online for the semester, a Google form was created for students to sign up for a day and time frame to retrieve belongings and check out while honoring CDC guidelines. The next major step in our modify and adjust plan was the day it was determined that we needed to suspend the retrieval of belongings for a temporary time with the goal of reducing the risk of exposure for campus, the Searcy community, and to individual students traveling.
We have done our best to respond to the concerns of all students, from the students who did not have another option where to live this semester, those who needed items from their room immediately, and those who needed to work out a place for their belongings to remain all summer.
A huge thank you to the assistant deans who each fielded hundreds of emails and continue to remain immediately available to students near and far, administrative assistants who weathered the immediate response of increased communication and continue to manage normal tasks while being away from the conveniences of the office, residence life coordinators who were ready at a moment’s notice and continue to assist students in the residence halls while honoring CDC guidelines, Residence Life who had to adjust the entire fall housing assignment process, Campus Life who created options for students to stay plugged in via online interactions, games and competitions, and the Office of Disability Services and Educational Access who continue to make sure all students have the support they need.
To our students, we truly miss you being on campus. We are praying for you daily and encourage you to stay strong in your studies. Please look for us on Instagram @HUDeanTeam. We’re hopeful it creates another way for us to stay connected. I’m confident we will all be stronger than ever after we walk through this surreal time together. Please do not hesitate to reach out. Hope to see you soon.
Zach Neal (’01), assistant vice president
for Student Life, April 11