Success & Impact

Saint Joseph's Rises to the Occasion – on Hawk Hill and at Home

by Marie Williams

rainbow over the wolfington welcome center

A rainbow spotted on the Saint Joseph's campus in March. Photo by Jessica Moran-Buckridge, Ed.D.

In mid-March, Saint Joseph’s University’s faculty and students quickly and ably transitioned to virtual instruction; many employees began teleworking; and essential functions such as the Office of Information Technology became even more essential.

Approximately 7,200 Saint Joseph’s Zoom meetings were held in March alone (a 400% increase over January), more than 1,000 daily active users are now logging on to the platform, and IT has loaned out dozens of laptops. Student Life, Public Safety, Facilities and other departments have ensured that students needing to stay on campus have been accommodated and cared for, and nearly every service ordinarily offered in person – from tutoring and writing support to counseling and Sunday Mass – has been made available virtually. And the University’s faculty experts have been a source of vital information for our internal community and the public who are dealing with an unprecedented pandemic.

“I am hearing from multiple sources about how well this [transition] has gone … and that we were better prepared than many others to make this pivot,” Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., president, noted in a recent communication to faculty and staff. “This only happens through a team effort, effective planning, creativity, shared commitment, and prior adoption and utilization of the right technologies and forward-thinking pedagogies. It is not in our community ethos to boast about ourselves, and we sometimes underappreciate our successes. We do not claim perfection, but please take pride in what you have done and accomplished. I know I do.”

To acknowledge the innovation, humanity and togetherness of the St. Joe’s community, the University launched the #HawksAtHome social media campaign on March 20. Participants have submitted photos, tips, creative ideas (and pet pix!) on how they’ve adapted to learning, teaching and working while practicing physical distancing. Diane Holliday, senior associate director of social media, has selected her Top Five most memorable posts from the campaign, which concluded April 19.

1. "From birds to cats, rabbits and turtles, we saw a number of pet cameos throughout the #HawksAtHome campaign. Meet Ethan the Springer Spaniel, a frequent guest in his human’s Zoom classes."

2. "We’re not just teleworking; we’re raising families, co-working with spouses, keeping our bodies and minds active — all while trying to keep our cool and stay inside. Here’s Angie Nagle, assistant director of campus recreation, filming a workout video with her son, Finn. Being able to see our students, faculty and staff in their home environments provides an intimate glimpse into our Hawks’ lives that we’re not often privy to."

3. "With so much anxiety and worry surrounding COVID-19, it was refreshing to see our community inject humor into their posts — like this photo from the men’s lacrosse team, reminding us all to stay a pole’s length away from one another."

4. "The creativity and innovation it took for our faculty to move their classes online — and quickly — was impressive. I enjoyed this photo from the art department, in which students came up with ideas for pottery forms through paper cutting."

5. "While I’ve only been at Saint Joseph’s for a month, I’m quickly learning that the Hawk community is a strong one that creates lasting connections. This screenshot of a group of alumni catching up on a Zoom chat says it all."


The family that stays together..... SJU gang drinks

A post shared by Jason V. Madden (JMadd) ✪ (@jasonvmadden) on

In the early days of the stay-at-home orders, Cheryl A. McConnell, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs, provided faculty with regular briefings to share information – and connect. Reflecting on the personal and professional adjustment of the virtual transition and how “seeing” and engaging with colleagues has been particularly meaningful, she wrote: “I’ve been thinking about how difficult it is to interact with technology more than with people. The snippets of time I see and speak with colleagues on Zoom are pure gold and make me happy. Another positive is that I have been able to see full sides of some colleagues, including glimpses of children and pets, that add such a touch of humanity and connection. Let’s not be afraid to share our own humanity with our students. We are in this together, and they need us now more than ever."

Discussing the virtual transition made by the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, Jessica Joseph, Ph.D., BCBA, director of programs, noted: “It’s important to understand that everyone is reacting to this situation in a different way, and if we can come together and offer support to the whole community, it can make a difference.”

In this spirit, the Saint Joseph’s editorial team has curated some anecdotes and bright spots that characterize the Hawk ethos of resilience, commitment and caring during this extraordinary time. Share additional stories of positivity and innovation at

  • Nearly 750 people tuned in to virtual Mass with Daniel Joyce, S.J. ‘88 on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday combined.
  • Elizabeth McCall ’08, adjunct professor of classics, organized an effort with Shaily Menon, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Brian Forster, Ph.D., Saint Joseph’s chemical hygiene officer, to donate personal protective equipment to first responders. The biology and chemistry departments gathered and donated: 32 boxes of gloves, four boxes of face masks, six boxes of goggles, a five-gallon bottle of Bacdown soap, two bags of booties, and approximately 30 disposable lab coats. McCall delivered most of the supplies to the Lower Merion Police Department and Narberth EMT. The rest went to Philadelphia's Office of Emergency Management, which is delivering the items to Philadelphia hospitals and first responders. The effort was covered on social media and by NBC10 News.
  • Saint Joseph’s University Dining Services donated 1,420 pounds of perishable food to local nonprofits, including Philabundance.
  • Adjunct professor Mary Brown encouraged millennials to donate blood during the public health crisis: "Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 38,000 blood donations were needed every day, especially for patients battling cancer. Now, quadruple that figure, at least," she wrote in a Daily Local News article.
  • Scott Avellino '97 and brother Don Avellino ‘83 ‘92 (MBA) are using their distillery in the fight against COVID-19. "We’ve gone from distilling gin and whiskey to distilling when we can make time between producing hand sanitizer," says Scott, partner and national sales director of Brandywine Branch Distillers.” Their efforts were featured on 
  • Under the guidance of Frederick C. Teufel, Jr., ‘81, ‘10 (MBA) visiting instructor of accounting, students are sustaining  Saint Joseph's volunteer tax prep program for low-income taxpayers in the local community.
  • Caroline Duffy '20 was featured on 6ABC on April 3, for her work with Hawks-Minded, SJU's mental health peer support group for student-athletes.
  • Hawks With and For Others – a campaign designed to engage and cultivate alumni – launched on April 7, and received positive engagement on social media.
  • Cassie Hahn ’21, secretary of the SJU chapter of Hearts of Hope, is working with her young neighbor to paint Hearts of Hope for the nurses and health care providers of Saint Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J. 
  • The Office of Human Resources held a campus “happy hour” on March 25 to provide resources, answer questions and share personal strategies for coping with isolation. HR continues to provide resources and tips for employees working from home.
  • Jessica Moran-Buckridge, Ed.D., director of residence life, has been working around the clock to ensure the safety of residential students during the pandemic. In the midst of the pandemic, she successfully defended her dissertation, “Experiences of Higher Education Title IX Coordinators Through the Lens of Occupational Burnout.”
  • Many professors are using current events to make course content relevant to students. Sally Kuykendall, Ph.D., professor of health studies, is incorporating the pandemic into several of her classes, including nutrition and research methods. "I am so proud of how SJU students (particularly health studies students) are responding. They are not out partying on boats or at the beach. Many have stories to tell about why they are practicing self-isolation and the loved ones they are protecting," she says.
  • The Barnes Foundation has been holding a Barnes "takeout" art series – a daily video series that shows off art from the Barnes Foundation on YouTube.
  • Professor John Stanton, Ph.D., hosted a well-attended virtual lecture, “After COVID-19: Will Food Shopping Ever Be the Same?as part of the Unlimited Learning series; he has since received interest from professionals from around the world. The next session on April 23 focuses on servant leadership in uncertain times.

View more #HawksAtHome submissions: