One of the hallmarks of a Jesuit education is the resilience and flexibility of mind to not only weather adversity, but to also thrive within challenging times. While the last year threw so much at our students, the power of the relationships between our student life staff and students allowed us to deliver meaningful programming and experiences to complement their learning.
Throughout it all, our faculty and staff came together to ensure that student safety and student satisfaction remained paramount. The outpouring of volunteerism from every level of the institution for COVID-19 testing, vaccination clinics, contact tracing, virtual events and admissions tours made a very strange and scary circumstance much easier to bear. The “we got this” mentality was palpable and affirming. We softened the difficult reality of quarantine and isolation with creative activities, mental and spiritual check-ins, home-baked treats, and extra support so that students could keep up with their academics. We brought programming outside with heated tents and pop-up ice skating rinks, delivered supplies and held arts and crafts tutorials on Zoom, and worked with student groups to bring their ideas to life.
And we listened, really listened, when our students told us they were struggling to make friends. Restrictions on social activities, adjusting to life away from home while worrying about their family, learning in a hybrid and online environment, and coping with mounting anxiety all made college life different from what they expected. For those of us in student life professions, mental health considerations are a daily reality. COVID-19 amplified the need to be responsive. We have instituted critical services like 24/7 emergency and urgent call-in support and suicide prevention. And beyond this, we worked with students to implement programming like mindfulness, yoga, recreational and exercise classes that spoke to them, inspired them and connected them. Above all, we worked each and every day to destigmatize seeking help.
None of this can be done without deep relationships and genuine partnership between students and the campus staff that serves them.
Together, we leaned into our Jesuit philosophy and approach of bringing our whole selves to our work. Our students learned valuable lessons about resilience and developing the intuition and maturity needed to make the decisions that are right for them, while also being cognizant of the greater impact of their actions. I am constantly in awe of the many ways that students understand their time here is about more than rounding out a resume; it’s about rounding out their character. When we stay true to our Jesuit values, and when we don’t just hear each other but actually listen, we thrive — not just as individuals but as a community with and for others.
Cary M. Anderson, Ed.D.
Associate Provost and Vice President, Student Life