MSSU ACTS office supporting students through online transition

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JOPLIN, Mo.– Spring Break has come to a close and Missouri Southern’s campus community has returned to what has become a new realm of learning.

Faculty, staff and students received word that courses would transition to online learning only days before the school let out for break, leaving students and professors with only a week to prepare for the remainder of the semester.

Monday, the university sent out a list of modified campus policies designed to slow the spread of COVID-19. This included news that campus would be closing its doors on Friday, March 27.

Following the announcement, MSSU president Dr. Alan Marble notified students of the recent impact of COVID-19 on campus. Quoting NBC journalist Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation in his announcement,

“’They answered the call to help save the world.’ Today a new generation of young people are being asked to ‘answer the call’ to defeat COVID-19, and I can already see the impact of their brave and collective response right here at MSSU.”   

Around campus, answering the ‘call’ looks different for everyone.

Students currently living on campus are working to move home before campus shuts down, while graduating seniors received word that commencement was postponed.

Professors are working to access the resources they need to keep teaching, while some departments (University PD, IT, etc.) have stayed on-site for the time being to keep operations running.

Student health services are also changing. The Wilcoxon Health Center will be open from 8 to 5 until Friday, while university mental health advocates are working to provide digital resources for students.

The Advising, Counseling and Testing Services (ACTS) office provides students the resources they need to stay on track with their futures. Currently, staff are developing new platforms to support students from home, including emails and check-ins via voicemail.

“We cherish and care for our students and we want to make sure that to the best of our ability we can continue to serve,” explained Faustina Abrahams, Director of Advising, Counseling, and Testing Services. “It may not be ideal, but we want students to know they are not alone. We are going to be there for them.”

As registration opens and students continue to juggle grades, housing issues the online transition, Abrahams says that the weight can often become too much.

“Students are already confused, some even feel very anxious. If we did not provide that students support, most would not be able to keep up.”

She says that the transition can be frustrating for students and faculty alike as many are not accustomed to digital learning.

“Each department is trying to find a medium that works for them. This is Week 1 and we are still working to get things set up.”

And along with the potential academic struggles, many students may feel

Along with discussion forums and course readings, many instructors are utilizing the Collaborate Ultra feature through Blackboard, a program that lets students and faculty communicate via video chat.

“This is one of the times where students cannot afford to not get on Blackboard every single day. They cannot afford to not check their email, to read updates.”

Abrahams says that this could soon become a feature of the ACTS office as well, allowing for students to check in with counselors and advisors with only a click of the mouse. 

 “All these concerns are very valid and they are very normal,” said Abrahams. “Students should not feel concerned about having to deal with those fears, those doubts. It helps to talk about it. It helps to reach out to others.”

Because in the end, it will be worth it.

“Sometime soon, they can look back and see how strong they were. Knowing that ‘Yeah, this was tough, but I made it.'”

Here are steps students can take to ensure a healthy remainder of the semester:

  • Create a master schedule
  • Take notes of new instructor deadlines and expectations
  • Download and print materials if needed
  • Create a workspace at home
  • Do not be afraid to reach out to professors
  • Be open to getting out of your comfort zone
  • Maintain normalcy in other parts of their lives
  • Reach out to counselingservices@mssu.edu or acts@mssu.edu

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