Colleges and universities check in with every student

Grand Valley State University launched "Project Reach Out" to contact all 24,000 students
Philomena Mantella
Philomena Mantella

Campus leaders at some colleges and universities are calling each one of their students to check in on their well-being while the coronavirus outbreak keeps campuses closed.

Leaders at Grand Valley State University in Michigan have launched “Project Reach Out” to call every one of the school’s 24,000-plus students. So about 170 volunteers have reached more than 16,000 students, President Philomena Mantella told University Business. 

Mantella and her team wanted to translate, to the virtual world, the close connection students have to the campus and faculty, Mantella says.

The biggest challenge is that students are experiencing the situation differently. “Some students have had limited disruptions, are absolutely comfortable in their living environment and can’t wait to get to campus,” Mantella says.

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“And then you have students who have two parents diagnosed with COVID, and they’re isolated from everybody, uncertain about everything, and needing every kind of support you can imagine,” she says.

And while faculty and instructors have been kept plenty busy with the shift online, other university staff say making the calls has given them a sense of real purpose during the closures, Mantella says.

[VIDEO: Grand Valley State University produced the above video to let students know the university plans to stay in close contact with them while the campus is closed.]

Grand Valley administrators, including Mantella, are also holding virtual town halls and office hour sessions to keep students updated on financial aid, course credits and all available campus resources.

‘Let’s ask the students’

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville is another large, public school where leaders have committed to reaching out to all 29,000 students by the end of the semester.

Over the past two weeks, faculty and staff members—including Chancellor Donde Plowman—have connected with more than 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

“We wanted to know that what we were doing is helpful—that we’re providing students with the resources they really need and desire at this time,” said Vice Provost for Student Success Amber Williams, who came up with the idea with two colleagues. “So we said, ‘Let’s ask the students. Let’s just check in and see how they’re doing.’”

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The University of Kentucky has launched “We Need to Check in on Our Family” to call all of the school’s 30,000 students. The initiative is led by Student and Academic Life and the Student Government Association.

“Participating in calling students is important to me and my colleagues,” Lance Poston, executive director of Inclusive Health and Campus Partnerships and LGBTQ* Resources, said in a university release. “It is a key way that we can reach out to our students to see how they are doing during these unprecedented times: listening to their experiences, discerning how we can connect them to resources and reminding them that we are here to support them.”

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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