ULM Office of Marketing and Communications
Published 8:37 AM EDT Aug 14, 2020
The University of Louisiana Monroe opens the Fall 2020 semester on Aug. 17, with the return of students and faculty to campus. The trepidation of COVID-19 tempers the excitement of a new academic year.
As prepared as possible, ULM — and universities nationwide — embark into the unknown.
Five ULM faculty members were asked to share how the pandemic has affected them personally and professionally.
3 observations from Spring 2020; concern for students
History Program and Graduate CoordinatorAssociate Director, School of HumanitiesCollege of Art, Education, and Sciences
Anderson, Ph.D., will teach two online classes in Fall 2020 — African American History and African Diasporic Religions and Magic. The classes were scheduled to be online well before the coronavirus interruption.
Anderson, a traveler, explorer, author and 2020 Fulbright Scholar, was planning to teach history in Slovakia in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. Those plans, like many others, are on hold.
In a ULM interview announcing Anderson’s award, he said, “I look forward to presenting some new perspectives on American history that students there may not have encountered.”
Instead, Anderson will share his passion for teaching history at ULM and looks forward to connecting with students in new ways.
After Spring 2020 courses went online, Anderson made three observations.
“One thing that the move online last semester taught me … is that students do not always have access to all the technology — or familiarity with it — that we tend to assume.”
The second was the reaction of some students.
“Most students were quite unhappy and had a hard time adjusting to online classes, which many had intentionally avoided,” said Anderson. “Some felt safer because of the move, but others thought it unnecessary. There were very few in the middle of the viewpoints.”
His third observation may lead to Anderson making additions to his online classes, “ I am considering adding some audio recordings to my classes.”
“I learned from the last semester that audio alone appears to be better than video lectures, presumably because many are used to listening to podcasts and that sort of thing,” he said.
Anderson is optimistic there will be opportunities to connect with the students during the semester.
“The contact among students and professors is key to strong educations. I hope that we will have some socially-distanced, masked-face-to-masked-face interactions,” he said.
Anderson is quite concerned about the emotional well being of students.
“The rise in suicides and other mental illnesses that have accompanied the quarantines and other restrictions are something that in-person communication can ameliorate,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he is not worried about becoming ill.
“From what I gather, having everyone wear masks seems to do the trick. Personally, though, I want to do everything I can to make sure I do not spread it. My greater concern is with the political unrest going on in various parts of the country.”
Surprisingly, during the pandemic, Anderson said that he’s moved at a snail’s pace when it comes to finishing simple tasks.
“There was a time that I considered using technology as a way to save time. Lately, I have come to realize that it often adds much more time to tasks,” he said.
On that note, Anderson said, “My hope is that we will get out of the COVID-19 restrictions as soon as safely possible.”
Nursing clinicals returning to healthcare facilities
Assistant ProfessorKitty DeGree School of NursingCollege of Health Sciences
Bamburg is grateful her fourth-semester nursing students will return to healthcare settings for in-person clinicals for the Fall 2020 semester.
“This is a blessing and an answered prayer. Nursing students need to be at the bedside taking care of patients,” said Bamburg, MSN, RN.
The Spring 2020 semester’s sudden loss of access to healthcare facilities for clinicals led to using the Shadow Health program and online assignments.
“Shadow Health is an online patient simulation experience that was very helpful to our students. Our semester four students have only ever known clinical to be in the hospital. It was very challenging for them not only for clinical, but also for theory. They went from a three-hour class every Thursday to online recorded lectures,” she said.
Bamburg learned from Spring 2020 that not all students adapted well to the move to remote learning, and there were other consequences.
“Some of our students excelled in the online learning platform while some of the students suffered. It appeared that the anxiety level of some of our students skyrocketed when we moved to an online platform. Many students were stuck at home with minimal human interaction due to the mandated quarantine due to COVID-19. It was difficult, to say the least,” she said.
This semester, Bamburg’s theory course lectures will be on Zoom and Kaltura.
“They have had to adapt to online learning for theory last semester and will have to do the same this semester. I plan to do what I do every semester and give them grace when it is needed, but above everything else — I will teach them,” she said.
Bamburg plans to speak to COVID-19 concerns immediately.
“I will stress to my students the importance of following the COVID-19 guidelines of ULM as well as the guidelines set by the hospitals,” she said. “Making sure students understand the simple element of handwashing is something that will be addressed on day one. I want the students to be safe. I also want people in the community to be safe.”
Bamburg missed the personal interaction with students, seeing their expressions, reading their body language, and hearing their voices.
“The pandemic has made me realize how much I crave teaching the students in the classroom and being with them in clinical. To see a student finally grasp a concept is the highlight of my semester. To see the student understand something and be able to connect what they are learning in theory to a patient they are caring for in the clinical setting is my finest moment as a professor. I missed that incredibly due to the pandemic.”
During the pandemic pause, Bamburg received an unexpected gift — time.
“The pandemic granted me more quality time with my family. This is something I never knew I needed,” she said.
“I have two young children and an amazing husband, Grant. We were able to enjoy the finer things such as gardening, picking blueberries, playing baseball, and going on family walks. I learned to slow down. Stop and enjoy what is right in front of me. This is time that I will never get back with my children or my husband.”
“I was able to not be so caught up in the world due to the mandated quarantine. I learned to not take this life for granted. To be grateful for what I have. To be still and listen to God,” Bamburg said.
Dissolving the imaginary line between home and work lives
Clinical Professor and Associate Director, School of Clinical SciencesCollege of Pharmacy
In the workplace, the closest most people get to their colleagues’ “other lives” are photos of snaggle-toothed smiles and an occasional tiny handprint in plaster on an office bookshelf, just in front of a framed diploma.
COVID-19 dissolved the imaginary line between work and home for Brady, PharmD, BCPS.
The mother of three little girls, Brady’s online meetings were often Zoom-bombed by one or more of her children.
At the start of the pandemic, I quickly realized how difficult it was to work from home while parenting full-time! My husband continued working outside of the home, while I worked from home with our three girls,” Brady said.
“There was no break. Any of my colleagues can attest to that, as I was never alone during a meeting, with at least one of my children joining in every Zoom meeting and class that I participated in. And I know some of our students found themselves in very similar situations.”
Brady juggled online school lessons for her children and her work in the College of Pharmacy.
“That meant a very flexible view of work hours, often waking early to accomplish tasks before they were up for the day, and working in spurts- between meals, nap times, school lessons for my two oldest girls, and finally bedtime.”
She’s looking forward to returning to the classroom but remains cautious when it comes to COVID-19.
“I have a young family at home, and my husband’s work is not able to be done in a remote way, so my concerns are remaining healthy so that I can care for our family, while also keeping them healthy and continuing to fulfill my work duties,” Brady said.
Brady teaches upper-level courses in pharmacy, with different delivery designs.
“The core courses I teach in will be delivered with both synchronous and asynchronous delivery, with most of my lectures being delivered live, in the classroom, with a subset of students connected to the livestream from a different classroom or even a different location,” she said.
Elective courses will be a hybrid with no face-to-face classes, and Brady will have one week of small, in-person labs.
Over the summer, Brady has explored new techniques to engage students in a virtual environment, such as breakout rooms in Zoom and embedded polling questions.
In the spring, Brady found many students had the same issue with online learning, “The common theme I heard from our pharmacy students was the overwhelming task of managing their time.”
The beauty of asynchronous material is students can watch it on their own time; the beast is they must make the time to do it.
“Many students continued to work in pharmacies, often working more hours, making time for classwork more difficult. Others were juggling their course work with children at home or other responsibilities as well,” she said.
Brady’s best tools for interacting with students are through Zoom and virtual office hours. Still, it isn’t the same as being in a room together on campus.
“With the College of Pharmacy continuing some components of face-to-face instruction, I look forward to seeing our students and interacting in a safe, distanced, and masked way, as I do miss the personal connections. I think it’s also important to make sure that students know how to reach you and that they’re still encouraged to interact with faculty, just maybe in a different way,” said Brady.
Cancer, COVID-19 and the closing the border
Tommy and Mary Barham Endowed Professorship in EnglishCollege of Arts, Education, and Sciences
On a Sunday afternoon in mid-March, Rogers, Ph.D., reluctantly left his mother’s east Texas home for the long drive on I-20 to back to Monroe. Rogers worried about her; the chemo made her weak. He’d return soon to take her for another treatment. Until then, he had classes to teach as an Associate Professor of English at ULM.
Rogers would not see his mother again. On March 30, Texas ordered a 14-day quarantine for travelers from Louisiana. Daily phone calls became their lifeline.
“Our last phone conversation happened a day before she died — and she stressed to me that my job was not only to teach but also to model how to be kind and empathetic in the most distressing of circumstances,” Rogers said. “I think the pandemic has reinforced how right she was, is, I think too, and how much these interpersonal relationships matter.”
Rogers took her words and applied them to all aspects of his life, especially teaching.
This fall, Rogers is teaching one course, an upper-level Shakespeare. Using the HyFlex model, half of his students will come to class for face-to-face instruction, and the other half will join the class via Zoom. At the next class meeting, the groups will switch. He gave students the option to go all-online. His Zoom lectures are recorded, so students have anytime-access.
Rogers learned from Spring 2020 the challenges inherent to online learning. Some students’ work schedules clashed with class time (hence recording the lectures); email can be exhausting — yet is necessary for daily check-ins, and engaging on forums is a must. To lighten the mood, his cats Viola and Binx made comic cameos in his short forum videos.
“But mostly I’m a fan of having weekly forums on Moodle, where students are empowered to ask questions. It’s low stakes and reminds me where I need to attend to the material in follow-up videos, lectures, or forums,” Rogers said.
Communication with his students is crucial to engaged learning, especially now.
“I still believe in the power of individual interactions to change the trajectory of students’ lives and to enrich their educations,” he said.
Coupled with that philosophy is his directive to students. “ … the two things I tell them are necessary: first, to ask questions about the material or the methods and second, to let me know, without telling me what they don’t have to, how I could help them or what challenges they faced.”
Rogers’ time on campus will be limited in the fall. He is devoted to researching and writing “Haunted Chaucer: Trauma and Narrative in the ‘Canterbury Tales.'” In late May, he was awarded the prestigious ATLAS grant – Awards to Louisiana Artists and Scholars – from the Louisiana Board of Regents to pursue his study.
Yes, he is concerned about contracting coronavirus and follows prescribed precautions.
“My father is high risk, so I worry about how a disease might affect him — will I pass COVID-19 to him, or will I be unable to see him over the semester?”
Rogers’ handwashing routines “were drilled into me” by his great-grandfather, who lived through the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. “Hands had to be washed before any meals or coming in from playing outside. In fact, I don’t think he ever said come to breakfast, dinner, or supper: just told us sternly to wash our hands.”
Rogers has pulled back from this seven-days-a-week work pace of writing and researching. Now, on Saturdays, he recharges by returning to the earth.
“I do work in my yard, and remember my mother, who taught me everything I know about working in the dirt.”
What COVID-19 exposed and preparing the next generation of social workers
Pamela Higgins Saulsberry
Director School of Behavioral & Social SciencesProfessor and Social Work Program CoordinatorCollege of Business and Social Sciences
The COVID-19 pandemic has unmasked our culture’s greatest weaknesses – from a healthcare system ill-equipped to respond to the demand for services, to the economic fragility of meager wages.
Saulsberry, Ph.D., said she now has an even better appreciation of her discipline of social work and its core value of social and economic justice.
“This pandemic has exposed to those who have had the privilege of not having to ‘see the inequities of society’ to hopefully do so now. And like social workers who have incorporated, not just learned that social and economic justice are core values, but who feel compelled to work for social and economic justice issues. There is considerable work to be done to make the structures, the policies and procedures of social institutions work for every citizen equitably. We have work to do,” Saulsberry observed.
Saulsberry is committed to the next generation of social workers she is guiding this fall as a professor and a mentor. Social work depends on open, honest communication. It is a person-to-person field, and she supports that principle by maintaining relationships with her students.
“My intent is to conduct my classes using HYBZ. To me, this makes the most sense for these social work classes to attempt to keep the connection we would have in the traditional face-to-face format,” Saulsberry explained.
Saulsberry has stepped away from the classroom norm by eliminating textbooks from her courses.
The major adjustment I have made at the present is not requiring a textbook and using the open education resources available for students,” Saulsberry said, “hoping this will enhance professor and student interaction, as well as student-to-student interaction through the discussions sparked.”
In addition to Zoom meetings and Moodle forums, Saulsberry is a proponent of a more traditional means of communication.
“I believe incorporating more of the old-fashioned phone conversations will be beneficial.”
Saulsberry observed from Spring 2020 that having the experience of using Moodle for tests, assignments and forums made it “a little less painful” for some students. She said losing access to campus computer labs or having spotty internet service required “ … a major social adjustment for all students, I believe. This created a special set of stressors for students in hands-on community interaction service academic programs like social work.”
With the cloud of COVID-19 hovering, Saulsberry has developed a plan B for students performing fall internships.
“Preparing for field intern education placements that will not have to be interrupted by the pandemic is still a major challenge,” she said. “Preparing for the remote form of carrying out this graduation requirement from the onset of the semester is the plan.”
Saulsberry and her fellow faculty members are naturally concerned about the spread of COVID-19, and the complications it adds to their roles on campus.
“We have job, individual, and family safety concerns simultaneously. That stress is often more than people outside of this environment often realize and do not attribute to this profession,” she said. “I believe that is the case because the structure of this job is not seen as frontline – essential jobs where we are exposed to the dangers of other essential frontline professions and jobs, but it is.”