Socially Distant, Deeply Committed

The distance-learning transition has highlighted the importance of the behind-the-scenes work staff do to support students and faculty at Wesleyan.

Information Technology Services (ITS), for instance, was instrumental in the campus’s quick adaptation to virtual software and platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. Over the months that followed, ITS worked closely with Wesleyan’s Center for Pedagogical Innovation, Library, and Language Resource Center to offer extensive online instruction for faculty in distance-learning best practices. The team is thinking of these efforts not simply as a response to a pandemic, but rather as a long-term method for adding value to Wesleyan.

“This is a University investment in the teaching and learning experience,” said Rachel Schnepper, director of academic technology.

Residential Life remained open on a modified schedule to assist students still on campus, filling important roles like being available to lend keys to movers and students retrieving their belongings (students were able to return to campus for this purpose until the end of May), as well as packing and shipping belongings to individuals who were unable to return. That work was “more hectic than ever,” admitted Bill Ollayos, one of the office’s area coordinators, and Residential Life is anticipating the heavy workload to continue in the fall, with a focus on promoting social distancing.

Chia-Ying Pan, director of international student services, said that the number of advising sessions for international students increased dramatically (though all went virtual). She spent triple the usual amount of time reading and communicating new policies, guidelines, and travel restrictions to students as they were enacted. As she continued to work on campus when many other staff members worked remotely, Pan said she missed having colleagues and students visit her office. Fortunately, the company and professionalism of Public Safety officers buoyed her spirits, and keeping in touch with members of Res Life staff who share the same floor in North College became an amusing exercise in social distancing.

“We often waved at each other, at least six feet apart, and returned to our offices, calling each other on the phone for a longer conversation,” Pan said.