It’s a strange time to be a professor. I had to shutter my lab and help my colleagues shutter theirs. I am teaching online. I prepped a course for moving online in 2015, but I had months. We will be this way through the Spring, and I wonder what will happen in the Summer and Fall with the virus and with our university.
The only reason I am functioning in this is that I have incredible students. They have been beyond generous in moving online, discussing what is working and what is not and explaining basic functions of the software. I am definitely the learner in so much of this. The students in my lab have brought all of their humanity and work ethic home with them. They are trying to do as much as possible, teach themselves, and support each other.
The students are doing this while dealing with so much. Some have moved. Some have lost their income. Some are not sure where they will live in a few weeks if they know now. They are struggling with finding places and spaces to work and managing their mental health at an incredibly hard time. Some are sick and worried they have the virus. It is so much for them to carry, and yet they find the space to be so incredible to each other and to me.
What makes a College special? I went to a college where there was a strong sense of community, a particular culture (around engineering), and a place where I had a sense of identity that empowered me. I think that community, culture, and identity are incredibly important parts of education. Our students are showing that in this incredibly difficult time. I am in awe of them.
I also wonder as this virus progresses, how do we support and build community, culture, and identity when we are all in different places? So much of what helped me in my time as a student was the student groups and cross pollination between different ideas and activities. How can we have performances and audiences online and sporting events online? We’re seeing examples. It is an important time to figure it out, and along the way, support our students and help make our corner of the world in academia a little bit better in a terrible time.