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Mavericks Making a Difference: Student Affairs Initiates Engagement Strategy to Communicate with Students During COVID-19

Mavericks making a difference

When Mercy College had to shift from in-person programs to remote learning and virtual extracurricular activities due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the College’s Division of Student Affairs stepped up to the challenge demonstrating creativity, community, and determination.

In response to the unprecedented environment caused by COVID-19, every single unit in the Student Affairs division - which consists of Athletics, Career and Professional Development, the ACCESSibility Office, the Health Office, Student Counseling Center, International Student Services, Residential Life, Student Life and Mercy’s renowned Personalized Achievement Contract (PACT Program) - pivoted to ensure students had access to services and were equipped with the necessary supports to be able to complete their terms, and graduate, on time.

“Every delayed semester reduces the probability that a student will succeed in attaining their degree,” explained Vice President of Student Affairs Kevin Joyce. “One of our main goals was to keep our students on track.”

Throughout the pandemic, the team has worked diligently to achieve Joyce’s vital objective of steering students towards semester completion and graduation by continuing to produce helpful programming and remaining focused on student success. Leaders from each department transitioned all in-person activities to virtual formats and utilized other forms of communication, such as social media and mobile applications, to reach students at home.

For example, PACT mentors, along with staff and facility, coordinated a large-scale student wellness check-in, which consisted of thousands of phone calls and text messages, to ensure their safety and well-being and confirm they had necessary resources to complete their coursework.

In addition, Senior Director of International Student Services Bogdana Vladescu remained on-call 24/7 via Whats App for all students abroad during the beginning stages of the outbreak, while Executive Director of Student Success Rajesh Kumar answered inquiries from their families and helped them navigate travel challenges.

Moreover, the Counseling Center sent a daily message to all Mercy students through social media and offered virtual group counseling sessions that attracted a large audience of students. Residential Life managed the departure from campus for nearly 700 students, while providing continued housing for international students not able to leave the country. To round out a 360-degree support strategy, Career and Professional Development called every graduating senior to discuss their plans and offer help, while promoting new jobs arising due to COVID-19.

“We instituted ‘high touch’ interactions,” said Kumar. “We wanted to keep things personalized, we wanted students to see our faces, so we encouraged all faculty and staff to organize Zoom calls and keep in close contact with their students.”

Both Joyce and Kumar agreed that staff were already prepared to succeed in a virtual environment because they epitomize Mercy College’s Service Excellence mission, which is to enrich lives and inspire success by working together to provide a personalized and caring environment.

“We were able to handle the hybrid format because we’ve been trained to adjust to new technologies as needed, and to remain student centered and compassionate while upholding high quality services and remaining results oriented,” said Kumar.

Other Student Affairs initiatives included the Athletic Program’s turn to virtual sporting events, production and distribution of home workout videos, the Wellness Center’s adoption of contract tracing protocols and telemedicine with Director of Health and Wellness Programs Colleen Powers at the helm, and the Mav Market’s partnership building with local food banks.

Mercy is a strong community and by working together we will make our community even stronger. If you are a Maverick making a difference, or you know of one, let us know at PR@mercy.edu.

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