Category Archives: Fall 2021 Issue 2

Creating Environments for Well-Being in the Midst of COVID-19

by Anna Bentley

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been so much individual and collective loss. In one way or another, all of us have grieved or are still grieving the loss of something — from loved ones, to the sudden disruptions in school and work, to the plans we had for our lives that didn’t include a pandemic. Perhaps all of us hoped early on that we would “defeat” COVID or “get back to normal,” but now we’re realizing we’re going to have to adapt to a new kind of future. How do we move forward while also acknowledging each other’s grief and loss?

When thinking of this question, I’m inspired by Dr. Shawn Ginwright’s The Future of Healing: Shifting from Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement. How can we create environments for well-being in our communities and in our work here at OSU in the midst of COVID-19, the climate crisis, racial injustice, and our personal hardships? Here are a few insights inspired by Ginwright’s piece and my own lived experience that help me reconcile how I can look forward to the future without glossing over the very real suffering that so many of us are experiencing.

  1. We can experience grief and joy at the same time. Human beings are complex, and we’re capable of experiencing hope, joy, inspiration, and fulfillment in the midst of great loss. We don’t need to ignore or forget about our grief in order to experience joy. In the Academic Success Center & Writing Center, one way we’ve made space for this at work is by having multiple intentional conversations about how we’re feeling with the return to campus. I think we all have felt some combination of excitement, nervousness, and confusion about in-person activities at OSU. For me, talking about this openly validated my feelings, helped me process some of my grief, and made room for me to enjoy working on campus again.
  1. Individual and collective healing are interconnected. We can’t create and sustain environments for well-being when we’re consistently overwhelmed, burned out, and not present. We have to do our own inner work to process our emotions and experiences so that we can support our students, work to dismantle oppressive systems, and create environments for well-being. Just like our individual well-being impacts the spaces and communities of which we’re a part, the well-being of our community can create space for our individual healing. I think about what that looks like for me in the context of OSU. How does the way I show up to work impact the well-being of my colleagues, campus partners, and the spaces I occupy? Where are the groups and spaces on campus where I feel safe and reenergized and that promote my healing? In what ways can our department expand how we support students’ well-being and create spaces where everyone feels safe, celebrated, and empowered and knows that they belong?
  1. Designing inclusive environments for well-being requires collaboration. If we’re going to create environments for well-being where everyone belongs and feels safe, we need to work together, and we’ll need everyone’s hopes, dreams, ideas, and imagination. In order to do that well, we need to practice collaboration on a regular basis so we can further develop those skills. We collaborate frequently in the ASC & Writing Center, from engaging with the Student Affairs Priority to writing blog posts like this one. For this blog, collaboration looks like meeting as a team to discuss ideas for topics, deciding together who will be writing and who will be a “writing buddy,” and meeting with our writing buddies to gather feedback on drafts. Collaboration is a practice that requires learning and unlearning, humility, confidence to share our voice, openness to listening and receiving, and a willingness to redistribute power. Collaborating daily on different projects, big and small, gives us opportunities to continuously cultivate those skills.

Dr. Shawn Ginwright’s piece invites me to consider my role in creating conditions for well-being at work and in my community so that we can build a bright and more equitable future. What helps you hope for and imagine a bright future in the midst of great hardship? What does collaboration look like in your department or circles outside of work? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

Student Staff Picks – Strategies for Motivation

Please visit this document for an accessible version of this article.

As we look to the final weeks of the term, we checked in with our student staff about motivation. We know stress levels, fatigue, and burnout can play a factor any term, but this term in particular has engaged our energy and time differently than the previous 18 months. Here’s what student staff offered as techniques they use to stay motivated. Perhaps these are useful for the students you support, or perhaps there’s an idea in here that resonates for you as well. Click the visual below to see the full-size image with responses.

Sunrise over a mountain with circles that include quotes within them

Small Ways to Encourage & Support Students at the End of the Term

Fall term has been a lot for students to navigate. While the return to in-person learning for some students has been exciting and joyful, it’s also come with stress, overwhelm, and burnout as the term gets busier, and motivation become challenging. The last few weeks of the term are often a whirlwind of holidays; assignments; work; and moving between different spaces for travel, studying, and finals.

Instructors have likely already planned out class time for the next few weeks, and supervisors and team leads may not have a lot of space left in staff meetings either. However, these three strategies take relatively little time, and can have a big impact on students’ experience of the final weeks of the term.

Help Students Plan Post-Holiday Academics

OSU’s fall term is unique with a holiday before Week 10. The final weeks of the term go by fast, and the Week 9 break can sometimes make students feel they have more time than they do, or that they may be able to accomplish more after the break than is feasible. If students don’t look ahead, they may find themselves surprised when facing Week 10 and Finals.

If you’re an instructor, it can help to take a few minutes in class during Week 8 or 9 to look ahead with students. If you have an assignment due early Week 10, you could post a few prompts during class or on Canvas to help students consider

  • How long will this assignment take?
  • What day(s) do they hope to complete it on?
  • If these days are over the holiday/weekend…
    • What time do they want to hold for themselves?
    • What times are best for work that will make Week 10 manageable?

For those supporting students in non-class contexts, these questions work well too! Giving students space to plan intentionally can make Week 10 easier to navigate.

Prompt Backward Planning

Particularly when things get busy or feel overwhelming, students often benefit from being prompted to plan around finals.

For instructors, highlighting final due dates in class—whether that’s a final exam, project, or paper—and giving students 10 minutes to plan backwards from that date can be a big help. A calendar and a few prompts can be useful for planning:

  • What are smaller steps to accomplishing the larger task?
    • E.g., if writing a paper, when will you draft? When will you get feedback, and from whom? When will you revise?
  • If studying in advance of a final, how might you distribute your practice over time?
  • What support and resources do you have? When will you reach out to them?

In non-class contexts supervising student staff or advising, giving students space to do that same kind of planning can also be helpful. Beyond finals-related questions, you might also prompt students to consider

  • How do work hours intersect with studying or finals? Would any adjustments to schedule be needed or helpful?
  • What other routine or non-routine events are important to include on your calendar these next three weeks?

The Academic Success Center’s Final Survival Guide has a variety of tools and strategies for planning the end of the term and maintaining well-being. It also includes a small and large calendar you could share with students.

Encourage Self-Care

As the term gets hectic, reminding students of the importance of self-care helps students attend to their well-being in addition to the variety of commitments they’re balancing within and outside of academics.  Here are a few ways you can encourage self-care:

  • Share the DAM Good Self-Care Packet, and create space for students to identify strategies or fill out page 4’s Plan for Self-Care. A few minutes in class, in a staff meeting, or during a conversation can remind students how important their well-being is.
  • Encourage breaks. Nearing finals, students often have longer study sessions and may benefit from considering
    • How long can you maintain focus before losing attention or energy?
    • How long will your breaks be? And with what frequency?
    • What will you do during breaks?
    • How will you get back on track after a longer break?
  • Make space for students to share self-care strategies. Sometimes hearing from other students and from you about approaches to self-care and managing stress can give students a range of strategies and normalize self-care as a part of overall well-being and academic success.

I hope some of these ideas are helpful as you think about supporting students at the end of fall term. If you have additional ideas or strategies you use, please share them in the comments!

What Are OSU Colleagues Reading?

As we head into the last few weeks of the term, we wanted to share what some of our colleagues from around campus are reading. Perhaps one of these will spark your interest or get added to your To Be Read list over winter break.

We asked colleagues, “What have you read that has informed your work or resonated for you, and why? This can be reading in any form (e.g., books, articles, videos, podcasts, audiobooks, etc.).”

Dan Larson, Vice Provost for Student Affairs

TThe cover of the book The Sum of Us by Heather McGheehe Sum of Us:  What Racism Costs Everyone and How we can Prosper Together, by Heather McGhee.

While I am not yet finished with the book, I am finding the information and analysis to be helpful in understanding systems and how they perpetuate social and racial disparity.

The cover of the book How College Works by Daniel F. Chambliss and Christopher G. Takacs

How College Works by Daniel F. Chambliss and Christopher G. Takacs. This book provides an analysis of what about the college experience produces student success.  It’s a Student Affairs anthem!

Scott Vignos, Interim Vice President and Chief Diversity Office, Office of Institutional Diversity

NPR logo with a black background, ring of circles, and the word throughline in the middleI am a huge fan of the podcast “Throughline” from National Public Radio. Hosted by Ramtin Arablouei and Rund Abdelfatah, Throughline dives deep to illuminate connections between historical events and contemporary issues. I particularly love the episodes on voting rights in the United States, and James Baldwin’s enduring influence.

Sarah Tinker Perrault, WIC Director & Associate Professor, WIC & School of Writing Literature, & Film

For my research, I’ve been reading about bibliometrics, that is, statistical methods of measuring scholarly output and impact. Two articles offer a good introduction to how bibliometrics affect scholars’ working conditions and work: “The Leiden Manifesto for Research Metrics” and the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment. These and other articles are informing the book I’m writing on rhetorical approaches to teaching science writing. To teach rhetorically, we need to convey the complex contextual factors that affect writers’ decisions; therefore, the book will help writing studies and science faculty understand how factors like bibliometrics shape scientific genre ecologies.

Daniel López-Cevallos, Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education & Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, Academic Affairs

Book cover of Relationship Rich Education by Peter Felten and Leo Lambert with people connected by intersecting linesThis fall, my undergraduate research team (URSA, STEM Leaders) and I are reading the book “Relationship-Rich Education: How Human Connections Drive Success in College” by Peter Felten and Leo Lambert of Elon University. The book argues for the importance of centering human connections/relationships towards a transformative undergraduate educational experience; and propose four principles for advancing relationship-based learning: 1) Every student must experience genuine welcome and deep care; 2) Every student must be inspired to learn; 3) Every student must develop a web of significant relationships; and 4) Every student must explore questions of meaning and purpose.