“We’re here for you.” If Tiffany Wiggins, Ph.D., NC State College of Education’s director of student success, could say one thing to students right now, it would be those four words.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has made it difficult to physically be there for anybody right now, but that hasn’t stopped Wiggins, along with the rest of the NC State College of Education student success team, from filling the gap and being there virtually.
“With so much uncertainty and changes happening almost daily, it is important that the students know that we are still here for them,” said Wiggins. “To support them, to answer any questions that they may have, and to continue offering engagement opportunities for them, just as we would if we were still operating on-campus.”
The student success team’s Education Insider newsletter is coming out twice as often. In-person gatherings and events, when possible, have been swapped out for virtual alternatives. The K-12 AdministraHERS discussion, a panel featuring female school administrators, for example, was held via Zoom.
Of course, when you’re the director of student success, you do tend to miss the in-person face-to-face meetings with students.
“It is through those interactions when I learn the most about students, what they’re currently facing or ways in which they may need some additional support,” Wiggins said. “However, we are trying to make the most of this time away from campus and maintain those relationships and interactions via email, Google Chat, and one-on-one and group Zoom calls, including Tuesday Talks.”
Tuesday Talks are virtual check-in sessions where students can connect with Wiggins and her team to get updates, ask questions or just be around the same faces they’re used to seeing in Poe Hall.
“Students had to make some significant changes to their lives very quickly, and some still are trying to find their footing,” Wiggins said. “As director of student success, I’ve made it my priority to provide a safe place for them to land when they’re ready to engage outside of the classroom with their peers and the college.”
Jai Jackson, the college’s director for graduate student recruitment, mentoring and success, is taking similar steps to connect with graduate students. He set aside hours on Zoom for them to drop in, and he worked with his graduate assistant BJ Durham ‘22PHD to set up Lunch and Learn, a virtual meeting where students can present their research while engaging with faculty and staff. Durham also started a mental health workshop for students called C.A.L.M.: Coping with Anxiety and Living Mindfully.
“I think it is important to have no disruption in the services and support that students receive,” said Jackson. “This is even more important now because our students need continuity and a strong foundation.”
The college has been working toward virtual support for a while now, Jackson said, which has helped smooth the transition. It’s especially important for graduate students, who include working professionals, parents, educators and researchers.
“By offering more virtual options for engagement and learning, we are meeting more students where they are and helping them to get to where they want to be,” said Jackson.
As the semester winds down, Wiggins has ensured ceremonies like the Passport to Success culminating reception and the Education Council Spotlight Awards go on as planned, even if those plans are a little different now that the events have been moved online.
“Our students have worked hard and deserve to be recognized, so we want to make sure that that happens,” said Wiggins.
It’s just one more way Wiggins, Jackson, their teams and the college is letting students know they’re still here for them.