On campus, walking down Normal St. feels anything but normal. There are no students racing past trying to make it on time to class or huddled in the library prepping for exams.
Instead, the sidewalks are bare and the campus is quiet as students are isolated at home, trying to make sense of this new virtual environment.
Jillian Timmermann, a junior Mathematics major, said, “I miss being able to interact with people every day. I really only see my roommates now.”
Timmermann resides in Stroudsburg, just a short drive from ESU, and stated that working on campus felt like a ghost town.
Matthew Simmons, an Academic Success Coach at ESU, revealed that he is also saddened by the lack of students on campus.
“It is sad not seeing students on a regular basis given that we are here for students, but I’m happy that we are still able to connect with them and work with them virtually,” Simmons said.
When the news broke that ESU would be transitioning to online learning, many students were saddened that they would not be able to see their friends or were worried about how their classes would operate in a remote environment.
But amidst all of this panic about not being able to grab coffee with friends or workout at Mattioli, there were also students who were frightened that they would not have a place to go due to housing insecurities.
“It was terrifying. To think and know that you’re going to have to live on the streets, especially in this day and age, and know that you may or won’t be able to recover from it? I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” said Sean Chandler, a junior Graphic Design and Digital Media Technologies major.
Chandler was discharged from foster care and considered the campus to be his home since he didn’t have anywhere else to go.
“I miss being able to live,” Chandler said. “So far, it hasn’t been easy. I work most of the week, including weekends, at the beginning of the semester when classes started I wasn’t able to attend because I was focusing on more important stuff.”
According to Dr. Santiago Solis, the Vice President for Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence, housing insecure students were able to receive support from the interdisciplinary team to find landlords in the local area and even near their hometowns.
“The team also helped these students identify funding sources, including CARES Act funds, to help them with expenses for the semester,” Dr. Solis said.
Dr. Solis also noted that the ESU interdisciplinary team continues to work with students during these difficult times in an effort to coordinate University and community resources like food, transportation, furniture and technology.
The Fostering Warriors Program is also available and open to all students who have experienced foster care or housing insecurity as a way to connect with one another and also to remain in contact with the support staff on campus.
Dr. Kelly McKenzie, an Assistant Professor and the Department Chair for Academic Enrichment and Learning, offered some advice for students during these times of uncertainty.
“Set a schedule for yourself,” Dr. McKenzie said, “check the course website early in the week to see what tasks you’ll need to work on for the week. Use a planner or an e-calendar to keep track of assignment due dates and to plan out when you’ll work on assignments.”
Dr. McKenzie also suggested utilizing tutors, who are available for students even while working virtually. Tutoring is free for all ESU students and can be accessed at https://esu.mywconline.com/.
“I think that it feels empty. Students, faculty, and staff bring energy and vitality to the campus, and without all of them here, it feels empty and sad,” Dr. McKenzie said.
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