Tales from the Virtual UW-Parkside Campus | Gabby Richardson
SOMERS – Every new semester brings challenges and opportunities. None, however, quite like the spring 2020 semester for students and faculty at thousands of colleges and universities around the world.
At the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, students, faculty and staff are adapting and adjusting to a virtual learning environment with classes moved online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One UW-Parkside student, Gabby Richardson from Elkhorn, Wis., shared her perspective on the “new normal” with Dr. Sarah Piña, assistant professor of Latina/o Literature in the UW-Parkside Department of Literatures and Languages. Richardson is a pre-med student pursuing a minor in Spanish.
Dr. Sarah Pina
“To begin, when I was first notified we would be going online for the remaining of the Spring semester, I remember feeling anxious about how my multiple courses would transfer from a classroom setting to an online learning environment. I am taking multiple science courses that incorporate labs and truly did not know how it could be possible to continue to gain the knowledge I would need for my future pre-medical career with an online-only format.
“A positive of this online environment is it has allowed students to have a semi-flexible schedule which is paramount to students who are in the situation of being a caregiver, a teacher for younger siblings or their own children, a source of income for the family, or other varying scenarios that have arisen because of the pandemic. This is very important to me as it truly shows that UW-Parkside understands the diverse situation of each one of their students. I also thoroughly appreciate the time the professors have put in to recording each of their lectures to allow students to gain the information at their own pace as they could replay sections that were more challenging than others. In addition, professors have created more office hours to help guarantee the success of each student. To me, the most notable difference from the physical classroom to virtual classroom is being unable to walk down the hall and see fellow peers and faculty members greeting you with a smile and conversation; however, this has been supplemented by the many emails or communications the students are receiving to encourage and support distance learning. The most surprising aspect of this transition is each professor’s ability to seamlessly transform and deliver academic content in a way comparable to none other. When classes resumed after Spring Break, our professors were prepared to begin teaching as if we were physically sitting in front of them. UW-Parkside professors have and continue to encourage and mentor each student all the while maneuvering their personal tribulations. These professors are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, siblings, and most of all a true light in this frightening situation. Our professors have dedicated countless hours to converting classroom formatted material to internet learning. They have at the same time managed to reassure their students that their future goals remain achievable through education.
“There are many unsung heroes among us during this traumatic time and at UW-Parkside our professors are the ones that have demonstrated true leadership and deserve the title of academic heroes. I am so grateful to be a UW-Parkside student; a place heroes teach and students thrive.”
As part of an online discussion in Spanish after returning from Spring Break, Dr. Piña asked students in her Advanced Spanish Grammar and Composition II class how they were doing and how COVID was affecting their lives.
During the discussion, Richardson noted, “For me, the biggest challenge is not being able to volunteer because places are restricting contact that isn't necessary. This is hard for me because I love teaching children with special needs. My worry is that we aren't taking action quickly enough to slow it down. It's especially difficult because a lot of people aren't taking proper precautions.”
MORE FROM PRE-HEALTH
Dr. Bryan Lewis is associate dean in the College of Natural and Health Sciences at UW-Parkside. He also serves as director of the Pre-Health Programs Center for Health Sciences Department. Dr. Lewis shared one of his recent “late-Friday-afternoon” online experiences.
Dr. Bryan Lewis
“I held my first virtual MCAT (medical college admission test) prep with five of our freshman and sophomore students from 2 to 3 p.m. So, even in the midst of all of this, I still have students crazy enough and dedicated enough to want to work on MCAT on a Friday afternoon. Incredible.”
Dedicated students and dedicated faculty, working through the challenges of a “new normal” spring semester.