Campus Community

Campus Widens Support of Students Virtually

Written by Allison Nitch

April 20, 2020

Graphic of a woman sitting with a laptop

Supporting current students in every possible way remains an important priority for Seattle University.

As spring quarter is underway in a completely virtual format, campus departments continue to collaborate and tackle the challenges that stem from living, working and learning as a student during the coronavirus pandemic.

“For Information Technology Services (ITS), it is an honor and privilege to utilize our diverse skills and talents in ways that directly make a difference in the lives of those we serve,” says Travis Nation, Associate Chief Information Officer.

With Zoom teleconferencing use increasing from a few hundred periodic Seattle U students to thousands at multiple times per week, ITS aids the virtual classroom experience with a major focus on fully leveraging remote virtual instruction. Hundreds of webcams and headsets were distributed to faculty to strengthen the learning experience for students logging in each day.

ITS doubled the capacity of remotely accessed virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)—a Seattle U desktop computer with university-provided software that can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection—to allow faculty and staff to deliver high-quality and engaging academic programming.

The Center for Digital Learning & Innovation (CDLI) reports more than 1,000 courses have been converted to online delivery in the last three weeks, along with more than 50,000 page views of its Student Orientation to Distance Learning.

When non-essential faculty and staff were required to stay home by emergency order, students and families were unable get questions answered by phone. ITS rectified this by deploying “self-service call forwarding and remote call center capabilities for faculty, advisors and staff groups to allow them to remain in contact with students and their families,” says Chris Van Liew, Chief Information Officer and Vice President of Information Technology.

Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons refocused the library homepage to support online learning, including new ways to communicate with the library, such as the “Zoom with a Librarian” research service and a new selection of highlighted resources. The Learning Assistance Program provides online tutoring for 37 Seattle U courses, including science, nursing and languages.

Current students without personal laptops have the opportunity to borrow a Chromebook through an ITS and Lemieux Library partnership. Together they also worked with the Campus Store to offer 40 iPhones as mobile hotspots.

“The recent events presented challenges for ITS to help solve as a team and in partnership with others,” says Nation. “Our team’s care, dedication and collaboration led to creative solutions that empower the campus community and foster a continued sense of belonging.”

The new Student Support Center (SSC) is the result of a collaboration with the School of New & Continuing Studies staff, the Center for Digital Learning and Innovation, the Provost’s Office, ITS, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Slate captains, Student Development and leaders across campus.

Developed within two weeks and officially launched April 2, “the SSC is modeled after best practices for serving online students and puts us ahead of our peers in moving quickly to provide virtual support for all Seattle U students,” says Associate Dean Trish Thomas Henley, PhD, Special Assistant to the Provost and Graduate Education and Interim Director of Digital Technology & Cultures.

It doesn’t replace existing student support resources already available. “We just want to minimize the amount of time students spend searching for answers when we can do it for them,” explains Thomas Henley.

“FAQs are updated regularly and support staff answer phones, emails, texts and chatbot questions to help our students stay connected and informed during this time of crisis.”   

Counseling and Psychological Services continues helping students through 24/7 premium access to evidence-based self-help tools, online mental health screenings, coronavirus resources and referrals for out-of-state mental health care providers. The entire CAPS staff is currently in the process of transitioning to tele-counseling students who currently reside in Washington state (CAPS staff are licensed to practice in Washington state only).

“Given the immediate impact of the coronavirus, we are anticipating that many people will experience increased anxiety, stress, isolation, depression, grief and loss,” says CAPS Director Kimberly Caluza. 

The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) will be hosting virtual cohort gatherings and affinity groups for Black, Asian Pacific Islander and Desi/American, students of color and queer students in an effort to create and maintain meaningful connections. OMA also continues to host the Seattle U Food Pantry, but now provides pre-bagged and pick-up only services. Details and pantry order forms are available here.

In a recent communication to students, which highlights additional campus departments offering resources and tools, Provost Shane P. Martin and Vice President for Student Development Alvin Sturdivant said, “We believe that our Redhawk community is ready to respond to the challenges and opportunities this present moment brings. We are here for you.”