Authors David A. Fuentes and Johanna Torres of William Paterson University, along with Andrew Morse of the University of Northern Iowa, will present a Learning Lab during the AACTE 2021 Annual Meeting, “Navigating Student Supports in a Financial Crisis” on Wednesday, February 24, 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. In this article, Fuentes and Torres highlights their university’s efforts to support its diverse student population.
The unanticipated COVID-19 pandemic that hit in earnest of March of last year resulted in an abrupt disruption of teaching and learning at William Paterson University in northern New Jersey, as it did at institutions of higher education throughout the country. Students, faculty, and staff readied to quickly acclimate to our new learning ecology, one that was rife with technological challenges, but we were less prepared to understand the scope and breadth of the other hardships to come. Like other public universities located in the Mid-Atlantic region, March 2020 brought about changes at our institution that included the closure of our physical campus space, a loss of the varied and structured physical learning communities, and many of the physical opportunities that drove our community and kept us in touch with students and each other. Our offices designed around student support, civic engagement and campus life had to be re-imagined embracing the digital learning environments that faculty and students were creating. Adding to the dynamic change was a sense of urgency as our community, like others, began experiencing loss of a magnitude only experienced by previous, war-ravaged generations.