Campus quarantine brings out community spirit.
ARTICLE AND PHOTO BY EMILY LETTERMAN, UNIVERSITY WRITER/EDITOR
If necessity is the mother of invention, then COVID-19 is the father of unity. That was the story over the past few months at Drury University as students, faculty and staff met the challenge of COVID-19 head-on and came together in a way only Panthers can.
“We have been through a variety of challenging times in my over 30 years at Drury, however, nothing has been as far reaching to all parts of our campus as this pandemic,” says Dean of Students Dr. Tijuana Julian. “The efforts made in looking after each other, caring for our students and trying to deliver as much personal touch in the Drury experience, even in this virtual time, have been impressive.
“It has reinforced the importance of this place – not just beautiful grounds and historical buildings, but the people at the heart of this place.”
In a matter of weeks – sometimes days – professors pivoted to online classes, teaching through Zoom and YouTube. And students adjusted to their new normal, a spring at home with family including lessons in compassion, tolerance and a test of mental health.
Drury staff worked hard to inform the campus community about the latest changes, keep fall recruitment efforts flowing and get tech into the hands of students who needed it.
“It’s so painful to not be able to see our students in person, especially in the arts where pretty much everything is a hands-on project,” says art professor Rebecca Miller. “Faculty have been amazingly flexible with course content and shifting to this new reality. Keeping ourselves open minded, accepting of change and not fearful to try something different has been crucial to how we problem-solve for solutions in each of our own disciplines.”
Faculty and staff have reached out to students in new and varied ways through the pandemic, from simply being a virtual ear to knitting granny squares for a quilt that will be auctioned for scholarships. The little things keep the Drury Difference alive.
“It reinforces how much we value our students and colleagues in our work,” Julian says. “Sitting in front of a computer screen all day, and isolated from everyone, is lonely for us all. For me, I quickly realized the importance of engaging in some type of human interaction every day – even remotely.”
“With everyone stuck at home, it is good to see people in a different context and how they are dealing with some of the same issues that I am,” Miller says. “It’s also fun to see photos that pop up of campus, colleagues and students, which remind me that better days are still to come.”
Highlighting the work of alumni, the university’s official social channels also posted a “Look for the Helpers” series – using a line from the famous Mister Rogers quote.
Alumni such as Dr. Kayce Morton ’99, who is president of the Greene County Medical Society, joined colleagues to push Gov. Mike Parson to make statewide quarantine efforts. The series also featured CoxHealth President and CEO Steve Edwards ’88, who spearheaded the creation of a hospital-within-a-hospital for COVID-19 patients.
In a letter to campus, Drury President Dr. Tim Cloyd summed it up best.
“I would like to thank each of you for contributing to the Drury Difference,” he wrote. “You are what makes this university great. I know we are in for challenging times in the weeks and months ahead. However, I also know that we are a resilient community that has persevered through many challenges since our founding in 1873.
“We will persevere again.”