Dr. Michael Nielsen here, Chair of the Department of Psychology. I hope that you had a good spring break, under the circumstances! Maybe you saw family and friends, or maybe you went to an exotic location. Perhaps your break was more like mine, with cancelled travel plans and preparing to “hunker down” for the corona virus. Whatever the past week has involved, I hope that you have been safe and that you are well. That is the most important thing.
The move by the University System of Georgia to suspend classes this coming week, and prepare to shift them to an online format brings to us new challenges, so I wanted to tell you what your instructors are doing to make this change go as smoothly as possible. We recognize that most of our students signed up for traditional face-to-face classes, not online ones, and we want to assure you that we are working hard to adapt to the public health emergency we face. We are refocusing on our primary course and program objectives, so that the most important aspects of each course are represented in this new format. We also are determining the best ways for us to achieve those goals, given the peculiarities of each class and our own levels of experience with online tools.
Each instructor is going to reach out to you in the coming week, most likely through Folio, with an update about your course. Please check Folio regularly so that you can be apprised of any changes or developments. We also recognize that some people may not have easy access to Folio for a variety of reasons. If this is you, please contact your instructor by email. If you cannot do that, please phone me at 912-478-5122 and leave a message. I will see that your instructor gets your message. With about 1,400 psychology majors and minors, it will obviously be best if you are able to reach your instructors directly, but I am committed to doing what I can to make this semester a successful one for each of our students.
You should know that we, in the Department of Psychology, are concerned about your well-being. If you become ill, please let your instructors know!
Even if you are not experiencing mental health concerns, the information at that page is valuable as you help others through the pandemic. Chances are good that your family members and friends will look to you for help, knowing that you are studying psychology. The information at that page truly is useful.
If you are like most people, you’ve not worked from home for an extended period of time. The first half of this video from Fortune Magazine has some good (and sometimes funny) tips for working from home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgbwM88S1w8
To the extent you are able, establishing a routine will help you meet your academic goals and make it easier to cope with the challenges we face.
I also suggest that you consider writing about your experience this semester. Almost exactly 100 years ago our ancestors faced the Spanish Flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it impacted about 1/3rd of the world’s population. Granted, it was a different disease, but for me there is a personal parallel. I’m old enough that I remember my grandparents describing how it impacted them and, honestly, I wish now that they had written down their thoughts so I could be sure that my memory is accurate. Some day in the future, you might have family members who wish the same. To be certain, Covid-19 is not the Spanish Flu, but some of the impact it is having on society is similar to what my grandparents described to me.
Moreover, there is a good body of research that suggests journal-keeping can have positive mental health benefits. One review of the literature concludes that writing to express “feelings and thoughts related to stressful situations … has been found to improve participants’ long-term psychological, physiological, behavioral, and social functioning” (Kallay, 2015). Consider this to be a healthy and mindful task that may benefit you and others.
In a similar vein, I’d recommend reframing “social distancing” as “physical distancing.” We are social beings, relying on other people to help us achieve our goals and enjoy life. Although the year has taken an unexpected turn, we are not alone. Use email, social media, or even the US Mail to write a note to someone you care about. Doing this will help both of you to remain socially connected, and make it easier to work through the coming weeks.
Keep an eye on Folio and email, so you can stay in touch with your instructors. Do what you can to keep yourself and those around you healthy, both physically and mentally. I know that this is a challenging time, one that none of us wanted, but we will get through it together!