We want to do our best to have as many folks as possible feel at home. Here is a transcription of the episode.
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ANNOUNCER – Welcome Home. From Simmons Radio: The Shark and The Simmons Voice, this is Welcome Home. A show about news, culture, and stories that impact Simmons University. No matter where you are we’ll keep you updated on what’s happening at home.
Iz Indelicato – Welcome back to another week here at Simmons Radio: The Shark and the Simmons Voice. You’re listening to Welcome Home, our collaborative podcast. My name is Iz Indelicato. And I use they or she pronouns.
Katie Cole – I’m Katie Cole, I use she/her/her pronouns.
Sarah Carlon- And I’m Sarah Carlon and I use she/her pronouns.
Iz Indelicato- So let’s jump right into it with the breaking news that we got this week in an email from President Wooten about the fall 2021 semester. Katie?
Katie Cole – Yes, so President Lynn Perry Wooten, announced in an email March 25, to the Simmons community that Simmons is actively planning on having in-person classes, on campus events, and at capacity residence housing for the upcoming fall 2021 semester. This is similar to another email announcement that we had earlier in the semester where they said that they were intending to bring students back to campus in the fall. This is a little bit more concrete because it outlines a lot more about planning for the fall semester. So basically, here’s what we know so far, Wooten says that she wants all students back on campus, if possible, Wooten talked a lot about the upgrades to Simmons that they’ve made and health and safety measures. So she said that to ensure the health and safety of the Simmons community, the university has installed a new HVAC system in the main college building and inspected all of the ventilation systems on academic campus will offer quote, readily available PPE, and have strict cleaning and disinfection measures. In the email she also said that she encourages members of the Simmons community to get the COVID vaccine when they’re eligible. And said that vaccination is vital to the return of on campus activities. But at this time, it’s not required that students be vaccinated to come back to campus. So here’s a quick rundown of the highlights. Basically, in the email she said we want in person learning but it was unclear if Simmons will be using a hybrid learning model or continue to use the online campus platform 2U. She said that study abroad remains cancelled for the fall. She said that the Holmes Sports Center will be open for quote, recreational use, and that more details will be coming in the coming weeks. She said for athletics, Simmons plans to hold in person training for all athletic teams, including preseason training for all fall teams starting in August. And that the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, GNAC is what it’s called, has yet to make their final decision on team competitions. And in terms of international students, she said that the Center for Global Education will be reaching out to international students for updates on the fall semester soon. So that’s that’s what it’s looking like. How are we feeling?
Iz Indelicato – Honestly, when I first got this email, I was really sad. I think I’ve just been on autopilot for so long. I know that other graduating seniors like myself could speak to that a little bit just kind of trying to keep on keeping on finished my senior year as best as I can, you know make the best out of it. But when I got that email I I was really sad. It kind of all caught up to me that after May you know I’m no longer a Simmons student and I can’t I won’t be able to return to campus as a student but at the same time I’m also really genuinely excited for incoming students and current students who get to go back and kind of experience that you know, a little bit of a college experience and I’ll be excited to see what that looks like.
Katie Cole – Yeah, and there’s gonna be a lot of renovations to campus. They also said in the email that One Simmons campus renovations have been happening in students absence, so a lot of the spaces are going to look different, including a new Student Media Center for the Simmons Voice and Simmons Radio: The Shark and Sidelines too I believe, and members of the student media. So Sarah, you are always welcome to come back and visit the new Student Media Center.
Iz Indelicato – Can you just like live in there?
Sarah Carlon – No, you guys seriously, I’ve been joking around about this, but I’m just gonna be like the attic ghoul at the Media Center. I’m just gonna be up there banging pots and pans. I’m just gonna be like, Oh, that’s Sarah. She’s our she’s our attic ghoul.
Iz Indelicato – I, I’m feeling strange about the email. I feel like that’s the only word I have because I feel like this is sort of like the most concrete information we’ve got in terms of what what things are going to be like in the future from Simmons throughout this entire pandemic, yet they’re still so so so, so many questions. And I know that in President Wooten’s email, she said that more information would be coming out in the upcoming weeks. And I’m sure there’s still so many things that the university itself is trying to figure out. But I have a lot of questions in terms of hybrid learning and what this might look like for people who are high risk. I mean, I’m sure that these are all things that they’re thinking about. And I know that it’s, you can’t like run through everything and in such a quick email, but these are definitely questions that I still have and hope, hope to have answered whether in emails in the coming weeks or with us student journalists, unfortunately, having to bother some administrators to have them answer our questions. I’m sorry, in advance.
Katie Cole – I’m not sorry.
Sarah Carlon – Oh, yeah. No, me neither.
Iz Indelicato – We promise we’ll get you on for game shows eventually.
Katie Cole – Well, yes. Speaking of how this semester is going to look and what’s coming up for the fall. We’re only well, we’ve recently just past the halfway point of this semester. And Sarah, you spoke with some of our professors here at Simmons about how the semester is looking for them. Can you tell us a little bit about what professors are seeing?
Sarah Carlon – Yeah, definitely Katie. So like you said, we’re just wrapping up March. And that means that we’re two months into the semester, but honestly, it feels like it’s really flying by. At The Voice we’ve done a lot of coverage about this weird remote space that we’re learning in from the point of view of the students but for this piece, I spoke to three professors about their experiences wrapping up the second month of our second full semester online. I spoke to Professor Mukherjee in the economics department, Professor Golden and the English department, and Professor Scotina in the statistics department. Although these faculty members are in very different fields all spoke to the fact that they were able to take what they had learned from last semester about being a remote professor and form their classes for this semester. Professor Scotina spoke to the fact that last semester, he did a mix of synchronous and asynchronous work with lecture videos, activities, and then a weekly live session. But for this semester, he has pivoted to entirely synchronous, which he’s found has worked really well for his classes. He also spoke about breakout rooms, which I think we’ll all be happy to know professors find just as confusing and sometimes unhelpful as we do. He said that he relied too much on breakout rooms last semester. But now what he does is he has a Google Doc shared with the class and he’ll give them a problem to solve like a graph to plot. And then once they’re done, they put it in the doc, and then they can all really discuss together rather than relying on students breakout rooms to dig into the problem, which I think we all can agree it can be kind of awkward sometimes. You know, when you’re in a breakout room with some people that you don’t really know that well, and it’s kind of quiet and then you’re like, “Okay, wait, what are we supposed to be doing?” It’s good to know that professors are thinking more about this and kind of how to use breakout rooms consciously. For Professor Golden, she said that she’s really been having fun creating lecture videos and engaging PowerPoints for her classes. She spoke to the fact that she kind of found a new skill in video editing. Over the summer in tandem with 2U training seminars that all faculty attended she studied online teaching pedagogy, and has been thinking really deeply about making her synchronous and asynchronous work not only engaging in and of itself, but aesthetically engaging as well. In her research, she found that the sweet spot for recorded lectures tends to be between 10 and 15 minutes, so she’s been trying to keep her lectures in that time period. She also said that she has been utilizing fun YouTube lectures as well from professionals in the cinema studies world for her two cinema studies courses this semester. TED Talks as well as digital oral history archives have also been a helpful way for her to provide asynchronous content that is both engaging and also just not her talking. She’s also done remote lectures at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, which I think is super cool. They’ve been doing remote Lecture Series throughout the pandemic, and she’s been participating in that as well. For Professor Mukherjee she said that she was really happy with how last semester went and how the semester has been going. She used the student surveys from last semester to inform her on what needs to be tweaked in her classes. And she spoke really highly of her students and their ability to communicate with her what they need to succeed. For example, She said she checked in with her students toward the end of last semester, just kind of a general well being thing and everyone basically said they were feeling Zoom fatigue, hardcore, something she related to. She said they had a group discussion on ways to re-energize themselves and improve their learning experience. Out of this they mixed up class a little bit by adding video and newspaper discussions relating to course content. Some students even shared articles they had found with the group which fostered really great group discussion. All three professors also spoke to the quality of their students, and how they’ve been really impressed with the hard work they’ve seen throughout their classes even during the conditions of the pandemic. Professor Scotina in particular pointed out the impressive projects coming out of his higher level data science classes, how the intro to stats students have really risen to the challenge of the class, which as Scotina said is not an easy one. Professor Golden also wanted students to know that professors are trying their best, something that Scotina and Mukherjee agreed with. You know, professors are experiencing burnout just like their students. They’re dealing with outside factors from school just like their students. And although Professor Mukherjee did know that she believes hybrid learning is here to stay even in a post COVID world all three professors really miss the close interactions they used to have with their students. As Professor Golden put it, quote, we’re only human. So I did something a little bit lighthearted and maybe a little silly. I asked all three professors if they could describe their experience being a remote teacher in three words. For Professor Mukherjee she said her three words were ‘excellent learning experience’, because she believes that online learning is going to basically be here to stay even post COVID in some capacity, most likely hybrid with some in person in some online, she was really grateful to have this experience to kind of hone her skills as an online professor and take advantage of the resources Simmons provided through 2U to do so. For Professor Golden her three words were ‘visual,’ ‘stressful,’ and ‘new.’ ‘Visual’ and ‘new’ for her are kind of the new ways of engaging with the course content and making sure that her students are also engaging with it while being cognitive of you know, course overload and burnout and workload overload that kind of thing, stressful, unfortunately, I think all of us can relate to this, we all would probably describe the last year as stressful. For Professor Scotina his three words were ‘weird,’ ‘interesting’ and ‘rewarding.’ The biggest thing he’s come to appreciate is the students. Students have a full course load he noted and the classes he teaches are kind of challenging, but they work really hard. He said quote, obviously I knew my students were great, but during remote learning, they really haven’t missed a beat.
Katie Cole – That makes me really happy. Thank you for doing that story, Sarah. And I loved hearing the three words because I feel like that’s something that students are asked too, like describe your semester in so many words, and it’s good to hear the professors kind of are in the same boat and struggling along with us and learning along with us you know, because sometimes it’s easy to easy to forget that professors are also humans, even though they’re wiser than us theoretically, it’s it’s nice to know that.
Iz Indelicato – We’re Yeah, we’re all new to this. We’re all in the same boat.
Katie Cole – Yeah. As High School Musical says, we’re all in this together.
Iz Indelicato –*Singing* we’re all in this together.
I think something that’s been comforting to me throughout the pandemic, whether it be like with students or, or professors, or parents, it’s that we are all collectively going through the same thing. Because I feel like at first I was like, Oh, why Boston? Why us? And it’s like, no, why, why everyone why the entire world. And I think at least for me, I feel like I’ve learned to sort of be better with extending compassion and grace and also being able to hold two opposing views at once being like kind of frustrated about certain things, but also being able to kind of pivot and see the other side a little bit more. So I hope that that continues past the pandemic, I think that it will and I also hope that hybrid learning continues past the pandemic, because I feel like it just works, it works well for me, and I think for accessibility and giving students options who might not necessarily otherwise be able to be in the class however, however many hours per week that classes normally are in person.
Katie Cole – You know, like a buzzword this whole year has been resilience, and like being able to like come back from the challenges and everything like that. And like that’s reflected a lot in the professors talking about kind of managing through the pandemic. And it was it was the one of the main topics of the Simmons Leadership Conference that just happened this past week. So if I may segway…
Iz Indelicato – Please do take us away.
Sarah Carlon- Okay. Miss Katie Cole with the smooth transition.
Iz Indelicato- That was a good one. I’m proud of you.
Katie Cole – Thank you. I try my best. So the Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership hosted its 42nd annual Leadership Conference this past Tuesday, on March 23. And the conference was hosted virtually for the second year in a row. Being that this was a virtual event this year, there was a chat box on the side and it was constantly running, people were constantly messaging. And as the conference started, I saw people from across the United States check in saying hi from Massachusetts, hi from California. And I also saw people from countries like Germany, Ireland and Canada check in in the chat box, which I thought was pretty cool. The hosts of the conference stated in their opening remarks that over 6,000 people were in the attendance of this virtual conference this year. So as I touched upon the theme of this year’s conference or the themes I should say were resilience and authenticity and all of this speakers keynote panel and otherwise mainly focused on those two topics. So the big the big four the main keynote speakers of this event where Tiffany Dufu who is an author and activist who focuses on the advancement of women and girls, Dr. Tererai Trent a world renowned advocate for gender equality education who has spent time helping rebuild schools in her home country of Zmbabwe, Jenna Bush Hager co-host of Today with Hoda and Jenna and the daughter of former president George Bush, and Mindy Kaling an actress a comedian, writer and producer who is well known for her role as writer and actor of the hit tv show The Office. Along with the keynotes there were a series of panels where some of the biggest donors for the event had women of their company come speak and round tables on the topics of the conference there was also a talk with Lynn Perry Wooten who as you mentioned before is the president of Simmons University. Tickets for the event cost upwards of $400 Susan MacKenty Brady the CEO of the Simmons Sniversity Institute for Inclusive Leadership said in a statement to the Voice that the proceeds from this event go towards supporting Simmons’ operating budget and initiatives so this is stuff like student scholarships, leadership programming and facilities management. This was also the first year that the Helen Drinan Visionary Leadership Award was handed out so this was created in 2020 after former Simmons University President Helen Drinan retired and it’s to honor someone who is a women leader who quote embodies our vision of manifesting equity in leadership in our lifetime and that’s according to the Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership website. So former president Helen Drinan actually was virtually there to give out the award and this year’s inaugural award went to the ceo of Boston Children’s Hospital Sandra Fenwick she is the first female ceo of Boston Children’s Hospital and under her leadership Boston Children’s Hospital was named the number one children’s hospital in the United States for seven years in a row by the US News and World Report. She talked a lot about in her acceptance speech being the only woman in the room in medical staff meetings and board meetings and where her leadership has taken the hospital and dedicated the award to the generations of women and her family that’s kind of a quick rundown of everything that happened.
Sarah Carlon – Thank you so much for reporting on this Katie it sounded like a really phenomenal conference and I love that more students were able to be involved this year like Mack introducing Tiffany Dufu that’s so freakin cool. I also love that not only with the online environment where you know undergrads and other students, faculty, alumns are able to participate more and for free which is great I love that with the online environment we were able to include more people like you said you know people checking in the chat from Germany, Ireland, Canada, across the US and California I just think that’s really cool and speaks to you know the advantages of having this kind of online environment for this type of thing.
Katie Cole – Right right exactly and in past years there have only been a limited number of students who have been able to attend because of the cost but also because students weren’t just included as much but students were definitely included in this one students were able to attend for free. Mack Mackenzie who is a Simmons senior in the public relations and marketing communications department actually introduced to the first keynote speaker Tiffany Dufu and a lot of people in the chat box were commenting and saying that Mack’s bowtie was really cool which it was it was really cool.
Iz Indelicato – Okay you guys I think that does it for this week thank you so much for tuning into Welcome Home the student-driven podcast by Simmons Radio: The Shark and the Simmons Voice.
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ANNOUNCER – Welcome Home was created and produced by Iz Indelicato, Katie Cole, and Sarah Carlon. Our editors are Iz Indelicato and Katie Cole. The theme music for this podcast was created by Matthew Harrison, aka Matty Sun. The cover art for this podcast was made by Carly Dickler. Special thanks to everyone who contributed in the making of this podcast through writing articles, conducting interviews, creating segments, and so much more. This has been a production of Simmons Radio: The Shark, and The Simmons Voice.