History & Political Science

July 2020 | Worcester State University

A Note from the Chair: Understanding and Planning for Fall 2020

On July 20th, Worcester State will have updated the courses being offered in the Fall of 2020 with more information about the modality (online, on-campus, face-to-face, synchronous or asynchronous) they will be offered in. When you go to look up your fall schedule on webadvisor, you may find a somewhat dizzying array of plans for your semester: some courses are now entirely online with no days or times assigned ("asynchronous"); others online but with a sessions on a specific time and days ("synchronous"); some are blended (a combination of on-campus and online - and some will have that spelled out very clearly while other courses will not); and others haven't changed at all (they are still a regular on-campus class or online class).

At the same time, you may also being feeling confused about what the right thing is for you to do given the uncertain future: Is it safe to be on campus? Do you have the self-discipline to succeed in an online learning environment? What will the experience of Worcester State's campus even be like with social distancing and mask wearing? How long can the campus be open until the virus surges again and it all shuts down and moves online? Are we over-reacting . . . or under-reacting to this virus?

I don't have the answers for you here, because we all have individual preferences, risk factors, strengths and weaknesses that will shape both our vision of an ideal semester and the ways that we will navigate the realities of fall 2020. What I can do is encourage you to take the time to engage in three related practices as you sort out what fall might look like for you this year:

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1. Self-Reflection and Goal-Setting

Write this down rather than just thinking about it, but don't worry about getting it perfect. What are your strengths and weaknesses as a student? How did you do with the sudden turn to online learning in the spring? What could you have done better? What did you learn about your strengths? Many of us are finding ourselves in a more online environment for learning than we would prefer. If so, what don't you like about online learning? How can you compensate for the those problems?
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2. Planning

I prefer to do this with pencil/pen and paper rather than digitally because it's helpful to see it laid out. Turn your (possibly completely overturned) fall schedule into a weekly schedule: when will you have to be present on campus? When will you have to be present online? You may not be able to completely do this before you get the syllabus, but try to think about what kind of time you'll have to devote to your classes. How will that fit into your schedule? Do you need to schedule anything to help you meet the goals you set out earlier? Right now, there are so many unknowns about fall - childcare, K12, work schedules depending on the state re-opening plans, health issues - and you can write down those as unknowns. But try to focus on what you do know.
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3. Ask for Help If You Need It

You don't need to spend a lot of time doing planning and self-reflection. 15 minutes of self-reflection and 15 minutes of planning will get you farther than you might think. But the process may leave you with some questions, concerns, and fears (either brought up by thinking things through or still unresolved by the process).

Sometimes, when we feel like we don't belong some place, it's hard to ask for help (this is often true of first-generation college students, but it's also true for lots of other people too). But you do belong here, and you deserve to get the help you need.

If you're having a hard time sorting out what your schedule exactly means, need to make adjustments to your schedule, or are worried about how these changes will work with your graduation plans, the Academic Success Center can help you.

If you feel like you're needing more support (financially, technologically, or otherwise), the Worcester State Emergency Fund may be able to help.

You should also feel free to reach out to me and I'll be happy to look at your degree audit and help you sort through what you need to do and/or figure out what resources on campus might be helpful for you as your prepare and plan for fall.

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An Academic Advisor is available between 8am and 4pm, Monday-Friday and until 6pm on Tuesdays via Zoom. This service is for any academic advising questions students may have.

Students will be added to a Zoom waiting room and an Academic Advisor will meet with them as soon as they are available.

Steps to join a Drop-In Virtual Advising Session:

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Plan for Fall: Visit Professors' Office Hours

Dr. Alison Okuda has this really helpful and important suggestion for this fall and beyond:

If you haven't checked in with your professors during office hours before, try it this fall! It can be hard to find the time to meet between classes, with work and family obligations, or with a long commute. Scheduling a short, online meeting with a professor will help both of you to develop rapport for the semester, as well as after, when you will need a reference for a job or for a graduate program. Even if you are taking a fully online class, your professors are more than happy to meet during online office hours.

Contribute to Worcester's History of COVID-19

The Worcester Historical Museum is collecting a wide variety of materials to document the experience of the coronavirus in Worcester. Your self-reflection and planning might be something you'd like to share -- or will remind you of a photo you took, an experience you had, or some art you created, or something else that should be part of our collective archive. The process is pretty easy -- and it's also fun to look at what has already been shared as well.

Dr. Charlotte Haller

Professor and Chair

History and Political Science

Worcester State University


A note on the images

I decided to illustrate this newsletter exclusively with MC Escher pieces. I personally found them calming but also reflecting our current state: a world not quite making sense, fitting together in odd ways, and everything feeling upside down yet still familiar. For more, see the National Gallery of Art's online slideshow.