WASHINGTON, PA (May 18, 2020) – For most first year students, the second semester of college is their opportunity to become more independent in the college experience. But that experience was uprooted this year when Washington & Jefferson College, like other colleges and universities across the nation, moved to online instruction in March to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
That didn’t stop W&J’s LINK Mentors – upper-class mentors who provide peer support and guidance for first year students – from making sure their groups remained a part of the W&J community, despite their distance from campus.
“Being separated from my LINK Group was a challenge during this semester. I wanted to make sure that I was readily available to them, like I would have been if we were on campus,” said junior mentor Erik Blasic.
Blasic used messaging app GroupMe to talk and do weekly activities to stay connected as a LINK Group. He encouraged them to send pictures of their pets, and they talked about new television shows and movies they’d seen. For fun, they also shared thoughts on where they’d rather be than stuck in quarantine. Blasic also used the app to answer questions about class scheduling, just as LINK Mentors would have if they’d been on campus.
Student Success Consultants Jill Gregory and Rachel Stalker oversee the LINK Mentors and provide staff support and guidance to first year students. Spring is typically the time when they get to see those students gain confidence and start to find their own way in college life, they said. It was hard to not be part of that in person this year.
“I think there’s a different tone that happens for students in the spring, especially after spring break,” Stalker said. “They come back and there’s a renewed sense of energy to finish out the semester, and a lot of exciting things happening at the end of the semester like concerts and spring sports that they haven’t been able to experience yet.”
Gregory and Stalker have remained available to all of their students this semester through phone calls, video calls through Microsoft Teams, and email, and have helped first year students finish a project in which they were building their formal resumes. They’ve also made sure students know how to access a number of mental health resources W&J offers, including the Health & Counseling Center, Mindful Mondays programming, and resources through TAO Connect.
Blasic said the sudden and unexpected halt to the semester created a challenge for everyone at W&J, but that he feels fortunate to have met, advised, and become close to so many students this year.
“It was great that we were able to stay connected as a group,” he said. “I am excited to see the great things that my LINK group will do in the W&J community this coming year and I hope to see them all on campus in the fall. It has been such a pleasure getting to know and advise so many great students.”
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.