Together But Apart: Emerson Life In the Midst of A Pandemic

 

 

The entire world has been completely altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Emerson community, at home and abroad; our institutions; our campus; our culture; and our way of life, have been turned upside down. However, Emersonian students and faculty have been working diligently to expand and develop our community’s boundaries, as the college strives to establish and recreate the Emerson learning experience during this time of uncertainty. The switch from in-person learning to virtual platforms has most certainly been a transition for our campus, but our students are continuing to persevere. I spoke with five graduate students about how COVID-19 has affected their college experience; here’s what they had to say:

 

 

Name: Laura Selene Rockefeller

Program of Study: MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction concentration

Graduation Date: May 2021

Hometown: Charlottesville, Virginia, by way of Salisbury, England.

 

 

Q: Do you have an off campus job? If so, what is it? Has your place of employment closed because of COVID-19?

A. I do have an off campus job. I am an acting troupe member with History At Play, a Boston-based company that provides immersive living history performances that chronicle the lives of influential and often forgotten women to audiences nationwide. I have been working with them on two shows in celebration of this year’s 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage, “How Long Must We Wait?” and “I Now Pronounce You Lucy Stone.” Because of COVID-19, all of the live performances I was scheduled to perform with them through June have been canceled, but the company has now moved some of their performances to an online format.

 

Q: What was your initial reaction when Emerson announced that the remainder of the semester would be remote?

A. By the time Emerson announced that the remainder of the semester would be remote, I was, honestly, relieved. The news had been getting continually more alarming and, because of what we were seeing from China and Italy, I was already starting to worry about being among large groups of people. I was, of course, terribly disappointed to lose the classroom experience, but we now find ourselves in a situation where it is far better to be safe than sorry.

 

Q: How has this affected your experience at Emerson?

A: Certainly, online discussions cannot replace the experience of creative writing workshops with other writers in a classroom. I very much miss that in-person interaction and inspiration every week. However, being confined at home for the time being has given me more quiet time to write, so, I am trying to make the best use of this free time to get started on my thesis, which will be due next year.

 

Q: What classes are you currently taking, and how have your professors transitioned to online? Are they using any digital platforms?

A: I am currently in a Fiction Workshop, and in the Graduate Internship class, and both have moved to digital platforms. The Fiction Workshop is now making the best use of Canvas to share and discuss stories, and our professor has kindly made time to talk with us about our stories on the phone or via Skype after we are work shopped. My Internship has also moved to entirely online research.

 

Q: What has been the most difficult adjustment for you in regard to being remote? This can apply to school, work, your social life, anything!

A: I think the technology has been the most difficult thing for me to come to terms with! I’m afraid I’ve never been very good with technology — there’s a reason I write historical fiction and am a Classical actor. Having to learn so many new skills and programs on the computer has been a challenge. I think I’ve finally got the hang of Canvas and Zoom, but I still haven’t gotten my wireless headphones to work so I can go running outside, so the technical struggles continue…

 

Q: What has been your favorite activity or hobby while being at home?

A: Since being home, I’ve rediscovered a lot of hobbies that I haven’t really had time for since high school! In particular, I’ve loved having the time to play the piano again. I’ve also enjoyed picking- up embroidery for the first time in many years. I like having a way to keep my hands busy while I’m watching TV. It’s also been great to take long walks and explore some of the parks and gardens near me that I’ve never spent much time in before.

 

Q: What do you miss the most about the Emerson community?
A: I really miss being able to go out for a drink after class, or join friends for an excursion to a museum or the theatre. Having the ability to talk about our work and share ideas is one of the great joys of being in a creative program like this. Happily, most of my friends and I have continued to be able to do weekly or bi-weekly check-ins via FaceTime, Zoom, etc.

 

A: Have Emerson’s virtual resources been helpful to you?
Q: I’ve not made use of Emerson’s virtual resources yet (again, technology and I don’t get on very well), but it is reassuring to know that they are there if I need them!

 

 

Name: Tessa Schaal

Program of Study: MA Publishing & Writing

Graduation Date: May 2020

Hometown: Oneida, New York

 

 

 

 

Q: Do you have an off campus job? If so, what is it? Has your place of employment closed because of COVID-19?

A: Yes, I have an off-campus job: Front Desk Receptionist at Republic Fitness. Yes, we are closed due to COVID-19.

 

Q: What was your initial reaction when Emerson announced that the remainder of the semester would be remote?

A: I was upset, frustrated, and sad at first, but in reality, it was what I expected. I think it is what all of us expected but didn’t want to admit. To those graduating in May like me, whether undergrad or graduate, this is not how we anticipated our last semester to be.

 

Q: How has this affected your experience at Emerson?

A: I thoroughly enjoy the guest speakers faculty bring to their classrooms; it definitely benefits us in preparation for “the real world.” I thought my “Emerson experience” would be affected, but to my astonishment, it hasn’t. The only aspect I’m truly missing is the commute, because we all love taking the “T”.

 

Q: What classes are you currently taking, and how have your professors transitioned to online? Are they using any digital platforms?

A: Book Publicity with Lissa Warren and Topics in Professional Law with Marissa Nasson. Both are using Zoom and are transitioning quite well considering it hasn’t been utilized by either professor. Both of my classes revolve around discussions, so that wasn’t an issue. I think the bigger issue that may arise for some classes are group projects, as communication may be difficult and or misconstrued.

 

Q: What has been the most difficult adjustment for you in regard to being remote? This can apply to school, work, your social life, anything!

A: APPLYING FOR JOBS. Businesses are now delaying their hiring process or discontinuing it due to the financial situation of the economy, leaving those like me anxious. While many companies can still make a profit having their employees work remotely, the publishing industry is at risk. Printing is severely delayed, and houses that use Amazon as an outlet are too. But overall, I am most apprehensive to the unknown. I like to be certain about my future, but in the meantime, it’s on pause.

 

Q: What has been your favorite activity or hobby while being at home?

A: I am definitely a family-oriented person, so it is definitely comforting to spend time with them throughout this pandemic. I know many out there are not able to do so, and for them, my love goes out. I also adopted a dog (see picture on left). Her name is Bellatrix.

 

Q: What do you miss the most about the Emerson community?

A: Taking to my professors in-person. They are truly passionate about their jobs and students, and I know this is taking a toll on them (more so than us).

 

Q: Have Emerson’s virtual resources been helpful to you?

A: I personally haven’t used them, but I think it is definitely beneficial to students who utilize them regularly. In my two years at Emerson, it is evident that faculty and President Lee Pelton cares deeply about one another and students. During this strenuous time, both want to make this transition as effortless as it can be.

 

 

 

Name: Christine (Chrissy) Reilly

Program of Study: MA Theatre Education and MFA Applied Theatre

Graduation Date: May 2020 (returning in the fall for my MFA)

Hometown: All around New England

 

 

 

 

 

Q: Do you have an on campus job? If so, what is your title?

A: I do! I’m a Graduate Student Ambassador Team Lead for the Office of Graduate Admission.

 

Q: Is your Emerson employer allowing you to work remotely?

A: Yes! Our office has been working remotely for the past few weeks. We had been working to get it set up prior to the announcement, which made it much simpler to make that transition. Emerson’s also been very generous in their student employment during this time.

 

Q: What was your initial reaction when Emerson announced that the remainder of the semester would be remote?

A: At first, I was a little upset, not gonna lie. All of my classes are extremely hands-on and experiential, so doing them remotely definitely throws that off. That’s on top of cutting the semester short in terms of seeing my friends every day. A big part of this program is the community. I have made such wonderful friends here in the short 2 years, and this semester was our last together. But I know it’s important to flatten the curve (a phrase I’m sure everyone is tired of hearing now). So, I’m glad that we took the precautions to keep everyone safe.

 

Q: How has this affected your experience at Emerson?

A: I think it’s forcing us to strengthen our community ties. Every class now begins with a check in to make sure everyone’s doing okay. It’s also forced me to pursue different avenues of education. Because my student teaching placement transferred online, I’ve been developing lesson plans for theatre online (which is wild).

 

Q: What classes are you currently taking, and how have your professors transitioned to online? Are they using any digital platforms?

A: I was student teaching, taking student teaching seminar, and taking a class called Coaching and Directing Young Actors in Plays and Musicals (which is a very long title). All of my classes have moved to Zoom and online classrooms like google classroom and canvas.

 

Q: What has been the most difficult adjustment for you in regard to being remote? This can apply to school, work, your social life, anything!

A: I’ve always been a homebody, so spending a month indoors isn’t all that bad. My friends and I have been staying in touch via zoom and my roommates and I are keeping busy. But that thing that has been hardest was the sudden change in schedule. It seemed to happen overnight. My student teaching experience has changed significantly given that MA schools are closed until at least the end of the beginning of May at least. The sudden cut-off from my students was a shock. I went from seeing them every day for an hour and a half, to once a week for 30 minutes. Also, a weird thing to miss, but I miss my commute! I miss my walk through Harvard Yard to get to my school placement every morning. I miss the section of the Red Line from Harvard to Boylston that goes over the river.

 

Q: What has been your favorite activity or hobby while being at home?

A: I’ve been meeting with friends online for movie nights, game nights, and everything in between. But what I really love seeing is the things this community (theatre people in general, really) is offering. There are people reading children’s books out loud, people are organizing play writing marathons, releasing shows, organizing performances, and providing so much beauty and art in this time of crisis. We’re live-streaming theatre, remotely! I truly believe that art can change the world and that art is wholly necessary in times of uncertainty, whether that be in deep introspective work or silly impromptu endeavors.

 

Q: What do you miss the most about the Emerson community?

A: I don’t think that I miss the Emerson community really, because they haven’t gone anywhere. Just because we haven’t seen each other doesn’t mean we aren’t in contact. I’m still in contact with friends and colleagues, maybe now more than before!

 

 

Name: Meghan Hannifin

Program of Study: Publishing & Writing

Graduation Date: May 2021

Hometown: Fredericksburg, Virginia

 

 

 

Q: Do you have an off campus job? If so, what is it? Has your place of employment closed because of COVID-19?

A: I’m an intern at the Harvard Kennedy School’s SLATE program. We have closed and moved to remote work, as far as I know — I was shifting to remote work as soon as Emerson cancelled physical classes so that I could go back to Virginia.

 

Q: What was your initial reaction when Emerson announced that the remainder of the semester would be remote?

A: I wasn’t necessarily surprised (other schools in the area had already shifted to remote work), but I was concerned about what it would mean for us. I’m a first year grad student who has always had trouble with online classes, so it was a stressful thought, that they would all be online all of a sudden.

 

Q: How has this affected your experience at Emerson?

A: I miss seeing my professors and classmates and having class discussions. I miss sitting at the windows on the 10th floor of Ansin and staring out at the Common. I’m having a lot more trouble focusing on classes and finding structure with remote classes and I’m afraid that my grades will be affected. I’m glad Emerson has taken the steps they have — it’s important to keep people safe and healthy! — but I do miss everyone and the great environment on campus. It’s definitely not what I expected from grad school, but we have to roll with the punches, I guess.

 

Q: What classes are you currently taking, and how have your professors transitioned to online? Are they using any digital platforms?

A: I am taking Copy editing, Book Design and Production, and Publishing Management and Innovation. My professors are all using Canvas to various degrees — in Book Design and Pub Management we have weekly discussion boards, the former of which includes class critiques on our work. My Copy editing professor has mostly been using email for communication, and sending us work to do that way. Two of my classes (Copy editing and Pub Management) meet on Zoom weekly for lectures and/or discussions, as well.

 

Q: What has been the most difficult adjustment for you in regard to being remote? This can apply to school, work, your social life, anything!

A: I think focus and stress management has been the hardest thing. I’m lucky enough to have been able to travel home when this all really started to get intense so I’m okay socially (I have my family that I can socialize with daily). But staying focused on school and work assignments when everything has changed and there’s so much going on in the world is wildly difficult.

 

Q: What has been your favorite activity or hobby while being at home?

A: Honestly, this will probably sound lame, but playing with our cats! I brought my cat back with me from Boston and my parents have two cats, so playing with the three of them has been a great stress reliever.

 

Q: What do you miss the most about the Emerson community?

A: I miss how excited everyone was to be there. Being a student is exhausting but it’s so much more doable when your classmates and fellow students are enthusiastic about your classes and work.

 

Q: Have Emerson’s virtual resources been helpful to you?

A: Personally, I haven’t used any (yet?). But I’m grateful the school is reaching out.

 

 

Name: Rachel Juillerat

Program of Study: Publishing & Writing

Graduation Date: Summer 2021

Hometown: Virginia Beach, Virginia

 

 

 

 

 

Q: Do you have an on campus job? If so, what is your title?

A: I have two campus jobs! I am a Student Ambassador Team Lead in the Graduate Admission Office and I am also a Graduate Student Teacher through the Writing Studies program.

 

Q: Is your Emerson employer allowing you to work remotely?

A: Thankfully, yes! Both jobs have gone remote. The transition has been interesting for everyone, I’m sure, but teaching online has posed some unique (and fun) challenges.

 

Q: What was your initial reaction when Emerson announced that the remainder of the semester would be remote?

A: I read the announcement as I was lesson planning for my class the next morning, so I read it more from the lens of a teacher than as a student. I was thinking, how can I reassure my students that they will still receive a dedicated and insightful education from me? I was also thankful that Emerson was proactive in their choice; it shows how much Emerson cares about the community and it helped my students and I process this change in a healthier manner.

 

Q: How has this affected your experience at Emerson?

A: Honestly, while it’s been challenging, I have been delighted with how supportive the community is. Every person has been encouraging, thoughtful, and intentional in their communication and it’s led me to appreciate Emerson even more than I already did. As far as my performance as a teacher and student, I still have the resources to be successful at both.

 

Q: What classes are you currently taking, and how have your professors transitioned to online? Are they using any digital platforms?

A: I’m taking Publishing Law. My poor professor, it is her first semester ever teaching and what a doozy! She has transitioned well, though. We host our lectures online using Zoom and she screenshares the powerpoint so we can follow along. Sometimes we use the breakout sessions feature through Zoom and do group work. We already used Canvas, so how we receive and turn in assignments is the same.

 

Q: What has been the most difficult adjustment for you in regard to being remote? This can apply to school, work, your social life, anything!

A: Oof…social life. I live alone, so this has probably been the most challenging part. Every person faces challenges in their living situation, so I’m not saying living alone is better or worse, just that it has its own challenges. There are so many ways to stay connected with friends and family that I’m never truly alone, but I do miss just having another person physically near.

 

Q: What has been your favorite activity or hobby while being at home?

A: Walking! I live in such a beautiful area near the water and I have discovered so many great places near me that I wouldn’t have known about. It’s also a great way to reset from a long day on Zoom conferences and hunched over a desk. It’s calming yet energizing to be outside and moving.

 

Q: What do you miss the most about the Emerson community? 

A: The support and positive energy are still present now, just in different ways. It used to be an exciting and passionate place for projects, and while that same energy is still present, it’s invested in maintaining the community’s well-being and surviving this challenging time. So, in a word, collaboration. It’s very different now.

 

Q: Have Emerson’s virtual resources been helpful to you?

A: Extremely!

 

 

**If you are a current or incoming Emerson student, below are some helpful resources tools about our community, how we are tackling COVID-19, continuous updated information, related news, and more**

 

  • General Page on COVID-19
  • Announcements: The latest updates on Emerson’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak
  • Emerson Everywhere: Emerson Everywhere is here to serve as a resource for students, faculty, staff, families, and alumni to help navigate the new way we operate as one community from distant corners of the world. By using helpful links to tools and guides, Emerson can assist its students with remote classroom instruction, virtual office hours, and ways to connect to the services and people our community relies on to make the most of the Emerson experience.
  • FAQ’s: Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and its impact on the Emerson community.
  • Resources: maintained by the CDC
  • Emerson Today: News, updates, and articles on current students, alumni, and faculty that are perservering through this time uncertainty to create a virtual Emerson experience.
  • Virtual Visits & Resources for Graduate Students

 

**For questions or concerns regarding COVID-19 and Emerson College, please direct your inquiries to the email address below**

  • Contact: covid19@emerson.edu

 

 

 

About the Author:

Hanna Shemke is a second year Publishing & Writing student at Emerson College. She works in the Graduate Admissions Department as the Marketing and Communications Assistant, and she is also the Digital Marketing Coordinator for Emerson’s graduate journal, Redivider. Currently, she is at home in Michigan, where she is working remotely on her thesis and Spring semester projects.