How Baylor Student Life has adapted to keep serving students during COVID-19
What does student life look like at Baylor when most students aren’t at Baylor?
On a recent episode of the Baylor Connections podcast, Baylor’s vice president for student life, Dr. Kevin Jackson, shared some of the ways Baylor Student Life staff and students have adjusted to the current realities of the coronavirus pandemic. Staff members have worked to create, continue, extend and virtually adapt countless programs, initiatives and traditions that typically are focused on students here on campus to help those same students — now scattered far and wide — make the best of this unique time in which we live.
* Bear Care — Recognizing early on that Baylor students could use a little extra support to get through the semester, more than 300 BU faculty and staff quickly volunteered to serve as “Bear Care Coaches” — proactively reaching out to thousands of students to help them navigate their unique stresses as they adjusted to virtual learning and separation from their friends. Coaches received special training so they could best mentor students, answer questions, and steer students to any assistance they needed from across campus.
* Counseling Center — Baylor’s Counseling Center quickly adapted to offer more telecounseling opportunities as students were scattered far and wide. Counselors also reached out proactively to students who reported concerns, and the center shared wellness tips and insights regularly on Facebook and Instagram.
* Spiritual Life — Though the students they got to know on campus now often live hundreds or even thousands of miles away, resident chaplains have continued to stay in touch, offering prayer and care to their students. In place of in-person Chapel services, Spiritual Life staff members have created and shared devotional videos to help students grow together. And just after Easter, thousands of Baylor students, family members and local pastors and leaders came together online for FM72, three days of worship and prayer for revival.
* Traditions — It’s okay to be a little sad when you think about Fountain Mall sitting empty on Diadeloso, or quiet streets when Steppin’ Out or the Bearathon would normally have taken place. What wasn’t okay was letting such traditions completely go by the wayside. As a result, Steppin’ Out became “Steppin’ In,” a day for the Baylor Family to serve wherever they were — sewing masks, donating to food pantries, picking up trash, etc. Diadeloso 2020 moved to the Internet, sharing such events as Joy & Lady’s Noon Meal and a free Phil Wickham concert online. The Bearathon has gone virtual, with participants planning their own half-marathon runs (and proceeds from this year’s event going to support BU students facing special financial needs). Even Dr Pepper Hour has been brought online, with Baylor’s First Family hosting a “Dr Pepper Live” on Facebook from their kitchen.
Are these adaptations ideal? No; nothing can replace the in-person community that is at the heart of the Baylor experience. But with little notice (and thousands of students to care for), Baylor staff have done a remarkable job of finding creative and meaningful ways to connect and engage Bears everywhere.
Sic ’em, Baylor faculty, staff and students!