Q&A: Stephanie Lê, pre-major adviser

Stephanie Le

How has the job of a pre-major academic adviser changed since the coronavirus pandemic forced remote operations? Stephanie Lê answers a few questions from N.L. Sweeney.

Q. What would you normally be doing now — and where?

A. I would normally be in the office, either working on projects or advising students. Instead, I am working from home, and today I am meeting by Zoom with a student.

It’s been very on and off with students. We typically have a lot more appointments when we are meeting in person. Right now we are mostly trying to figure out how best to help them, such as how we are going to help students navigate these different resources that are now remote. That’s one of the things we are working on.

Q. What are you working on today?

A. We are currently working with students who are on “academic status,” which means today I am reaching out to my students who had a slightly lower grade in winter quarter to help ensure they have a strong spring quarter.

I also have a meeting with our subcommittee on diversity, equity and inclusion for our Undergraduate Learning Team.

Q. What adjustments have you made to work remotely?

A. I feel like it looks a lot different because instead of spending most of my time connecting with students, I am trying to find ways to get them connected.

In terms of other work and projects, the only transition has been working online and not being able to see my peers in person. Within our team, we have been trying to do coffee and tea time on Zoom to stay connected. For students, we have been meeting on Zoom or on the phone.

Our biggest concern is letting students know we are here for them during this time.

Q. What are you doing to care for yourself or for others?

A. I am definitely struggling a little bit with my own mental health. I have been finding ways to reach out to my therapist and still having that connection even though it’s not face-to-face.

Trying to navigate that for others has been a little bit difficult because I know that experience is unique for others.

I also want to recognize the students who are having to find spaces to continue learning remotely. Equitable access is something that is constantly on my mind, especially as students are sharing their experiences with me during our advising appointments.

One of the things Cinnamon Hillyard, our lead and interim associate vice chancellor for undergraduate learning, did first was reach out to students with a survey, giving them an opportunity to share how they are feeling about the transition.

Out of the 108 responses we received, 81 of them indicated they were worried about working remotely, and 60 indicated feelings of isolation. So that is something we are talking about on our team: What does working remotely look like for students? How is it affecting us as faculty and staff members? And what ways do they intersect?

We’re still trying to figure out ways to assist with that for students. It’s very brave that a lot of them shared how they were feeling, for sure, and I’m glad they did because it shows us there is a need.

Students are worried, so what are we going to do to help them?

Q. Do you have a change of perspective to share – about life or work?

A. I want to work on being more personal, which is a little more difficult with technology. I want to create that personal relationship because they’re not physically here on campus, and students don’t feel connected to our resources. What ways can I reach out to them and create that connection?

I feel like I’ve undergone a lot of change. This time of restricted operations has allowed me to look within and self-reflect about the things that I’m doing, about the things that do and don’t matter. I’ve been finding ways to really find that inner peace.

Q. What other thoughts or feelings do you want to share?

A. I want to create a vlog or a blog about these different emotions and maybe ask my coworkers to join in to talk about working remotely and how it is affecting them and their work. It will be very interesting to see different perspectives because sometimes you can feel alone, especially when you are working alone.

Being able to connect with others in a meaningful way during this time is very important.

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