Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, March 19, 8:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
Looking at this week, it is striking to think about all that this community has accomplished in the face of this unprecedented health crisis. Your flexibility, adaptability, and commitment to our mission have kept our classes, our business operations, and our services running during a scary and unpredictable time. For me, sitting with four others in a building that normally houses several hundred, it is impressive that so much of our work migrated so rapidly, and with very little interruption. Thank you.
Teaching and Working Online
This institution has been working continuously for several years to upgrade its technology, teaching platforms, and skills. We’ve been well-led by Mr. Choo in IT, VP Brent, Ms. Hopf, Ms. Foley, Drs. Berman and Laboy, the OLP Faculty and many others who moved us to One Drive, Zoom, Teams, and Canvas. While this week required a steep learning curve for some, faculty, students and staff have largely managed to make that jump. We have these colleagues, and each other, to thank for the success of the week.
Unfortunately, health reports indicate that this emergency will be ongoing for several weeks or longer. WJC is not only actively planning to continue online instruction and remote work for several weeks or better, the College has begun to upgrade the quality and sophistication of its instruction. We are moving from an emergency response that focused, mostly, on our own needs to begin to create educational offerings, programs and consultation services for school districts and providers of clinical services. Curricula that range from Telementalhealth; to Managing Anxiety Disorders in Adults and Children through the use of CBT; to tools and tricks to keep online instruction interesting are underway. Over the course of next week, Dr. Osher and his faculty colleagues will prepare WJC to deliver asynchronous instruction that we hope will give students greater flexibility and greater freedom. Dr. Lambert will provide more information about this asynchronous model soon.
We have also brought in the talents of two consultants on distance learning. One was an architect of the online program at the best-known local university for this, and another is an expert in online instruction. These professionals will be with us for the near future to help WJC to bring additional best practices to our educational work. This ‘new normal’ may last for some time. Our aim is to progress our capabilities in this instructional modality as much as we can and starting right away.
As we pivot to manage our instructional programs online, I have asked Dr. Robert Kinscherff to chair a committee to develop curricula that can be beneficial to our community partners and school districts. Drs. Ecker, Ryan, Ott, Reilly and others will be developing coursework and training modules in Telementalhealth and Clinical Interventions for trauma; culturally responsive care; and managing depression in children and adults. In addition, Mr. Ravenelle, a former Superintendent of schools, will be working with our Teachers21 colleagues, Dr. Weiner, Dr. St. Louis, the School Psychology Faculty and the Freedman Center to create opportunities that support school district leaders, classroom teachers and communities that are struggling to make their own adaptation to distance education.
The William James College INTERFACE referral service is operating remotely to continue its important work of connecting people in need of mental health services to area providers. This service cares for thousands of Massachusetts residents each year and it is more important now than ever. Ms. Hannah, and Drs. Reilly and D’Auria will be planning programs for families and children at home, during this crisis.
While this innovative work goes on, Marketing and Admissions have continued to engage and support our future students. Mr. Abelard and Ms. Rodenhiser are reaching out interested graduates in the planned Behavioral Health Services Corps; more than 90 inquiries have been made. The building is cleaned several times each day by our Facilities staff, and our Library is still open and functional for several hours each week.
Faculty members have responded in recent days to create public information in response to this COVID-19 crisis. Drs. Block, Kliman, Rabin, Berman, and Cherkasky contributed to a story about self-care in these difficult times. Dr. Kate King was interviewed on MarketPlace by American Public Media for a story on remote work and the ways adult relationships experience new pressures when our working patterns change.
I want to emphasize, again, our appreciation for the contributions that so many students are continuing to make at your field sites. I know that not everyone is happy with the decision to remain in the field, but many patients and the majority of our clinical sites are depending upon you. For the agencies and patients, you are essential providers. For some this is a scary duty; I know that, too. We are developing additional materials and resources to assist you. I can’t say thank you enough for your generosity and professionalism. Know that your effort will make a difference in the lives of another.
I’m likely missing many names in this note, including those of the many staff who have been redeployed to help in areas of need. Thank you all.
Tomorrow and beyond, we continue to plan for the uncertainty that lies ahead.
To our graduating students, we’re thinking about you and what we can do to provide a celebration that recognizes your incredible accomplishments. In case we are unable to gather for Commencement in our traditional fashion, we’re already polling our peers for ideas about how to move forward with alternate arrangements. I would appreciate receiving any suggestions from our own community in the coming weeks if this is something you’d like to think about. Please send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On a final note, leaving the building tonight, I met a young man and woman who came to clean the little space that we are occupying. I asked how they were doing and we talked a bit. Then they asked how I and my family are doing. Even with six feet of distance, it is possible to be touched.
I will be meeting with all College staff tomorrow via Zoom. While this is a time to keep physical distance from each other, it is critically important to maintain our connections and relationships. Your William James community is here to support you. I encourage you to use us. Take time to connect to your family, friends and network, as well.
With great gratitude and respect.