President's Updates - COVID-19
Throughout the COVID pandemic, William James College President Nicholas Covino has provided regular updates to the Community. These updates are sent by email and are posted to this page.
Dear William James College Community,
The past weeks have seen significant reduction in COVID cases and hospitalizations. Governor Baker has encouraged businesses and communities to move to a “mask optional” recommendation. Most colleges and universities in Massachusetts have already done so. After discussion with several stakeholder groups in our community, effective April 4thWilliam James College will move to mask optional status both indoors and on campus.
We have been thoughtful throughout this pandemic to enact policies and protocols that ensure health and safety on campus. High rates of vaccination in our College and in the surrounding community, coupled with the data being used to drive similar decision making across the Commonwealth suggest that this is the right move. That said, as has been the case all along, we all need to recognize that there is a range of comfort and tolerance for risk tolerance here as there is elsewhere.
Some of our members will wish to continue to wear masks and I hope that everyone will extend the same respect and support for their decision as we have offered to each other for nearly two years. Anyone who feels more comfortable wearing a mask is welcome to continue to do so. Similarly, let us remember that people may choose to wear a mask for a variety of reasons, including their own protection or for the protection of an immunocompromised family member. Should you find yourself in a meeting or class where others request the use of masks, please be respectful, show courtesy, and try to comply.
Finally, it must be noted that there are situations where masks must continue to be worn in accordance with CDC, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and College guidelines. This includes the five-day period that follows isolation or quarantine and, because our vaccination policy remains unchanged, individuals who are unvaccinated and have a waiver on file must continue to wear a mask while on campus. Students should continue to follow the mask requirements of their field site.
I continue to appreciate your patience and flexibility as we respond to the ever-changing conditions surrounding us. I have asked a good deal of this community for a longer time than any of us expected… thank you for your partnership.
Please continue to review posts to the COVID-19 pages of the William James College website.
Enjoy the upcoming weekend and the promise of spring.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, February 11, 2022, 5 PM:
Dear William James Community,
As we bring our week to an end, I write to say, ‘thank you’, again. It has been a pleasure to look out of my window and see the cars in the lot and to have company in the building. We have come back together with a variety of experiences and emotions. Some have appreciated leaving behind the sweats and slippers to reacquaint themselves with business casual clothes, while others have enjoyed the flexibility of online arrangements. I saw four people literally dancing in the hall with the joy of being back together this week and several people mentioned their relief from too much solitary time, but I know we also have members who are still concerned about unvaccinated youngsters or are continuing to manage complicated childcare or eldercare arrangements. This is our community.
The past two years have been extraordinarily challenging, and they have required a great deal of flexibility and trust for us to conduct our work. As one of the people who has made decisions for our group, I appreciate your patience with me. You have been cooperative and collaborative as we made, changed, and revised our plans. Because of that trust, we have been able to continue with the important work of this College, help people to realize their career dreams, and serve our community at a great time of need.
The message about returning to work from the Governor was mixed. On the one hand, Mr. Baker wants us to know that it is safe to become more actively engaged with each other so that the economy can be brought back to normal. That is part of his job. Indeed, I was on a meeting this morning with a local scientist who described the half-life of Omicron as cascading much more rapidly than expected. On the other hand, a government directive can’t compel people to feel safe after two years of a pandemic; people will continue to be wary until they are no longer concerned. Our policy with masks will remain in place until most people are comfortable. Our support and respect for each other as we move into this new normal will remain as well.
This country, our Commonwealth, and this learning community have experienced the trifecta of exposure to chronic stress, with the vulnerability of social isolation, and the experience of learned helplessness for more than two years. As we are apparently able to move from a pandemic period, it is critical that we rebuild the broken communities that we are members of. Togetherness, kindness, compassion, altruism, collaboration, teamwork, cannot be aspirations nor mere words, they represent the only way that we will reclaim our health and our strength. At a time when many of our country’s systems seem tribal and polarized, it falls to us to listen, respect, and affirm each other. It is the only way forward.
We all hope that the longer days, the sunshine, and the plan for pitchers and catchers to report on February 16 are signs of rebirth. BUT, with rumors of a Lockout, we may have one more ‘opportunity for growth’ ahead of us.
Enjoy the Superbowl and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, February 1, 2022, 9 AM:
Dear William James Community,
This December, the U.S. Surgeon General published a rare study on behavioral health called Protecting Youth Mental Health. This report illuminates the uniquely challenging circumstances that young adults are facing with extraordinary rates of depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and suicidal ideation. Surgeon General Murthy writes that the country has a moral obligation to act on their behalf: “We have an unprecedented opportunity as a country to rebuild in a way that refocuses our identity and common values, puts people first, and strengthens our connections to each other.”
I begin my note with this report because it underscores the critical role that this learning community will play in educating organizational leaders, behavioral health specialists, and teachers who can create healthy work and learning environments and access to psychological care to bring healing to our country. This is what we do.
Return to Campus on Monday February 7
Late last week, Secretary of Education James Peyser and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders sent a letter to the presidents of colleges and universities across the Commonwealth calling on our communities to further transitions that allow us all to begin to regain “a sense of normalcy.” I am attaching a copy of their note for your review.
On Monday, February 7, we will return to in-person learning, teaching, and work, as previously announced. We will revive our fall efforts to create more opportunities for community engagement in-person and outside of the classroom. Our staff will resume their previous schedule with 3 days on campus with 2 days working remotely. These plans best support our learning community, and they align with the requests of state and national leadership.
To be clear, seeking to build a “sense of normalcy” does not mean things are as they were before the pandemic began. Things are very different but, with the recent decline in COVID cases, the high rate of vaccinations in Massachusetts, testing and treatments available, protocols in place to support in-person engagement, and a strong public health approach to managing this virus, we can be more safely connected, engaged, and together in a way that supports our own and our community’s social and emotional health. As usual, however, should something change in terms of our health and safety, we will adjust accordingly.
For classes traditionally held in person, faculty and students will return to our classrooms on Monday. Dr. Stacey Lambert will send another communication this week with further details for students and faculty about this shift back to our planned format for the semester. Our vaccination and mask policies will remain in place. Please review our COVID19 policies and continue to observe protocols regarding self-monitoring for symptoms, testing, and attestation while on campus.
Construction Planning: Windows Project, Summer Classes Remote
Normalcy also means a return to plans that were put on hold and can now practically and safely be engaged. In late March, our Operations and Facilities departments will be reviving long planned building projects that were halted when job sites were shut down around the Commonwealth. Over the summer, the building will be under construction to address some necessary upgrades, including a full replacement of all exterior windows. This major project, which should last about 18 months, will update our facility, protect against the weather, and improve our safety and the energy efficiency of our building.
To allow the construction crew to have an extended time to conduct some significant, noisy, demolition with minimal disruption to our learning environments, William James College will conduct the 2022 SUMMER TERM remotely. After discussion with our academic leadership, it seemed prudent to give over this smaller and shorter semester to the builders so that they could make a strong beginning to their work that might abbreviate and advance the project. Such a move minimizes the potential for disruption during class time. We anticipate that staff will continue to be on campus with a schedule to be determined as the summer approaches.
More details about the construction schedule will be forthcoming from Mr. Brent and Mr. Costello. You might ask: ‘Why didn’t we do this when the building was nearly empty?” and that would be a good question. The pandemic didn’t just interfere with education, it brought job site closures, supply chain challenges, and staffing problems that would have left the building open to the elements repeatedly during the winter. These issues made it impractical, if not impossible, to begin sooner.
While I am sorry to bring another disruption into our learning community, the summer is the right time to do this work and this work needs to be done. We will keep our community connectivity goals intact throughout the summer months, and foster in-person engagement, by keeping events and activities running in person. We plan a full return to the delivery methods traditionally associated with each program again in the fall.
Finally, I thank you for your generosity of spirit and for your patience, and I appreciate your understanding as we make this investment in our space. In the upcoming weeks, you will receive additional information from our operations and academic leadership about the proximate plans.
I look forward to seeing faces, both familiar and new, back on campus next week.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, January 12, 2022, 9 AM:
Dear William James Community,
This has been a tough stretch with Omicron cases continuing to rise. While experts are expressing hope that there will be a downward trend next week, I think it is wise to extend our remote work and learning period, and postpone our return to the campus, until MONDAY FEBRUARY 7. This extension will offer some additional time for the virus to recede, and it will allow everyone some additional planning time.
My hope is that you and your families are staying safe and healthy. I also hope that the members of our community who have personally experienced the virus are quickly returned to good health.
Thank you for your patience, and for your persistence, as we continue our important work. Please continue to stay connected during this remote period to your colleagues and classmates.
Best to you all,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, January 6, 2022, 1 PM:
Dear William James Community,
Happy New Year and welcome back. I hope that you were able to take time during these weeks to rest and reconnect with people whom you care about.
I tend to be a radically ‘glass half-full’ person. While most Bostonians who were raised with the pre-pennant Red Sox seem to have that predisposition, this seemingly unending pandemic is taxing even those of us with that trait.
One of our field’s most impressive theorists wrote about the critical importance of finding ‘meaning.’ Dr. Viktor Frankl was a philosopher and physician who was an early student of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler. He was born in Austria and had an early interest in depression and suicide. He is most remarkable for having survived internment in four prison camps during WWII, including the one at Auschwitz. He is famous for his book Man’s Search for Meaning (1959/1995).
Frankl’s thesis is that people can survive any condition, no matter how threatening or disappointing, when they can find a goal to aspire to that makes sense to achieve. His break with Freud and Adler came over his belief that humans can be motivated as much by teleology (attaining a goal or finding a purpose) as by drives. In his thinking, people can be ‘pulled’ towards a behavior by a goal not just ‘pushed’ by a drive.
Even though his ‘Logotherapy’ hasn’t risen to the place of CBT in our field, it is hard to argue that it lacks an evidence base, even if we look only at this ‘N of one.’ I recently found a YouTube video of Dr. Frankl giving a lecture, and invite you to watch it as well. In it, his energy, optimism, and humor paint a picture of confidence, humor, and compassion that is indeed remarkable for someone who has lived through the horror that he did. His work invites all of us to take a minute in this New Year to consider what is most meaningful to us.
I, personally, feel fortunate to have found ‘meaning’ here in the work of William James College. It is very important to me that faculty, staff, trustees, and students throughout our ranks are developing resources for people whose lives have become unmanageable due to substance use disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress, and major mental illness. My family has experienced these trials.
It is meaningful that we are bringing resources to our children whose social and emotional world has been damaged by two years of isolation, disconnection, and disappointment. As businesses struggle to remain operational and employees look for new careers, it is meaningful that WJC is educating leaders to work with organizations to rebuild with close attention to the needs of their employees.
It is meaningful to me that this College is partnering with community agencies to attract and support the diverse workforce that is needed to care for our underserved communities. It is meaningful to me that there is a program where Veterans can transition from military service to serving the mental health needs of their comrades. Meaningful, as well, that we provide referrals for psychotherapy and resources for families caught in the juvenile justice system.
Finally, it is very meaningful to be part of an organization that is attracting and supporting people into the field who have previously been overlooked or ignored so that people from historically marginalized backgrounds can bring their lived experience and earned skills to benefit those who have had inadequate access to care and provide a new perspective on Psychology’s research, ethics, and clinical practice.
I am fortunate to be among the company of students, faculty, staff, and trustees who care equally about these important goals. Fortunate, because one person cannot make even a small part of this meaning alone but blessed because this community of people can and is doing so. Thank you all for your partnership. Even in adversity, we are achieving goals of importance to ourselves and creating opportunities for the growth and health of others.
As we begin this New Year, I want to encourage each of you to take some time to reflect about what motivates you and offers meaning. I want to express my, and our, appreciation to the WJC trustees, faculty, and staff (especially to those who are busy this week preparing for the start of the spring semester and who worked through the vacation to enroll our spring students) for your many contributions, and to our students, for your pursuit of knowledge in this field and for the ways you will use your education and talents to serve others in the years ahead.
Classes begin on Monday, January 10. As communicated before the break, we are practicing a temporary return to remote work and learning to start this semester. As we have throughout this pandemic, we are paying attention to recommendations from the CDC and the Governor.
At this point, we intend to keep our plan in place to return to campus, for classes and work, on Monday, January 24. If, in the coming weeks, external factors suggest that we should make changes to this plan, I will communicate those changes to you with advance notice. Please review our community’s current guidelines.
Thank you for being part of this extraordinary community,
Update December 21, 2021, 9 AM:
Dear William James Community,
As we break for the holidays, take a minute to congratulate yourself on a job well done. A great deal of knowledge was shared within this learning community over the past months. The nature of our educational model means that considerable learning about ourselves accompanied efforts to master research and theory. Experiential education is difficult, but it is transformational, and it depends considerably on the creation of trusting relationships among faculty, students, supervisors, and staff. Moreover, the community’s considerable need for leadership and psychological care is being addressed though the preparation that happens at this College. Thank you all for the investment.
As has been the case for nearly two years, no memo is complete without a COVID coda. The Omicron variant of this virus is rising and, while it is difficult to predict its impact, it seems prudent to make a short move to remote learning and work. Therefore, classes will be delivered online for the first two weeks of the spring semester and will resume in person on Monday January 24th. Likewise, faculty and staff will work from home during this time. We will finish this week as planned, take our break for the holidays, then work remotely until we return to our current work schedule on January 24.
Enjoy the holiday break with family and friends and take the opportunity to rest and reconnect with those whom you love.
Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season,
Update September 11, 2021, 6 PM:
Dear William James Community,
Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the attacks by two airplanes on the World Trade Center, a third that fatally crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth plane that was, also fatally, brought down by a heroic group of passengers and crew in a field Pennsylvania before it reached its target. This is an iconic moment that some in this community were too young to form an impression of and others will never forget. It is a day that altered the course of airline travel for all of us, the country’s relationships with the Greater Middle East, the New York skyline, our sense of safety, the military service of many, and the lives of the family and friends of the nearly 3,000 civilians and public safety personnel who died on September 11th.
Some of you may have lost a friend or family member in this tragedy and tomorrow will be a day to connect and to remember. Ms. Elinor Stout was managing the College’s communications efforts at that time. Elinor’s son Timothy C. Stout was one of the civilians who died that day. Tim was a young father of four children who grew into young adulthood without him. Each year, we try to remember this husband, father and son and his loving family. May they all find peace.
Despite our best wishes, the hospitalizations, and infections from COVID persist. This community will join others in getting vaccinated and wearing masks. We have many faculty and students with young children who are not yet vaccinated and some within our community who are vulnerable to infection. It is difficult to know how the breakthrough infection works or how long this Delta variant will last, but we do know that these are successful strategies to protect ourselves and others. Let me add that should you feel unwell, please stay home, get a test if you have COVID symptoms and DO NOT tough it out and come to campus or work.
The experiences of last year let us know that we can learn and work online should we need to, but many of us missed the chance to connect in person, even with a mask. With a commitment to masks and vaccines, we hope to be able to continue to be together in the way that we can during this time. Please adhere to our healthy guidelines.
Another word…The return to school for parents of young children is continuing to be a challenge for some. Faculty know that they may, if an acute family need presents, create an asynchronous class that can be accessed online. Students know that they can access a class virtually if needs be, although regular virtual attendance should be worked out with their department. I share this to ask, again, for your patience with each other as we continue to cope. All of us are beyond tolerance for the demands that this pandemic has made on our lives. Even the most placid among us can access irritability, frustration, entitlement, and ager with very very little effort. BUT… please take a breath, get to a better place, and practice kindness in your interactions with each other. We can at least do that, even if we can’t stop the storm that is this virus.
In an effort to de-densify our building a bit and to allow families and those with extra COVID burdens to have some flexibility in their schedule, the College will retain our 3 in and 2 remote office arrangement until Thanksgiving. Our hope is that there will be a big move towards normalcy when young children are able to be vaccinated. If that happens much before Thanksgiving, we may reconsider this arrangement. However, until then, this schedule provides some opportunity to balance family and COVID demands. I do ask that staff be thoughtful about adding a fourth day if your presence is required for a meeting or an in-person collaboration. In an additional effort to lessen some demands, Fridays will be ‘meeting free days’, except for the alternate week All Staff hour at 10:00 am.
And let’s find joy and celebration where we can -- please make plans to join our Virtual Commencement Celebration on Sunday September 26th at 9 AM. Thanks to Anne Wilson, Denise Feeley, Lilly Manolis and a cast of busy people who are creating a meaningful and fun celebration for our grads. Following some discussion with interested students, the College will hold a ‘Hooding Ceremony’ just for graduates and faculty/staff at 4 PM on Saturday 25th. This will be an opportunity for graduates to walk across a stage, hear their name called, receive their hood, and celebrate a bit with their friends. For health reasons, this will be a graduate-only event and we ask your cooperation in our effort to be safe and appropriately celebrative.
Meridith Apfelbaum will host a community watch party when the site launches to bring us together to celebrate our grads. An outlook invite went to all calendars earlier today, I hope to see you there.
As I write this note, it is warm and sunny outside. The weekend promises to be the same. Take time to be with someone whom you care for and to enjoy the NE weather. This is one of our best times of the year!
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, August 6, 2021, 3 PM:
Dear William James Community,
As has been our practice throughout the pandemic, we continue to keep an eye on external conditions. The recent rise in cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant suggests that it is prudent that we return to our practice of wearing masks when interacting with one another for the time being.
Effective Monday, August 9, masks will again be required for all WJC faculty, staff, students, and visitors to the building, regardless of vaccination status. We will keep our mask mandate in place until Labor Day and evaluate health conditions throughout the upcoming weeks. Please note, this means masks must be worn during all Orientation activities and for the first weeks of class.
The CDC and WHO have said, repeatedly, that vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19, and its mutations and variants. Face masks provide additional protection, for the wearer and for those with whom they have contact. Our College continues to require staff and students, who do not have an accommodation, to be fully vaccinated to be on campus. However, the news about how rapidly and widely this variant is spreading with the potential for vaccinated persons to transmit it to other vaccinated persons who might carry it home to unvaccinated children or vulnerable people is disconcerting. In time, we might find that this action is unnecessary, but, at this moment, it seems like the prudent course to take for the protection of our families and friends.
Our offices and classrooms are safe. We’ve gone to great lengths to ensure a healthy physical environment and to support a safe return to our building and to in-person classes this fall. Our significant compliance with vaccinations protects us from returning to online instruction and remote work. Neither seems necessary nor are such moves in the offing. Masking will be sufficient protection and an extra layer of protection for many.
As announced in May, and repeated over the last several weeks, we are among the many colleges and universities in our region requiring our community members to be vaccinated, unless a religious or significant medical reason exists for them not to be. For the unvaccinated members of our community, in light of current conditions, I am amending the previously announced testing requirement: unvaccinated members of the community must produce a weekly negative test if they will be on campus. Instructions for how to submit test results will be posted to the COVID pages of our website and shared directly, following an upcoming review of our records of waiver documentation on file.
Faculty and staff should already have submitted documentation. Students are required to submit proof of vaccination or waiver documentation by August 13, please see Dr. Lambert’s recent note for additional information. Students seeking a “High Flex” schedule accommodation, please see the COVID FAQ.
I know that this shift in the course of the pandemic, especially following these past several weeks and months of cautious optimism, is disappointing -- to say the least. I, also, know that there will be variable policies pertaining to masks elsewhere in our lives. However, I hope that this step protects our families and offers a quick return to “normal.” It seems likely that we will be monitoring and making adjustments to this virus for years to come. Patience and some degree of creativity will be allies in this effort.
I join you in your disappointment and thank you for your care for one another.
Enjoy the weekend.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, July 30, 2021, 10 AM:
Dear William James Community,
When I wrote last to you regarding the pandemic, on June 30, I said, with hope, that I expected that report to be the last “COVID-19 Presidential Update” I would be sending for the foreseeable future. With the emergence of the COVID-19 Delta variant, and the CDC reverting to older guidance about preventative measures and practices for some communities, I anticipate a need to return to more regular information sharing.
First, be assured that we continue to follow CDC updates and related decisions communicated by the Governor’s office. The presidents of the Massachusetts Independent Colleges and Universities also meet every three weeks to share COVID information and to discuss best practices. We are continuing to work proactively to keep our community healthy and we will make informed decisions that are in the best interest of our community.
With August fast approaching, and with classes returning in-person this fall, I am writing today to reiterate some of the policies that have already been shared, and to respond to some of the questions we’ve received recently.
As are most institutions of higher learning in Massachusetts, William James College is requiring staff, faculty, and students who will be working or studying on campus or using campus services to be fully vaccinated. There is no doubt that the available medicines are effective in protecting individuals and that they present the best opportunity to keep our campus community safe. Faculty and staff members are being asked to submit a copy of their vaccination record to Human resources; students, please submit yours to the Registrar’s Office.
Information on how to submit that documentation can be found here: https://www.williamjames.edu/about/welcome/covid-19-faqs.html
Masks will not be required on campus for vaccinated persons. CDC guidelines updated this week encourage those who live or who work in an area of substantial or high transmission to wear a mask indoors in public. Our College is not in one of these areas and, at this point, we will not require masks for vaccinated persons. Unvaccinated persons, however, are required to wear a mask and to share proof of a negative COVID test every two weeks. Unvaccinated persons must, also, have an approved accommodation on file in HR or with the Registrar.
Information on how to submit test results will be communicated in mid-August, following an assessment of our community vaccination records.
High Flexibility – Fall Class Option
Students are expected to attend classes through the mode of delivery (in person/online/blended) intended for the program in which they are enrolled. Faculty will be on campus, except for those programs and classes that are delivered online. A high flexibility option will be offered to students during the Fall semester. Students who wish to remain remote for all or for some of the semester will be able to do so and they are asked to inform their Department Chair of their plan. Those who are periodically unable to attend classes in person can make advance arrangements with faculty to attend sessions remotely. The IT and Facilities Departments have invested in large screens and sophisticated audio equipment for most classrooms to improve the online experience for faculty and staff. Our Educational Technology experts have been training faculty in groups and individually to bring their familiarity to this new equipment. Department Chairs work with students who need greater accommodation.
For the fall semester, programs will retain a Credit/No Credit option for all classes through the fall, to ease some of the academic burden during this disruptive time. Students must make a determination for each course before the Fall 2021 deadline. Once selected, the option cannot be reversed. Students who do not submit a request will receive traditional letter grades by default.
In deference to the renewed concerns about the ‘Delta Variant’ and some uncertainty about how and in what way young children will return to school in the fall, I would like to extend our current 3/2 work schedule until October 4th for all employees. Faculty will be present on campus to teach scheduled classes, but they will have some flexibility in September to be on campus as they are able to. Office hours, committee meetings, conferences etc. can be held online as appropriate for this month. Staff will retain the same or similar 2-day remote work schedule that we are currently holding.
This change is an effort to meet the demands that some might have regarding childcare or other family responsibilities. It is not meant to be a benefit; if you and your family do not require this kind of accommodation, I ask that you come to campus for the fourth day to enable us to be as present as possible to our returning students and to each other. If it is a help, please make use of it.
A few words about our learning and our work environment.
We have all been through an extraordinary year and a half, one that has left us with a lot of work to do on systemic racism, behavioral health, and leadership. Health, social, and political strains of this year have made the best of us vigilant, irritable, impatient, self-focused, helpless, and impatient. This is what happens to humans during prolonged and protracted times of trauma.
The William James College community is not immune from the four-fold increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression that the CDC reports. To make matter worse, when we thought that the worst was over, the Delta variant renews the worries of many and interferes with the hopes for a return to normal. While we know that most people in our area are safe, our little children now seem especially vulnerable, and many have PTS when viewing prevalence charts again, even when they present data from other states. It is difficult to be ‘rational’ in an emergency… especially a high-stakes one that is 18 months long.
Although it is challenging, we do have a choice as to how we engage each other and about the type of learning community that we create here. The policies above are not efforts to control, but to protect. The flexibility that is presented is not meant to be confusing, but to provide support if needed. We can choose to be snarky and provocative – or we can choose to be respectful, supportive, and compassionate with each other.
As we return, there will be folks who will have multiple reasons that support their decision to wear a mask; we want to respect them. Some might choose to sit at a distance during class, let’s not judge. It is not appropriate for anyone to ask of another’s vaccination status; this is reserved for HR and the Registrar.
We have parents of small children and folks who live with immunocompromised people, they may ask that we wear a mask when in prolonged contact with them in close quarters, even when vaccinated. I hope that we can accommodate their request. Rather than repeat the political theater that is on display in some parts of the country, I hope that we can work to create a compassionate and respectful culture within our walls that reflects the leadership and healing careers that we value and aspire to.
We are highly likely to see more improvement in the early fall as vaccines become available to our young people – that said, if we do need to tighten our policies, of course that will be done. Thank you to the faculty, students, and staff who have demonstrated a good deal of leadership and generosity during this time. Let’s focus on the world that we can control, practice tolerance, and make time to take care of ourselves and of each other.
With respect and hope,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, June 30, 2021, 3 PM:
Dear William James Community,
My grandmother, who raised 8 children during the Great Depression, was not known for her optimism. She was famous for saying: “Well, it’s the Fourth of July, the summer is half over!” As a boy who loved playing baseball, and who did not love going to school, this was not my favorite of her aphorisms.
This strange and profoundly difficult period is more than half over, it seems to be mercifully coming to an end. For more than a year, we’ve been wearing masks, keeping six feet apart, passing strangers with anxiety, washing our groceries, and interacting over virtual platforms. Our children have missed a myriad of milestones as they Zoom-bombed work meetings and required balancing acts by parents that were worthy of Atlas, Juno, and Sisyphus combined. Suddenly, with the arrival of vaccines, we’ve started coming back to our spaces and to our new-normal, whatever that will come to mean.
The pivot towards remote work and learning that, 18 months ago, took only a few days to make has been allowed to take several months to reverse. At the beginning of this month, we brought staff back for an additional scheduled day each week on campus. This shift from two to three days on campus followed an impactful retreat where, along with reconnecting with old colleagues, we met several new colleagues whom we had only ever seen from the shoulders up. After the July 4th holiday, we will be returning to a building that feels even more like our campus of old.
We know that the kind of apprehension that is associated with this pandemic can’t be talked away, it needs, like the character of the Fox in The Little Prince, to be “tamed.” The College has given advanced notice about campus repopulation, started with small iterative exposures, and offered a longer runway with flexibility so that our community can feel as confident and safe as possible as we return.
With most of our population vaccinated and with health and safety restrictions easing up, it is time to open our campus further, after one more closure. From July 1 through July 6 the campus will be closed to allow our staff and faculty to have some extended time off with their families and friends. When we return on July 7, masks will become optional for vaccinated members of our community; classrooms and common spaces will return to capacity; and other restrictions previously put in place will be lifted.
We will continue to interact in a way that respects and supports each other’s needs. Students who may need additional time to acclimate will be offered the opportunity to attend class remotely for the fall. Enhanced cleaning protocols will remain in effect. Unvaccinated members of our community will be asked to continue to use face coverings.
Please review policy updates, vaccination requirements, and other information here (the guidelines dated May 28, 2021, are, at present, the most recent). Signage around the building, and information on the website, will be updated to reflect our updated policies. FAQs and other materials designed to communicate information for Fall 2021 will be updated or added to the web site in the coming weeks.
During our lockdown, we learned a great deal about the importance of creating connection with each other. Bishop George Berkeley, the Irish metaphysician, famously asked: “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”. When highly troublesome events occurred in the country, it was very important to know that they were resonating within this community and that others ‘saw’ and ‘heard’ them. When that happened later than felt comfortable, it was disappointing and distressing. It felt important to me to write these community notes as if they were newspaper Editorials that called the community’s attention to something important. Over this year, we were all well-served by those staff, faculty and students who created opportunities for us to ‘witness’ and to process our strong emotions together. We all went through a lot together.
As we come to the end of this pandemic I want to say “Thank you” to those many members who have approached this difficult time with the creativity, humility, compassion, and grace necessary to keep our College operating, growing and together. The list of staff, faculty and students who contributed would wrap around our building, but we know that those ‘First Responders’ who made themselves available in the wake of national and local events to quickly process a wealth of intense emotions, the Facilities Crew that kept us healthy and functioning, The Admissions and Marketing folks who handled 20% more applications, our Communications and DEI experts who kept us on point and in touch, the COVID Content Creators who enabled us to engage and educate the public, our School Consultants and T21 who offered the same to teachers and administrators, our HR, Finance, Academic Administration, Financial Aid and Registrar folks who managed our College’s business, our IT professionals who kept us connected, the various community programs that learned how to test and to work with virtual tools, our Library team who didn’t miss a beat when it came to making resources and materials available, those in our Field Education and the Dean of Students offices for supporting students, those who made referrals and kept connection with our external community, and our Distance Ed faculty and staff who coached and supported our talented faculty, were ALL responsible for making this year one that was both personally and professionally supportive. Not the least… thank you to the students who continued to serve those in need in our community while you took care to make the best of your educational experience.
This report marks the last “COVID-19 Presidential Update” that I will be sending for the foreseeable future. I hope that we won’t need them anymore…or at least not so many of them. With greater freedom of engagement, people can more easily validate their experience and receive comfort and support from each other in a crisis. The falling trees will be heard. Our disappointments, our worries, our aspirations and our creative ideas can be more productively processed, now, with real people in real time.
Although it has felt like several years, we have largely made it through this challenge, and we will grow from it. Hopefully, we will continue to look closely at the needs of others and to inquire about their health and families. It is time, though, to regroup and prepare for the next phase in our journey.
Immediately, though, there is still some baseball and some beach time to come. With great gratitude for your generosity, trust, patience, and persistence, I wish you a Happy July Fourth and a rewarding summer to relax and restore yourselves.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, May 28, 2021, 3 PM:
Dear William James College Community,
This week, I have been to several events with people gathered without masks. One of them even had a buffet that I thought would be banished forever. I expect that many of you have been within similar crowds and felt the relief and enthusiasm that we have been desiring for fourteen months. Hard to believe that this trial is ending, but the beginning of the end of this pandemic is certainly here.
As we approach the summer, many members of our community will be achieving an important milestone, completing their studies, and transitioning from William James College student to alum. When we were taking pictures earlier in the month, one of our graduates said that this degree was a miracle that will allow her to pursue a dream of managing an NGO to help homeless people. Others came with family and friends to mark the success of the first person in the family to acquire a graduate degree. Each academic department has identified a way to recognize this special Class of 2021 who endured a tumultuous year and found time for field learning, academic achievement and professional growth and got their degree done. Faculty, staff, supervisors, and your peers are proud of your work: Congratulations!
Making plans during this pandemic has been challenging, but the decision to move our formal Commencement ceremony to September 26 seems to have been one of the good ones. In-person exercises will be held at the Boston Park Plaza, although we won’t be sure until August how many guests we can invite. However, we will create a virtual viewing option for those who are unable to attend. More details on Commencement will follow.
Our Communications folks ask that those who are graduating, please share your photos and celebrations with us and on social media, wherever you may be in the world. This is an unusual time, but so is the attainment of your degree.
Now to some of the other business:
Our staff has been working on campus on a two-day per week schedule since late August with the building closed on Friday. As we prepare to welcome students and faculty back for the fall, the College staff will move to a three-day per week schedule on campus and our building will resume five-day, weekday operations. The new building hours, beginning the week of June 7, will be Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM.
Summer Holidays & Time Off
Juneteenth is now an official College holiday. This year Juneteenth is a Saturday and we will observe the holiday on the Friday prior. The College will be closed on Friday, June 18. In addition, the College will be closed for an extended period over the July 4th holiday. In order to allow our faculty and staff to have some additional time with family and to recharge, July 2, 5 and 6 will be given as extra days off this year.
Mask & Vaccine Policy
The Commonwealth’s mask mandate will be officially lifted this week. Effective immediately, masks will no longer be required OUTDOORS when visiting the William James College campus. However, to allow our community some extra time and space to adjust to the new guidelines, the College will retain existing policies regarding mask requirements for INDOOR spaces through the end of June 2021.
As are many colleges and business in Massachusetts, vaccinations will be required for all members of our community before the start of the Fall semester. While this is a somewhat complicated issue, it is the course that best supports the public health directives and provides the greatest safety and comfort for our members. This fall, faculty and staff will be delivering our work on campus, but classes will be offered in a hybrid fashion to allow those who may need this accommodation to complete their work. New technology, including the addition of large screen monitors, has been added to classrooms to make this possible. Students who require further accommodation to the vaccine requirement should contact the Registrar’s Office. Interested staff should contact the HR Department. Further information on policy changes and information regarding this pandemic will be posted on the WJC website.
Next week, our Teachers21 department will present a program for K-12 educators on strategies for trauma-informed teaching. Several experts and area educators will explore what we might expect to see in the post-pandemic world of elementary education. Students and staff are welcome to join:
What do we do in September? Revitalizing our School Communities
When: June 3, 2021
There will be time for further reflection about this historical year. Like most of the world, our learning community has been through an enormously uncomfortable and frightening political, social, and public health experience. There have been many times that I have asked for patience, compassion, and outreach from each of you. Many, many, people have found the ability to move from their own discomfort and fear to make that effort to care for others; we are all the better for it. We have had difficult discussions, challenging emotions, and times of considerable anxiety, disappointment, and helplessness. As the summer months present, we will surely see the diminishment of cases in this country and the emergence of a greater sense of personal safety and comfort. We will, also, hold those parts of the world in mind that are not as lucky as we are to be here. Certain faculty, staff and students have distinguished themselves by their thoughtfulness, generosity, and care for others. You have helped us to keep things together and, now, to heal. Thank you.
Enjoy the long weekend. Better has begun to come.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, May 5, 10 AM:
Dear William James Community,
I am writing to announce a decision regarding vaccination requirements. After consulting with College leadership, we have made the decision that William James College will require staff, faculty, and students to be fully vaccinated before our full return to campus in the Fall.
This decision is made with the intention of taking the most effective steps to ensure the continuation of a safe and healthy working and learning environment, and it aligns with the decisions made by a number of our colleagues in the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM). I trust that every member of our community will understand the critical importance of this decision and its impact on creating a safe and healthy learning community. For the few who might be unable to comply with this directive for religious or health restrictions there will be some room for reasonable accommodation.
As previously announced, classes will continue to be delivered remotely through the Summer. As you have seen, the return to campus will be progressive, slow, and closely monitored to allow for maximum emotional and physical safety. As we make our return to the building this Fall, the College will continue to be advised by the public health and governmental directives about mask wearing, social contact and building hygiene.
I have re-convened the College’s COVID Task Force. This group will meet regularly through September to evolve and execute our return to campus plan. It will ask for input from students, faculty and staff as it develops the appropriate protocols and policies to ensure the safety of our work. You will hear more details from this group in the coming weeks, including details about how the vaccine requirement will be implemented.
Our Country has come a long way in recent months when it comes to battling this terrible pandemic. Other countries are facing a different reality. At present, one cannot look at the terrible news about the increasing number of COVID cases in India and Brazil and not feel deeply for the suffering of the people there. Among our staff and faculty are half a dozen people with close ties to these countries, I expect there are many more among our student population who have such ties and who may feel impacted. I ask you to connect with colleagues and friends whom you know to have family, friends, or connections to the region and ask how they’re doing. If you, yourself, need support, please seek it. Our mental and emotional health remain as high of a priority as our physical health and safety.
Thank you for your partnership, your patience, and your care for one another.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, April 12, 9 PM:
Dear William James Community,
Last Saturday, I became energized by the warm sun and the sight of emerging jonquils and forsythia (lots of bright yellow colors). I went outside with enthusiasm and energy… and sliced through several sections of our sprinkler system while attempting to aerate the grass. Somehow, even while making the call to get the hoses repaired, the day felt strangely satisfying. I am one of those who can’t wait for spring and after this very long dark night of the soul, this is a most welcome one. The light at the end of the tunnel is finally warming our faces.
This is Dr. Nilda Laboy’s favorite time of the academic year, as well. She loves graduation. A good number of our community will be finishing this spring and we all celebrate the sense of accomplishment and pride that comes from the completion of a major period of emotional and intellectual work. Faculty and staff feel a partnership with those who are evolving into skilled professionals. Like the sculptor who ‘frees’ the form in the rock with her chisel, the educator “leads forth” the wisdom, knowledge, and skill of a student through their relationship. Those who are called to this profession have a special gift. This year has demanded an unusual amount of generosity, trust, patience, and self-reflection from everyone in our learning community (staff, faculty, students, trustees) and, while there is much more to do, we want to bear witness to that communal effort that has brought us safely and strongly to the year’s end. It is important to say thank you for what has been an extraordinary time together.
We expect to be able to acknowledge the achievements of an exceptional class of graduates in person on Sunday September 26th. Health conditions will determine the size of this event, and its occurrence, but we hope that the next five months will bring sufficient safety to hold such an event. Please save that date. In May, each department will hold an informal gathering to mark the completion of the work done by talented students and faculty in this extraordinary time. For those who will spend another year with us, we are all working on plans to recreate our campus community for fall.
A Springtime Opportunity for Graduates
The front of our building will soon become quite beautiful with flowering trees that will last for a few weeks at the end of April. If you have your academic regalia (or not) and you wish to take a picture, the front path makes a nice background. Friday’s are a particularly open day since most people are not on campus. Should you wish, I would be pleased to take a traditional photo with the President (in cap and gown, holding a diploma) during that time. Please look for an email from Ms. Denise Feeley that will include more details and a signup link. Children are particularly welcome.
Even though it is now spring and about 20 percent of Americans are vaccinated, this remains a strange and stressful time. As vaccines become available, please make it a priority to take your turn. If you have questions about your options, please pursue them, please review current CDC guidance. The best defense against serious illness for yourself and this community is a very high rate of vaccination (in the 90 percent or higher range). We are getting there – one arm at a time.
We have a way yet to go but, optimistically, experts think that we will have some degree of ‘normalcy’ by summer. We are fortunate to have a community of more than a thousand bright and compassionate people who are available to each of us. There is a wealth of wisdom and support available when we turn towards each other. As I say to my 15 year-old son who has missed another season of basketball and greatly misses hanging with his friends: “We are surely burdened these days, but we are very blessed.” Continue with your investment in your work and with your investment in each other. Enjoy the first days of spring.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, March 24, 2021, 4 PM:
Dear William James Community,
I am writing to you, again, in the wake of tragedy. Especially during these disconnected COVID times, a note like this and the discussion that it might prompt can be a way of signaling our community that something of concern has happened and that, as we bear witness to it, we are not alone and we not powerless. Following another mass shooting, another expression of thoughts and prayers certainly is surely not enough.
The shooting on Monday in Boulder, Colorado, claimed ten lives. A police officer, grocery store workers, people going about their daily lives. The damage to the many families and friends of the victims, the grief, and the pain that an event like this brings to impacted communities, and to our nation is profound.
The media and political leaders seek to identify a motive and we listen, again, to familiar debates about gun rights that inevitably involve pointing fingers at “mental illness.” Not only are such debates insulting to people who experience mental health and substance use disorders, and to their families, they are harmful to the implementation of potential solutions. The US has the same rates of mental illness as other countries, but dramatically more deaths by guns.
To be sure, nobody gratuitously opens fire on innocent people unless they have some kind mental illness, be it an Axis I disorder or an excessive amount of hate. However, as we know, the plurality of those who suffer with mental illness are commonly the victims of violence, not the perpetrators. While potentially welcome, arguments in the wake of these events that point to the need for mental health care generally are meant to distract from more effective policy actions and rarely result in the delivery of appropriate funding.
Dr. Robert Kinscherff is an expert on gun violence prevention. He has worked with colleagues to produce several instructional resources, including this 2016 report with the Judge Baker Children’s Center: Promoting Positive Outcomes in Youth: Implications for Policy, Systems and Practice
- On the urgent need for a public health approach, “3 questions for Robert Kinscherff,” APA Monitor, January 2021
- APA 2019 Main Stage: Robert Kinscherff on Gun Violence
- On youth violence, “A conversation with Dr. Kinscherff,” Rapport, 2016
I have asked Dr. Kinscherff if he would find a way to be available, again, for a discussion on this topic in the coming weeks. Take a look at his writings.
And, as we consider this event and reconsider this issue, we want to underscore that it must not overshadow other important issues of the day: systemic racism has not gone away, nor has the need to address the violence against AAPI people, nor can we take our eyes off the behavioral health needs of our children in schools, or the health crisis that everyone has been living with for more than a year. These times need us to become aware, come together, practice compassion, and find a lane to make a difference.
With all these burdens, sometimes it feels that our country is leaving an inordinate amount for the next generation of professionals to fix. Students, as you read this and consider a way that you can make a difference, don’t neglect your first job at WJC is to study. This is the time that you have made to learn; don’t neglect to invest in your professional development. Yet, as you do your work, reach out to teachers and colleagues to give or get the support that we all require to hold these important issues and to improve them one step at a time.
The only way that ‘better’ comes is by working together. With all of this said, let’s pray and hope for comfort for these families whose lives have been so terribly touched.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, March 22, 4 PM:
Dear William James Community,
The future of our College is being planned in the midst of a still-threatening present. Vaccinations are becoming more readily available and external conditions are trending toward better. However, we continue to hear about plateauing rates of COVID deaths and severe health risks in Miami. These conditions mean that plans for tomorrow might seem ridiculous in light of today. Nonetheless, we are planning for an in-person return to campus for classes this fall and for Graduation to take place at the end of September. As usual, these plans will continue to be subject to health conditions. In the meantime, summer classes will remain remote. As has been the case for the last year, the policies of individual field sites will dictate whether in-person or remote attendance for students is required.
Hopefully, we are coming to the end of the need for announcements like these. I would like to thank, again, those who have found the creativity and professionalism to attend to our mission, our students and each other while juggling the significant demands that COVID has placed on their personal lives. We are about to end this ‘year of living dangerously’ with a good deal of accomplishment thanks to all of you.
Governor Charlie Baker has announced that vaccines will be available to the general public starting April 19. We hope that keeping classes remote for the summer will give all members of our community the time and opportunity to get vaccinated, and that this schedule provides appropriate time to plan for our fall return. As with masks and social distancing, please do what you need to educate yourself to the value of being vaccinated for your benefit and for the health of others and, then, make a plan.
Please continue to follow updates on the College’s COVID-19 webpages.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, February 18, 4 PM:
Dear William James Community,
It has been a very mixed start to this year. Among the good news, we are starting to see are indications that the vaccines seem to work, and there is a plan emerging to bring economic relief to the country. Here at the College, we’re celebrating news that the National Association of School Psychologists awarded the maximum period of accreditation to our MA/CAGS program. Several of our academic programs have seen a significant rise in applications which bodes well for the field and for us in September. Outside of our walls and beyond our Zoom screens, many of us are celebrating the fact that pitchers and catchers report to spring training this week.
As we continue to put our masks on, stay six feet apart and get our work done, it is almost impossible to believe that we have been living through this pandemic for nearly a year. Sometimes, it can be difficult to recognize what has been gained, with so much attention needed on the day-to-day. Online education has become second nature to us. Zoom meetings have greater warmth and engagement than seemed possible when we were exasperated by learning to sharing our screens. Students are continuing to pursue their academic and professional plans. And, our clinicians and consultants are bringing benefit to individuals, families and organizations.
We’ll all come back together soon in person, but not yet. I announced in December that we would evaluate our potential to return to on-campus instruction in mid-March. While the numbers have been declining, it is wise to continue online through the end of the Spring semester. We have not yet determined what Summer classes will look like. As has been our case, the health and safety conditions at the end of May will determine that. With the reports of vaccine availability for all by July, is highly likely that we will return to campus in September and we are planning to do so. Likewise, our hope is to have Commencement in person on September 26th at the Park Plaza Hotel…. Like normal!
In the meantime, we stay the course. We’ll engage online where appropriate, and stick to our small circles otherwise. My 15-year old and his basketball friends have learned to play pond hockey in the cemetery in an effort to find socialization. Campus educational programs have been replaced by a series of online offerings, planned and delivered by generous staff and students. Inclusivity, responsibility, and opportunity are more often part of our planning: we are paying closer attention to who is ‘In’ and how we are connected. We are more likely now to ask after each other’s families. Our staff has discovered the value of meeting every other week for an hour to share information, learn about new babies and remain connected. And, as challenging as wearing a mask is for some, it has become an opportunity to show respect and care for a colleague.
The poet Amanda Gorman inspired us at the Inauguration to come together as a country, to find our inner strength and to help our country and each other to heal “…while once we asked, how could we prevail over catastrophe? Now we assert: How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?” The books and papers that we will read about resilience at this College will carry greater meaning after this year.
There will be much to discover when we reconnect sometime this Summer. Until then, we prevail.
PS. Those who wish to get vaccinated can accelerate their chances by offering to drive a senior (over 75 years) to get their shot. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccinations-for-people-ages-75-and-older#mass-vaccination-sites-will-vaccinate-individuals-accompanying-75+.-appointments-needed.- A call to the local Council on Aging or a discussion with a clergyperson near you might lead to a person in need… who can get you taken care of as well.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, January 13, 7 PM:
Dear William James Community,
About midnight last Wednesday, Representative Andy Kim from New Jersey was leaving the Capital Office Building and stopped in the Rotunda. Struck by the destruction in that hallowed space that came from the attack earlier in the day, he was moved to get on his knees to pick up the debris. It “pained me so much to see it in this condition,” he said. His message of care and respect was unambiguous. At that late hour, he aimed only to serve and not to be noticed by others.
For the past week, I have felt a bit like Congressman Kim; disoriented, overwhelmed by the violence and destruction, exhausted by the lies and the grifting, frightened by the images of violence and racism, and pained by the debris created by Wednesday’s violence and by so many of the self-serving actions and words of many of those in leadership positions.
Suggestion, Truth and Leadership
In Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921), Sigmund Freud describes “the leader” as one who holds sway over a group, so much so that the members abandon their individuality and their consciousness to pursue the principal’s aims. The group, in Freud’s thinking, is easily influenced by extreme emotion and they follow suggestions to do things that they might otherwise not do as individuals. Ironically within a violent, passionate and destructive mob, the members feel safe and have a sense of affinity with each other and a sense of ‘love’ for the leader.
The group at the Capitol last week was fueled by divisive and misleading claims, and outright lies from leaders in our government and the media. As with those who take the opportunity to loot during a peaceful protest, the ‘domestic terrorists’ involved last Wednesday were few in number. Most people who come to act in a destructive or in a harmful way during these assemblies are followers led by the passions of the group. Freud writes that when things are ambiguous and tensions are high, people are prone to respond reflexively suggestion, they don’t analyze, nor do they act intentionally, they just ‘follow the leader.’
Suggestion is a powerful force. Even the casual observer made note of the difference in police presence and reaction between last Wednesday’s action and the BLM demonstrations. A white mob actively displaying violence and destruction didn’t pose the same threat to authorities as a demonstration of peaceably assembled Black and Brown people. The group’s color suggested something that influenced the response; this is an unfortunate truth in our America.
Suggestion is a powerful force. For several months, truth has been displaced by repetitious fabrication; if something is said often enough by important people it passes as valid. Efforts to create financial gain and personal advantage have been masked by political posturing; the grifter creates an illusion of noble intent and the unwitting become the victims. One of our WJC leaders said at our community call last week: “Wait for the race baiting to come,” as people struggle to create cover for the illegal and murderous actions of Wednesday’s mob. Yesterday, we heard the suggestion that “it was the anti-racist group Antifa” that caused the destruction in the Capital. The presidential election finished with a conclusive winner and no evidence of fraud; why is there any doubt about this? Wednesday’s mob in Washington was intent upon blocking the certification of the presidential election and they were not registering a protest; why is there any doubt about this?
The truth is that our TRUTH is broken, and parts of it are in metaphorical pieces – like so many pieces of the Rotunda’s furniture. Ambiguity and strong emotion are the breeding grounds for suggestion.
The Days Ahead
There are only so many ways to say that these are “trying times.” These are, and they will continue to be. We feel the stress of this unrest and it pains us. As I write this, I can hear from Lilly’s computer that the President of the United States has been impeached. Looking to next week, although the FBI reports that there are few credible threats in our immediate region, there are many national reports of potential violence.
Wherever you may be located, I want to remind you to be careful, to avoid government buildings, to be alert to your surroundings and to stay close to home, if you can. Don’t panic, but don’t neglect to take this warning seriously. Because the truth requires it, let me, again, caution you to be very careful about wearing masks, keeping a safe distance and handwashing, as we witness another rise in COVID cases. We know how to protect ourselves and these days require renewed vigilance.
This all said, the light at the end of this tunnel that we are now seeing is not a train, it is hope. The vaccines are coming. Today we agreed to offer our outdoor space to the City of Newton to create a staging site for their Public Health vaccinators. Congressman Kim offers us a powerful example of authentic, servant leadership and he occupies the same place of power as the disappointers. Let’s choose to follow his example. Let us renew our commitment to care for each other and to lead in ways that advantage others. We know how to do this.
There is a great deal of cleaning up to do, before we can move ahead. Fortunately -- we are OK with that.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, February 18, 4 PM:
Dear William James Community,
It is customary at the end of December to look back on the year and towards the one ahead (hence the two-faced God of transitions and doors, Janus).
As some of the worst days of the pandemic surround us it is not very inviting to relive the trauma and loss of 2020. As most are saying: “It is good to be ending this difficult, difficult year.” However, there is a viewpoint to take that is more optimistic and people to thank for making some extraordinary contributions to our community this year.
At the risk of missing the gifts of many, I will not single out individuals, but let me give thanks for all of us to:
- Those staff and faculty who rose to the challenge and delivered a creative and accessible education for our students;
- Those staff whose service to our students and to each other allowed our learning community to remain strong during these long and scary months;
- The students who bore the disappointments and trials of this year with energy and resilience;
- The students, again, who found courage and skills to be present to clients, patients and systems in field placements where they were needed;
- To trustees and community supporters who contributed their wisdom, wealth and work to this College with joy and respect;
- To those vendors, service personnel, and contractors who managed their worries to continue to supply our needs.
This year, thanks to the creativity, courage and compassion of our members, we:
- Managed our fears of infection, death, and isolation;
- Endured a prolonged and protracted presidential election process;
- Enrolled a class of talented future professionals into our degree programs;
- Put together a meaningful Commencement for our graduates;
- Began an innovative Behavioral Health Service Corps℠ to attract a new generation of diverse workers into our field;
- Began the distribution of $6 million in scholarship funds in our Clinical and Counseling programs;
- Graduated our first class from the BS Psychology and Human Services program, with 6 honors graduates;
- Expanded our tools and supports for remote learning and telehealth training;
- Handled several tons of IT requests;
- Placed 94% of our Clinical and 100% of School psychology students in APA-approved internships;
- Expanded our Workforce Development Initiatives;
- Made improvements to our facility, including re-fitting the building with new air handlers, plexiglass, sanitation and signage;
- Quickly learned the skills of Telementalhealth;
- Offered tens of thousands of hours of service to: clients in our field sites; individuals and families through INTERFACE; children and others through CAFES, Brenner and our new psychotherapy clinic;
- Created a COVID Hub of resources for professionals and parents at the start of the pandemic;
- Developed groups and podcasts for first responders;
- Held painful, feelingful and open discussions on systemic racism;
- Contributed to public conversations about mental health, including standing with elected officials in support of key legislation;
- Offered training, consultation and support to teachers, principals and superintendents to help with their overwhelming responsibility to educate our children;
- Partnered with community organizations as they figured out how to navigate these uncharted waters;
- And found ways to stay connected with each other, even in our time apart.
While we all yearn for some return to normalcy and are eager to sit for a couple of literal shots in the arm to get it, this year of challenge has been one of achievement for William James College. Thank you to those who held us together, held us accountable, held out hope and helped us to continue to make a difference. Hopefully, this journey has brought us closer together. Certainly, it has given us an appreciation for what being together can mean.
My best wishes for health (doesn’t that seem more meaningful this year?) and the opportunity to grow in the upcoming year.
With fondness, respect and gratitude. Feliz año nuevo,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, December 14, 9:15 PM:
Dear William James Community,
Several years ago, I gave a talk at a conference that required me to fly in a small plane. The trip to the meeting was breathtakingly beautiful, but the return trip… not so much. While memory might embellish, I recall a torrential rainstorm with the pilot and five passengers on board… and absolutely no visibility. Making plans these days is a bit like that flight, although the pilot had instruments as a guide.
In my last note to the community, I announced that William James would be continuing with remote learning through, at least, the middle of the spring semester. We’re doing this because it is the most prudent decision for the health of our community, given the current state of this pandemic. There are other calls that should be made now, given what we can reasonably assume for the months ahead. One such decision pertains to the timing of our 2021 Commencement Ceremony.
While we all want to gather in person for our traditional ceremony, it is highly unlikely that an event for over a thousand people will be possible in early June. Some experts have begun to predict that ‘herd immunity’ might be reached by early this summer with larger gatherings possible by then, but even a gathering of 500-600 is unlikely in June. In order to increase our chances for our typical event, I have asked our committee to move the date of our Commencement Exercises to September 26, 2021 at the Boston Park Plaza. I share this date now to give our graduates and their families the initial information needed to make arrangements to be present.
As we have learned from this pandemic, it is possible that an alternative structure for the ceremony may still need to be arranged. But, with space needing to be reserved and honorees invited with sufficient notice, this alteration affords us a better chance to gather in person. Additional details will be shared with our graduates, and our community, as we move into the New Year.
To our 2021 graduates, I am sorry to bring another disappointment to you at the end of a year with so many. You can expect that your department will create an opportunity to recognize the completion of your work in May. These were very moving events this past spring and it might be possible to gather in small groups on campus to mark that moment. With hope, we will hold the grand celebration with its traditional pomp and circumstance in the fall with some of the same enthusiasm that I felt when that small plane landed. More details later.
As we start to look toward 2021, with hope and expectation that better things are coming, please mark your calendars and include this among the things to look forward to.
With respect and hope,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, December 2, 3:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens writes of a period representing both “the best of times and the worst of times.” This morning, we read that 2,800 citizens of our country died from COVID-19 just yesterday; the most in a single day of this pandemic. News of a vaccine brings a light at the end of this very dark tunnel, but health experts predict that the upcoming weeks will continue to be some of the worst of the pandemic. For the next several months, we will be living with both realities: hopeful news and forward progress, along with very difficult times. Although we are all tired of living like this, for now we must stay the course.
For our community, staying the course means continuing our efforts to de-densify our building and limit in-person gathering where we can. As we end our work in this fall semester, we anticipate the spring. Existing health conditions make it prudent to begin next semester by continuing to deliver instructional classes online. We will continue with online instruction until March 15, at least.
It remains difficult to predict the exact timing of our return to in-person classes. Things could take a long time or we might see very rapid improvement. Should conditions require it, we will continue remote learning past mid-March. Should conditions permit, we will create additional opportunities for educational and social gathering in the building. Field education remains as scheduled (in person or online) by individual sites. The building on Wells Avenue will remain open save for a break over the holidays for staff (all business will be closed on December 23rd and reopened on January 4th). With the current rise of the COVID-19 virus, I have asked faculty and staff to minimize campus gatherings, or to deliver them virtually, for the next several weeks.
In the upcoming months, the College will continue to balance the benefits of in-person instruction with the need to protect each other’s health. Expert opinion from the CDC and others will inform our decisions and, when timing is right, any major change will allow sufficient time to make the transition.
Among the themes in Dickens’ famous work is how service and sacrifice for others can transform a culture. Survey researchers are beginning to identify Generation Z, especially the younger portion, as people who value their friendships with peers, their planet and social justice more than their own pleasures. This spirit of service is evident across our community with our students, staff, faculty and trustees extending themselves to allow our educational and service work to continue under some of the most adverse public health circumstances in decades.
As we emerge from this painful and frightening period, let’s be energized by the movement of service we see among our young people and let’s continue with grace and the personal sacrifice necessary to revivify our country and our world. On behalf of those who will and do benefit from your service and talents, I offer thanks.
Stay the course. Better is coming.
With gratitude and respect,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, November 23, 6:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
This is a week that we are accustomed to share with those whom we love to give thanks. It has, historically, been my favorite holiday. What could be wrong with an abundance of food, family and football and a late afternoon turkey-tryptophan facilitated nap…all without the pressures of gift-giving?
This Thanksgiving, like most of this year, will be different. Those who typically celebrate with a flock of friends and relatives will be minimizing social contacts to protect those whom we love. Mid-day, television will show people in helmets and pads moving up and down a field, but little about the broadcast will resemble real football. Legal and political maneuvers have stolen the usual election-year excitement attached to an anticipated new administration and political discourse, by now, has become too toxic or mind-numbingly wearisome to engage. Even the anticipated vaccines with their promise of health and freedom are sufficiently distant to bring much joy.
When Thursday’s dinner comes with the usual question, it will be far too easy to think about what is missing or disturbing or wrong than of what there is to be thankful for. In some way, though, the absence of the usual advantages creates space for us to think more deeply about what we truly cherish and value.
What are these for you?
Next week, to better protect the health of our community, all of our employees will be working remotely. Classes will be in session, services will be available through technology, but the building will be officially closed starting this Wednesday.
We are coming to the end of this semester and, by all reports, we are coming to the end of this pandemic. Yet, things are still quite dangerous. Please do everything that you can to remain safe and to protect those around you. We want to get everyone to the other side of this.
May you all have a Happy Holiday and may you find deep appreciation for the blessings that you have.
With much gratitude for this community,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, November 4, 2:30 PM:
Dear William James Community,
I don’t know about you, but I woke up this morning at 2:00 to check on the elections. Even at that early hour, it was fascinating to learn of the enormous volume of ballots cast and to see the national maps with millions of returns almost evenly divided. These results certainly supported the images that we have witnessed these weeks of people standing in long lines to vote. Americans clearly want to say something about their government and they are willing to invest deeply to do so. As I write this, the split still seems to be 50/50 with returns still coming in. If there’s solace to be found here in how close these totals are it’s that, however you elected to cast your vote, you are in very large company.
Although seemingly divided, I believe that this election points to the fact that we have a great deal in common:
Americans share deep concerns about our safety, both domestic and international. These fears have been amplified and manipulated, the protagonists and villains differ, but they are real to all of us;
We worry about the cost of and access to quality health care. Whether it is ACA or BCBS or another acronym, we know that our bodies are vulnerable and we want to be able to get the best treatment for ourselves and for those whom we love when it is needed;
Our jobs and the income associated with them are essential to our well-being. Not just the ‘quality of life’ but the real conditions of life are tied to the economy and to the opportunity to work for a steady, just, wage;
We want to be sure that issues of importance to our families are considered, that our voices are heard and that our contributions are valued. Everyone wants respect, inclusion, fairness and a voice; and
We want a better life for our children and for those whom we love.
We might differ, for the moment, as to the best path to get what we want, but we are all quite united in what we seek.
Our work as behavioral health professionals and leaders, and as those who support the education of these professionals, continues regardless of the outcome of this presidential election. In fact, it has become more important. If we don’t find ways to bridge this apparent divide and help the country to achieve what each citizen wants, we will all lose out. Life is not a zero-sum game.
William James College trains healers, facilitators, consultants, educators and leaders. Our work is meant to advance interventions and resources that improve the lives of our patients, and clients, and colleagues, and the organizations and communities that we serve. That is the charge that is before us today. The sheer number of people who have been demanding to be heard is a resource for those who can identify common ground, reach out respectfully, and make connections. This is how our country can move forward. The country needs our people, and your work, more than ever.
The politics of the moment may be distracting, but don’t lose sight of the mission. Invest in it.
With hope and respect,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, November 2, 5:30 PM:
Dear William James Community,
Cast your Vote then Come Together:
Tomorrow is “Election Day”, although a good deal of the country has been lining up to cast their ballot already. I hope that you have done that as well or that you plan to vote tomorrow. This is a time where emotions are running high for important reasons although, even in non-trying times, people have strong feelings about politics.
I’d like to encourage you to take time to explore your own feelings about this election. Over the past week, faculty and staff have been hosting virtual gatherings for students to connect with each other and to talk about what they are experiencing. We’ve scheduled these discussions in anticipation that we, or those with whom we are working, might come to experience some unusually strong emotions during these weeks. It would be useful to be as self-aware and as centered as possible, to be helpful to those who might need our partnership and our patience.
You are all familiar with the “Rules for Engagement” that foster productive conversations. I’d add, only, that it is helpful to remember that others might not be of your political persuasion, even if you think that they might be. Our commitment to each other is to respect our differences and to remain a caring community. Come Wednesday, a good friend might be mourning the outcome that you celebrate. It would be optimal to show the same respect that you would wish to have if the situation was reversed. We need to see each other as larger than a political viewpoint and to remain in relationship together.
Should you be among those who are disappointed in the election, remember that the world is not static and that you can and will find ways to be the change that you want to see. Don’t be afraid to embrace this community for comfort and courage as you work that through. Our commitment as faculty and staff is to be available to you and to each other over the upcoming week and weeks. Even with the need for physical distance, we have created some spaces for discussion, and we will add to these if needed. Please watch your email for details and please watch out for each other.
Looking to the end of the month, Thanksgiving is approaching. While the need to connect with family and friends is great in this atypical year, I am going to urge you to be mindful of how you choose to connect. As I write this, Governor Baker has just announced that, starting this Friday, an evening curfew from 10pm to 5am will be in place to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. Private gatherings are being limited to ten people indoors and twenty-five outdoors. This news informs us that the virus is rising to dangerous levels again.
This time, we do know that wearing a mask, maintaining safe distance, washing hands and keeping clear of places with extreme incidence can reduce our risk of infection. Massachusetts Department of Public Health has released new guidance for celebrations to limit the risk of exposure and to reduce the spread of the virus; one tip is to limit in-person holiday gatherings to people you live with or to a small group with whom you are regularly in contact.
For the health and safety of our community, I ask you to please be creative about your connections – in fact, if you have a creative way you and your loved ones will be fostering connections, please share – but remember that this is not the year to travel.
A Final Note:
Many people comment on how supportive this community is. While we must keep making deposits into the ‘Mutual Fund’ that is the William James Community, know that there is much to draw from during a time of need. These days the world holds more challenges for the majority than usual; it teaches us how many less fortunate people experience life in ‘normal’ times. We can bear what is presented to us by life, with the help of each other and by acting thoughtfully. Better will soon come.
Take care of each other.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, October 9, 4:30 PM:
Dear William James Community,
Thank you for your presence this morning and for your continued investment in our students and each other. We are doing very, very well here at a very difficult time.
I think, that we can safely move our Friday meetings to an alternate week schedule now. This time, and so many of the other ways that we have connected in the past year, have been, I hope, valuable. Should circumstances present the need for us to return to a weekly meeting, we can certainly do that.
I would like to use some of the Friday time to attend more to the specific needs of our own community. Towards that end, I have asked Dr. Nadja Reilly to present on October 23rd. You know that Dr. Reilly is an expert on child development. She will share some of her thoughts on helping children and families manage their feelings during this time of COVID. If there are other topics that you would like someone on the faculty or staff to address or another expert, please let me know.
Meanwhile, enjoy this long weekend and the nice weather. We will see you Tuesday.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, October 2, 3:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
These days require more generosity of spirit from people who are, for the most part, pretty tapped out. After more than six months of social distancing, miserable baseball, and an overdose of takeout food it is difficult to find creative energy and forget about any enthusiasm for socializing. The anticipated relief of the summer was upset by an abundance of traffic from New Yorkers “working from home” at the Cape and parental outrage that plans for returning children to school only barely materialized, half-baked, in September. We are about to enter the flu season with an anticipated resurgence of COVID infection. Those who hoped that November would offer an opportunity to express deeply felt opinions about the government hear nightly that their vote might not be counted. Dinner reservations, gym workouts, airline travel, professional conferences, ballgames, movies, bowling, business lunches and, even, coffee with a friend are distant memories with no hint of their return.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 53% of Americans reported COVID-related stress, worry, anxiety and depression. This was higher than the 32% reported in March by the same group. A few weeks ago, I shared the report from the CDC that rates of anxiety and depression were 3 and 4 times larger this year than last with 25% of young people reporting recent suicidal ideation and folks of color and frontline workers suffering most. Isolation and loneliness seem to be key factors in an increase of substance use, affective distress and suicidal ideation. So, if you have been feeling burdened, moody, irritable, sleep-deprived or worse, you are in good company – but there are some steps to take.
Psychosocial interventions offer many opportunities to improve mood disturbances that range from the mild to the clinically significant. Depression and its variants (e.g., sadness, dysthymia, despair), for example, are understood by psychologists from several perspectives. Attachment researchers like John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth emphasize the basic drive of human beings to be in relationship with each other. When connections to significant others are strained, broken or lost, human beings feel considerably distressed. The psychoanalyst Dr. Rene Spitz found that infants raised with their mothers in a prison environment developed nearly as confidently and as competently as those raised in traditional environments, where only two of twenty-six infants raised in an orphanage with little adult physical contact could walk or talk at three years, despite having their basic needs for survival met. Human beings are ‘object seeking’ people who need emotional connection with others to survive. When relationships are strained or disconnected by COVID or any source, reducing isolation and increasing compassionate connections in our work and social worlds are key steps to managing the emotional fallout.
Behaviorists Peter Lewinsohn and Neil Jacobson attribute lower levels of pleasant life events to a rise in depressed mood. In what resembles a hydraulic model, they suggest that mood covaries with the ability of individuals to access what they experience as pleasurable. Change in this equation is influenced by a shortage of supply, the rate of reinforcement or a change in the individual’s preferences – and it would not be difficult to create a long list of the rewarding experiences in our lives that have been rendered inaccessible by this pandemic. Improving mood requires self-reflection and some research to identify alternative sources of pleasure and strategies to successfully engage these substitutes.
More than 50 years ago, psychologists Steven Meyer and Martin E.P. Seligman conducted a series of experiments with dogs that they placed in shuttle boxes. As we know, one side of the box delivered a shock to the dog who learned to terminate it by crossing a small barrier to the other side. However, when the dog was prevented from escaping (by a raised barrier or a harness) the animal had to endure the aversive stimulus. After several such exposures, trained dogs just laid down and took the shock… even when the barrier was eliminated. They had learned that nothing that they did could change the outcome. The experimenters called this phenomenon Learned Helplessness. Only when the dogs were repeatedly dragged across the reduced barrier to safety did they learn, again, that they could control their fate.
Not only dogs, but cats, mice, and humans extrapolate from negative learning experiences. When people judge noxious events as permanent, pervasive, or personal they feel hopeless and they can become depressed. On the other hand, those who look at the same experience as temporary, specific and external (due to factors beyond themselves) can maintain their emotional balance. The cognitive equivalent of dragging oneself across the barrier is to challenge one’s appraisal of experience and enter a Socratic analysis of the validity of one’s conclusions: Asking, “What is the evidence that proves that this will last forever? …that this will always be the case? …that this is my fault?” can move one from pessimism to optimisms, or at least more emotional comfort.
These psychological theories, and several others, offer hope and direction that can mitigate the adverse emotional sequelae of this pandemic. But they require work. While not exclusive or independent, examining the quality and availability of important relationships with others; taking an inventory of events and circumstances that provide pleasure; and reviewing and revising one’s appraisal of life events to make appropriate changes might not eliminate the virus, but will improve mood.
A good strategy for our clients and patients… and for ourselves and those whom we love. Find ways to enjoy your weekend!
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, September 10, 1:30 PM:
Dear William James Community,
This Sunday, September 13, we will celebrate the graduates of the class of 2020 via a Virtual Commencement Celebration. Like many things this year, we will come together as a community – but not in the way in which we are traditionally accustomed. Here’s a little more about what to expect.
This year’s celebration is a virtual, video-based event. It is not a live event, although there is a live component. The web-based celebration is intentionally structured to give our graduates the opportunity to enjoy the celebration, and share the event with others, in a timing that works for them.
The site’s core content will include recorded speeches, messages from notable figures, the traditional reading of our graduates’ names, and, of course, an official conferral of degrees. The live component is a chat feature that will let you interact real time with others who are viewing the ceremony at the same time (some of you may wish to tune in at a pre-determined time with friends, colleagues, cohorts, or family members). Messages shared in this space will be visible to others later, so feel free to leave well-wishes for other viewers as well.
You are also invited to share pictures and messages on social media (I’m told the hashtag to use is #WJC2020 and “please tag the College”). Our Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook links are below my signature. The website will go live at 9 AM on Sunday, September 13. The URL is as follows: https://williamjamescollege.live/
Again, all are welcome to tune in at any time that works for them – but, for those who wish to participate in a more interactive experience, Dr. Gemima St. Louis has offered to host a “Watch Party” via Zoom at 9 AM on Sunday. The details for the Zoom connection are also copied below my signature.
Although this is not how we’d traditionally approach this day, I have been moved by the energy, enthusiasm and effort by the committee tasked with putting this together – and all that they’ve done to ensure that our traditions have been upheld and to build a program that will give our grads the closure they deserve in this nontraditional year. We have benefitted from the consultation and assistance of a professional production company, but a great deal of work has been done by several of our staff and faculty. Without the attention to detail of Ms. Denise Feeley and the extraordinary creativity and energy of Ms. Anne Wilson, this project would not have been possible. We, who want very much to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates, are grateful to these talented people and their colleagues for the opportunity to do this well.
Graduates, we very much look forward to sharing this celebration with you. And, to all members of our community, I ask that you take time to drop by the celebration on Sunday (at a timing convenient for you), watch the program and share your messages via the chat and your pictures via social media.
“See” you on Sunday,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, August 27, 5 PM:
Dear William James Community,
Yet another episode of violence against a person of color this week has not only, again, torn at the fabric of our nation, but at the hearts of people who feel these acts of violence deeply and personally.
The shooting of Mr. Jacob Blake is not just another unfortunate event that is witnessed on the news. For many, Mr. Blake is not in Kenosha, but in Boston and in Newton and in Springfield. He is a member of their family; a neighbor on their street. He is a son or brother. His children, who watched this violent act from the car, are their own children. Vicarious Trauma and Secondary Traumatic Stress come from being exposed repeatedly, by news reports or videos on social media, to acts of horror. Feelings of anxiety, depression, panic, exasperation and helplessness can arise from witnessing even one traumatic event, but these are common with repeated exposure. This isn’t a news story, this is real.
This morning I was moved by passionate commentary on television by Princeton University Professor Eddie Glaude, Jr.: “How long will we have to endure this kind of violence against Black men?”, he cried out. Two days ago, LA Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said, through tears: “It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country and this country doesn’t love us back.”
We are the ‘America’ that Doc Rivers is turning to for love. We are bigger than the numbers of those who are misguided or who are improperly trained or who hate. Tragically, we are far from holding the solution to a national problem that undervalues the lives of others, particularly men, women and children of African origin. We don’t have an answer for Dr. Glaude, yet, but we can try to respond with love to the call of Doc Rivers.
The love that is needed in this country must come from deeds of many types. We must all be working on this. In our William James College community, it means reaching out to colleagues and friends to check in and checkup after another tragedy. This act is showing love. It means attending some of the discussions and programs offered by our Council for Inclusive Excellence. It means my asking faculty, with respect to our valued tradition of academic freedom, to continue to find time to integrate research, theory, and affect surrounding systemic racism in the US into our academic work, especially after another tragic event. It means that our College will continue to educate all of us to become better resources for those who experience systemic racism and vicarious trauma.
Where some march, where NBA players refuse to take the court, an institution of higher learning can play an important role. Prochaska, Kotter and others tell us that real change requires consciousness raising and that education is required to drive that change. We, as a College and a community, will be leaders in this space. I will be reaching out, with several of our faculty, to work with leadership at other colleges and universities in Massachusetts to raise awareness and to identify better models and responses to the imbalance that currently exists with regard to policing people whom we love.
It is distressing to know that this will, likely, not be the last note that I write like this, but we can hope to impact change and we will work to create a better tomorrow.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, August 24, 10:30 AM:
Dear William James Community,
Welcome Back! We may all be wearing masks, but the excitement that was visible on faces last week as Orientation engaged us was uplifting.
We’ve become accustomed over the past few months to seeing numbers from the CDC relating to physical health. As we now begin the fall term, the recent release of CDC statistics on mental health needs relating to the pandemic; the critical requirement for businesses to reorganize and to rebuild; the urgency that we feel to address the economic, educational, mental health and safety issues for BIPOC folks; and the pedagogic, social and morale challenges that our K-12 educators and children face this fall all require our collective investment in the work of William James College. This educational journey is a powerful one – and, as we undertake it, it’s one that will change more lives than just your own. We’re glad to be back in our various forms, remote and in-person, and we look forward to the work ahead.
As our campus ‘repopulates’ you can see the results of several months of health and safety work by our staff. Our building is continuously cleaned with the additional help of a service company. The air handlers have been upgraded, plexiglass is installed, walking routes have been established, and we have protocols in place for social distancing. Our staff is present in shifts to keep services available and density down and gatherings will be similarly limited. From March, this community has made a strong effort to keep each other safe and healthy as we continue with our work. Thank you all for this.
Although the number of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts has been very low for some time, and many precautions are in place, the odds are that this campus, as all others, will experience an incident. I know this is something that has been on the minds of some of our community members. Rest assured that we do have a system in place for notification and contract tracing. Should an incident happen with someone who has been on campus (student, staff, contractor, visitor), we will notify those who were in close contact with that person and, then, pass the information along to the Newton Board of Health for further contact tracing. Confidentially is required, so those who are notified will NOT be told the person’s name but only that such an event has occurred in their proximity. The Facilities team will initiate an enhanced cleaning protocol to immediately address the areas through which the person traveled. Our registration system will indicate who was in the building that day, including students and visitors. Given concerns about this issue, I will notify staff in a memo and report any episode to our community in my weekly note.
Our internal COVID Task Force meets regularly and its members will continue to interface with external groups including the Board of Health, AICUM, and other state-level task forces. We are constantly assessing and responding to changes with the best courses of action to serve our community (and, also, the people the members of our community serve). Please do review the COVID-19 information pages regularly for updates, FAQs and policy information.
For the next several months this will be our ‘new normal.’ As we work together, following the well-publicized protocols will help us to stay well and to keep each other well. We look forward to welcoming you back to campus on the occasions that bring you here – work, study, or community connection.
Enjoy your week, whether plugged in or in person…and Welcome Back!
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, August 14, 4:30 PM:
Dear William James Community,
Next week we will officially welcome the newest members of our community, some to campus and some remotely, via a robust Orientation program. I want to express my appreciation to all who have participated in the development of this complex effort, and the work they’ve done to ensure that our new community members are informed and supported as they begin their academic journey with us.
Addressing these new members directly, welcome! You will soon learn what a remarkably close-knit community we are, even at a distance. I look forward to meeting you – and I am already grateful to you for answering the call to advance your career in our profession. You are embarking on this next chapter of your education at a time when the skills you will acquire here, and the knowledge you’ll gain, are needed more than ever. Communities, families, individuals and organizations are struggling mightily right now to regain their footing amidst current events and to find a healthy, stable path forward. Today’s publication by the CDC, for example, reveals a three-fold increase in the prevalence of anxiety in the country, a four-fold increase in depression and a significant rise in rates of traumatic stress, suicidal ideation and substance use disorder related to the presence of this pandemic. The isolation experienced by our young people and those most vulnerable is compelling, but the emotional sequelae of this disease is impacting most of us. The CDC describes the need to attend to the country's mental health as 'urgent.' Your work -- beginning immediately in your field sites -- will make an enormous difference.
As we welcome our newest students, we are also actively thinking about our newest alumni: the graduating class of 2020. I communicated last week with these folks to let them know that our plans for an in-person Commencement celebration in September, unfortunately, will not be possible with the Governor's restrictions. We are, instead, creating a virtual commencement experience to celebrate their accomplishment, which will launch on the day initially slated for our Ceremony. More details will follow, but please mark your calendars for September 13 as the day we will honor these graduates.
To all, as always, I ask you to please keep an eye on our COVID-19 information web pages. Today, please take a few minutes to read through the information on the newest page, Travel Policy & Return to Campus Guidelines. If you have questions or need assistance with a COVID-19 policy, Faculty and Staff should speak to Ms. Ellen Collins in the Human Resources Office, and students should connect with Mr. Daniel Kason in the Dean of Students Office.
The last two weeks, with staff back on campus and other members of our community paying visits to the building to use shared spaces, have gone extremely well. It has been heartening to hear the stories of collaboration that are coming out of our (socially distanced) connections. Thank you for paying close attention to the health and safety protocols that are in place, as they exist for all of our benefit. We continue to pay close attention to the external environment as well, including the Governor’s guidelines, and will continue to make decisions in the best interest of our people.
Thank you, all, for your work, for your service to others, and to the College. I am very much looking forward to the Fall semester, and our work together in the coming months.
Enjoy the remaining days of summer and WELCOME.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, August 3, 8:00 AM:
Thank you for your commitment and your courage in returning to campus.
The clean and safe space that you discover as you arrive at 1 Wells comes from the care that our facilities, operations and IT folks have for each of us. You know the people whom I am calling out: they are not just 'doing their job', but they are making sure that our members and their families are as comfortable and protected as they can be.
You are built the same way.
As we get settled in, please remember to wear a mask when you are walking about the facility and to keep 6 feet of space apart. We will designate a few spaces for smaller in-person meetings, but for this week let's rely upon Teams and Zoom to conduct formal interactions until we all get comfortable with being back.
We have work to do, but we are getting ourselves back before we welcome back our students so that we are ready to support them as best we can.
My thanks for your service and welcome back.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, July 31, 9:00 AM:
Dear William James Community,
Monday marks an important date for the College, as staff begin a gradual return to campus. Beginning Monday, August 3, the building will be open Monday through Thursday from 8 AM to 4 PM, with staff working two days in the building and two days remotely on an alternating schedule. All staff will work remotely on Fridays and the building will be closed. Staff members, please confirm with your supervisor which two days you will be in the building.
For the near future, our new normal will be learning how to accomplish our work in an environment that contains an unpredictable and serious pandemic. Our Commonwealth is more fortunate than most states in terms of virus prevalence and it seems likely that business can be conducted with preparation and proper behavior and the College is taking those steps to protect the health and safety of our members. Reduced onsite staffing and restricted community assemblies will limit building density. Classes, as announced previously, will be online this fall for the same reason. And, faculty and staff are preparing academic, professional, cultural and social opportunities to be held on campus, with appropriate precautions in place, as conditions allow.
As our staff begins to return on Monday, students and faculty may begin to use the building during operating hours. While in the building, please pay attention to all protocols, policies, and procedures that are in place now and for the foreseeable future: wear a mask; enter through the front door only; scan your WJC ID badge at one of the computer terminals to complete a health questionnaire; maintain social distancing; and follow all posted health and safety signage. This video shows some of the many investments that our Facilities, Operations and IT staff have made to our building.
Our Monday through Thursday, 8 AM to 4 PM, building operation schedule will remain in effect through Orientation week, at which point some evening building hours will be added to offer students additional access to study spaces and services like the library. These evening hours will be announced later.
The health and safety of our community is paramount. We continue to keep a watchful eye on external events and trends, along with the needs and practices of our community. Barring any major health changes, these staff and building schedules will remain in place until mid-October, at which point we will reassess and send an update.
My thanks and gratitude to the members of our Facilities team, Administrative Staff, IT department, and other essential personnel who have been working from the building in recent weeks, and some throughout the pandemic. Not only have these colleagues worked to prepare the spaces, but they’ve been practicing our new protocols and commenting on procedures to ensure readiness for the rest of our community.
I remind you to please keep visiting the College’s COVID19 Information Pages for FAQs and regular community updates. I very much look forward to sharing the building with you next week and to the opportunities, both virtual and in person, that we will create in this next phase of our operations. Thank you for your patience and for your understanding.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, July 15, 3:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
It is about mid-way through the summer and the College is busily preparing for the upcoming year. I would like to express my great gratitude to the many members of our staff and faculty who have been working hard with considerable effort and creativity to maintain all that our learning community requires.
These are days that have demanded a lot of our people; faculty and staff have had to anticipate the impact of the pandemic, enhance skills at remote education and work, invent new opportunities for experiential education, discover new ways to become accessible to each other, supplement systems and protocols to safeguard the health of our members, create new opportunities for familiar rituals like graduation and orientation, and identify programs to assist our students and our community colleagues. This small college has evidenced great creativity, patience and resilience – but I am most grateful for the generosity of spirit that so many of our community have brought.
In late August, we will welcome the newest members of our community. A blended program of Orientation will introduce them to our people and programs. Staff from Admissions, Marketing, Communications, Registration, Financial Aid, Student Affairs, Academic Administration, Field Education, Facilities and others have worked closely with Faculty to recruit, review and respond to hundreds of applicants over the past months and guide these individuals as they embark on their professional journey. As this pandemic continues to create loss, disruption and frustration across the world, the skills of this next generation of leaders and clinicians will be even more necessary.
The country’s woefully inadequate behavioral health workforce is an enormous limitation to our healthcare system, and it has serious economic, educational, medical and social consequences. The U.S. does not have enough providers to meet an ever-growing need and, beyond lacking numbers, the system lacks providers with culturally responsive training. William James College is uniquely positioned to impact this, which is why Workforce Development remains a key priority. This week, HRSA extended the recent grant in support of Clinical and Counseling students with lived experience and a commitment to working in underserved communities following graduation. A total of $6 million will, now, support twenty scholarships in each department for the next 5 years.
Next week, the Behavioral Health Service Corps℠ begins. The first cohort comprises a larger than anticipated group of eager young professionals who will spend a year becoming familiar with community mental health and applied psychology. Our hope is that the passion that brought these scholars to apply for this unique service-learning opportunity will be transformed from calling to career, and that, over time, these emerging professionals, along with those in future cohorts, will expand the behavioral health workforce both in number and in culturally responsive practice.
We’re working hard to ensure that an education in behavioral health more accessible in other ways, too. With leadership from the Counseling and Behavioral Health and Online Education departments a new Online MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling will begin to train working professionals this fall.
And, a less visible effort I’d like to share with you, comes in the form of a month-long, pro-bono, consultation on the College’s investment in Workforce Development from the international business experts at L.E.K.; their comprehensive evaluation will aid us in planning our forward progress in this area. You will learn more about this in the coming months. On a more visible level, I want to thank Mr. Kevin Costello and his crew for the extraordinary work that they have done to make our space safe.
Another move forward is the formalization of a leadership position to support the entrepreneurial efforts of many individuals across many years that have led to programs such as the Lucero Latino Mental Health Program, MVP, the Black Mental Health Academy, Asian Mental Health, CMGMH, and the Behavioral Health Service Corps℠. The appointment of Dr. Gemima St. Louis as VP for Workforce Initiatives and Specialty Training will facilitate continued growth in this year and provide greater support for the students who seek the unique training that a William James College education offers. In addition, Dr. St. Louis will help the College to continue to evolve its network of community partners.
In keeping with the national period of reflection on race that followed the death of Mr. George Floyd, and as the country grapples with its history of systemic racism, the College continues to reflect – but we know that reflection without action won’t yield systemic change. As such, we have put several efforts in motion that are intended to have long term impacts for WJC and our educational model. Here are some examples:
- With direction from Dr. Yashu Kauffman, head of the Office of Academic Data, Development & Institutional Effectiveness (ADDIE), four teams of faculty and staff are reviewing the College’s policies, procedures and history of Faculty Recruitment, Staff Hiring, Admissions and Financial Aid to examine any evidence of systemic bias and to make recommendations for change;
- A search is underway to identify two new faculty hires to support, especially, our growing BIPOC student body;
- Our specialists at Teachers21 with support from WJC Faculty are revising a degree program to educate School Principals to lead in underserved school districts, and they are working to attract another expert to join them in this work;
- Dr. Jay Toomey and members of a Diversity Implementation and Evaluation team are working collaboratively with faculty to identify aspects of their course timing, assignments, and examples that implicitly convey racist messages or ideas;
- Dr. Toomey and several Faculty colleagues have been conducting a review to identify opportunities to add anti-racist research and literature to the curriculum.
- Director of DEI, Ms. Noronha and VPAA Lambert have included expectations for competence with DEI in both the Faculty Contract and Evaluation.
- And, Ms. Noronha, along with the Dean of Students and CMGMH experts have presented several rich programs this summer, with more training and opportunities for discussion upcoming.
As I have written several times before, these are unprecedented times – but they are times that have nudged us in new directions. We will continue to grow and learn together as we move into the second half of the summer and on to our fall semester. This is a learning community with creative and generous trustees, students, faculty and staff who are making a difference at this College and in society.
Thank you, all, for your dedication and for your partnership.
With gratitude and hope,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, July 7, 4:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
For the past several weeks, we have been entertaining a number of options for how to conduct the fall semester and to repopulate our campus. In this planning process, we have been considering the needs of our community, listening to the recommendations of Governor Baker, and keeping a watchful eye on health trends across the nation. Although Massachusetts is showing very strong signs of recovery, the health data from other states and the plans for opening K-12 schools are not as reassuring.
To ensure that gains seen and felt here in the Commonwealth can continue, it seems prudent to stay the course with current health practices. This includes keeping building density low. It, also, seems respectful to make a public announcement, now, so that people can have time to plan. As such, I am asking the Academic Leadership and College Faculty to continue to deliver instructional classes online throughout the fall semester.
There will be more details to follow, but to provide a brief overview: we will employ a hybrid (online/in-person) format for the Orientation of incoming students, then move to remote academic instruction for all students for the fall semester. Field education/experiential learning remains scheduled to occur in person, unless otherwise noted by individual sites. In addition, we will create academic, professional, cultural and social opportunities to gather on campus, with appropriate precautions as conditions support. Our efforts to optimize the educational and social experience in our online space remain a priority, as well. More to come on these plans.
For staff, a return date was previously announced as July 20. With this change we will, instead, begin a phased return to the building on Monday, August 3, with staff returning to campus Monday through Thursday for two days each week, through August. Staff should arrange a schedules with their supervisors to be present for two days per week on campus with Friday continuing as a remote workday for all.
I am most appreciative of the talents and the investment that many people have been making in the important work of this College. There are few playbooks to guide us and I am grateful for your patience and for your professionalism.
Please continue to pay visits to the COVID19 information pages on our website for new information.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, July 2, 3:30 PM:
Dear William James Community,
This weekend is Independence Day, the 4th of July, a day that marks the signing of the Declaration of Independence. If these past months have taught us anything, it is not how independent we are as a country and a world, but how interdependent we are. Our health, our economy, our educational system, our safety, and even our freedom are all dependent upon the relationships that we have with each other.
Social, political, educational and psychology leaders like Gandhi, Goffman, FD Roosevelt and William James write eloquently of the essential connectedness of human beings. Even with the help of sophisticated technology, the traditional 1812 Overture is better when the musicians are present to each other and we are to them. Our understanding of ourselves is shaped by our interactions with others, manufacturers need supply chains, businesses need customers, customers need businesses, and educators need students. The spiritual educator Thích Nhất Hạnh so emphasizes the interdependence of all life that he calls our perception of independence an ‘illusion.’
In his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, Rev. Dr. ML King wrote: “I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Whether it is justice, commerce, peace, health, hunger, music or education, we depend upon each other.
This morning, Governor Baker announced that the Commonwealth will begin Phase 3 of its reopening on Monday, July 6. William James College staff will begin to returning to campus in shifts beginning on July 20th. Additional plans, which will include information for Faculty and Students about our fall instruction, will be shared next week. Our facilities team has been preparing diligently to ensure that appropriate health and safety measures are in place. Concurrently, our academic and administrative leadership have been actively discussing ways to manage density in the building while delivering the highest quality education possible. These folks are acting on behalf of all of us, they are making plans for our safety and creating the opportunity for people to realize their professional aspirations because we are “one.”
As we return to our building and embark on our new normal, this understanding of our interdependence should lead us to keep each other safe by wearing masks, keeping a safe distance, washing hands and staying home when we are ill. It should invite our patience with each other and our generosity of spirit. We are recreating our community to achieve the professional aims of each member, and all of our members. Success with this aspiration demands that we deeply value the importance of each other and act in ways that benefit them. We depend upon each other.
My thanks to the many who have been generously focused on improving the lives of others and protecting our health and well-being. We benefit from our relationship with you. Take some time to relax on this holiday, we have all been through a great deal.
Happy Interdependence Day.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, June 20, 11:00 AM:
Dear William James Community,
Juneteenth has received unprecedented public attention this year, yet, the holiday, which has been celebrated by African American Families since the late 1800s, remains relatively unknown throughout the country. It is not just the date, or holiday itself, that deserve more attention, but the history that surrounds it.
During the College’s Juneteenth gathering on Friday, Trustee and WJC Doctor of Humane Letters, Shani Dowd presented a powerful narrative, weaving the history around the irresolute end of slavery in the U.S. with present conversations. If you missed the gathering, I’d like to ask you take twenty minutes of your time next week to watch the recording of her talk on our website. Conversations like this are an important part of our educational mission. As several who spoke at the end of the meeting mentioned, there are histories to be shared that are not in school texts and narratives that need to be rewritten. Advancing the conversation is a step that we can take. Thank you to Ms. Marice Nichols, Ms. Sonji Paige, Dean Josh Cooper, Ms. Joan Axelrod, Dr. Elana Wolkoff, and Ms. Gloria Noronha for creating this opportunity for us to be together.
In national events, we celebrate two landmark Supreme Court rulings this week: the first confirming that federal anti-bias law covers millions of gay, lesbian and transgender workers; the second halting plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields people brought to the United States as children from deportation. Both decisions provide overdue protections to communities who have long awaited this news. The DACA decision, while providing some immediate relief, will require continued advocacy to prevent it from being challenged in another way in the near future.
Many in this community continue to find ways to participate in the ongoing dialogue about systemic racism. The College is, also, discussing steps that it can take to move things forward that I will share with you in upcoming weeks. However, among the steps that are being taken is the start of the Behavioral Health Service Corps℠ this July. This program is a “Peace Corps” type year of employment/service/study and mentoring that is designed to introduce young people, especially those with lived experience in underserved communities, to the people and the work of behavioral health. Mr. Marc Abelard, Ms. Julia Rodenhiser, Ms. Melissa Koen, Ms. Katie O’Hare and Drs. Nilda Laboy and Jenny D’Olympia have recruited a very strong group of scholars for the year and they are currently placing them in agency positions. Our hope is that this pilot year will be an education for all of us about how to build the needed pipeline for professionals to a career in behavioral health.
I remind you, too, to continue to pay attention to CDC guidelines for protective measures like masks and handwashing. COVID19 case trends in the Commonwealth continue to move in the right direction with the three-day average of the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 down 55 percent. The Governor has announced the second half of Phase II reopening will begin on Monday with restaurants open for indoor seating, camps are starting up and the size of gatherings increasing. Mr. Kevin Costello and his Facilities crew have been outfitting the building with plexiglass panels, a keyless entry system, serviced air handlers, signage, and amplified plans and resources for cleaning. However, we know that attention to the personal health decisions that we make will be the key to keeping our community healthy. The College continues to watch external events as we work toward announcements about of our fall plans. More information to come soon on these, as well.
One of our Trustees shared with me this week how this time seems, to her, to be one of significant challenge. We have great uncertainty about how K-12 education can work remotely, about how to restructure policing and we are led by a polarized and seemingly incapable government. There is a virus that continues to adversely impact our health and unrest involving race, healthcare, politics and the economy that will be intensified in the fall. It is not hyperbolic to say that our work as leaders and behavioral health specialists is greatly needed. Let us continue to think together about how we can contribute.
Enjoy your weekend and Happy Father’s Day. If you’ve still got one of those guys around, tell him that you love him. If you don’t, think of how you will honor his gifts to you by paying it forward.
With respect and hope,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, June 16, 2:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
For our community, last week was a very busy one in our virtual space with many well-attended events, serious reflection and feelingful discussion. Thank you to Dr. Laboy and the Counseling Faculty, DEI Director Noronha and the Council for Inclusive Excellence, and faculty members for creating opportunities for our community to connect. In addition, my thanks to the Scholars of the Black Mental Health Graduate Academy, and Dr. Natalie Cort, for the powerful Black Lives Matter statement shared this week with our community and beyond.
This is an important time for the nation to examine what we are about, what we desire and what we need with regards to relationships and race in this country. The willful asphyxiation of a helpless man by someone with an oath to protect and to serve has rightly outraged the county, reopened the wounds of centuries of injustice, and retraumatized a number of the members of our own community. People are in pain. We are exhausted and angry; we grieve, and we feel guilt; and we are committed to doing more than just talking.
William James College is actively working to identify ways that we can improve our learning community. Our investments have yielded fruit, even just this week, but we will note these later. This is a time for greater investment. There is more to be done to expand access to behavioral healthcare for all people. There is much more support to offer school systems that wish to create more culturally responsive classrooms. There is more to do in training leaders, clinicians and consultants with lived experience to meet the needs of our diverse country. And, there is more to do in examining our own community. I am grateful to the faculty and students who have made room for supportive discussions and to those who have found opportunities to tie these current events to our curricula.
Juneteenth, this Friday June 19, is a day of reflection that came not from the federal government but from the people whose families were born in slavery and who celebrate its end. A College-wide gathering is planned for Friday at NOON to recognize this history and all are invited to attend. I would like, also, to encourage everyone to have a meeting-free day this Friday. Instead, take the time to consider how we can address some of the vestiges of slavery that show up in systemic, subtle, obvious, and implicit ways.
Finally, to provide respite for students feeling the weight of academic pressures on top of already heavy burdens, Dr. Lambert and the faculty have created some flexibility around academic deadlines this Summer semester to allow degrees of freedom for those who need it (please read Dr. Lambert’s Friday email).
Let us work, now, to create a ‘new normal’ from this pandemic as well.
With respect and hope,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, June 8, 3:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
As we begin another week together, I want to start with an update about the ongoing pandemic. Governor Baker has announced the move to Phase 2 in the process of opening the Commonwealth. Since the beginning of May, the seven-day average for the number of positive tests is down 82 percent and the three-day average of the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 declined 55 percent. The Governor reported ‘things were going in the right direction,’ with enough strength to relax some of the guidelines. Starting today, retail shopping, outdoor dining, routine health and dental visits are back with some restrictions. Youth sports, day care and camps are, also, opening with some restrictions and specific guidelines. Your tattoo will still have to wait, but there may be some Little League baseball in your future.
Although an essential business, William James College moved to a remote work model in March for most people. The business of the College has gone well-enough to allow us to remain this way for the next month or so. We will continue to monitor health conditions, childcare and other resources, as well as to follow the progress of peer organizations as they enter this phase. There are, also, phases within Phase 2 that demonstrate the wisdom of moving slowly. Things are trending positively, but decision-making still requires caution, good judgment and safe practice.
Sunday morning allowed us time to celebrate eight special men and women who completed our Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Human Services. This cohort spoke of their remarkable journeys and they allowed us to witness their compassion for others, their persistence, their struggles and their supports. Many virtual applauses and a few tributes were offered, along with a few tears. Each graduate credited their cohort and the WJC leadership that taught, supported and inspired them to ‘get it done.’ All of these folks have had a long journey; most have children and we even heard about some grandchildren. Most have been working in mental healthcare for many years and some intend to move from WJC to pursue a graduate degree. These graduates all have close familiarity with the needs and the experience of underserved people, and they intend to bring their new skills and new degrees to help to increase access to care for all persons.
Each of our graduates deserves accolades for completing their degrees while being workers, parents and caretakers. Credit, also, goes to the group that has 6 of 8 people graduating with honors and one person finishing with Summa Cum Laude! Imagine what shoes the following classes must fill. Thanks go to Mr. Marc Abelard (Director), Dr. Nilda Laboy (Chair), Ms. Julia Costa Rodenhiser, Ms. Joan Axelrod, Dr. Antoine Salvador, and Dr. Stan Berman for their creativity and commitment in building this program and supporting this first cohort through to graduation.
This morning, Dr. Nilda Laboy and Ms. Melissa Koen received word from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program will receive $650,000 each year for the next five to cover twenty student scholarships for a total of $3.2 million. AND Drs. Gemima St. Louis and Natalie Cort received the same word that HRSA will provide $650,000 for scholarship support to the Clinical Psychology program with the possibility of this award will be extended as well.
These funds come from the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students program at HRSA. They will add to existing WJC scholarships and grant awards designed to attract and support people who historically have not been attracted to careers in behavioral health and/or unable to afford graduate education. These awards continue to expand the College’s efforts to increase access to behavioral health by expanding the number of professionals with lived experience in communities of need and who have the desire to become educated to serve them as behavioral health professionals. We are very grateful to our faculty colleagues for their investment in this important work. Unlike many grants, these come with no funds to support faculty for the significant effort that goes into completing the application or to support the work that they and their colleagues will offer to implement them. This is genuine commitment.
These past several weeks have exposed, again, the systemic racism and inequities in our country. They, also, have stimulated an overdue discussion about police violence and abuse. Some of our community members have been awakened by these events and others cannot find relief to sleep. The country and our educational, legal, healthcare and political system need to think and think again about the inequities and injustices that exist and are a daily reality for so many. Several members of the Black Mental Health Graduate Academy have put some of their thoughts together. I ask that you please read this call to action.
William James College committed to education in leadership and behavioral health and, especially, to support people who have not previously been drawn to careers in applied psychology. The College is acting to advance the careers of those who will serve those who live in underserved communities. Social justice is at the core of our mission and it motivates us to undertake this work. However, as with all organizations, this College community is not free from the need for scrutiny, self-examination and repair. Unfortunately, prejudice lives here too. Our aspirations do not absolve us from implicit bias nor even from explicit offense. Where we differ from some organizations is in our commitment to engage each other in discussion, address our errors, and work together to make things better. The change that we want to see happen requires that commitment to creating a respectful and honest discourse as well as to continued action.
This week Ms. Gloria Noronha, Dr. Gemima St. Louis and her colleagues and Dr. Nilda Laboy and the Clinical Mental Health Counseling faculty are planning several opportunities for such reflection, instruction and discussion. At the suggestion of one of our Trustees (Mr. Garrett Parker) WJC will offer a Day of Compassion to an employee who wishes to take time for service or to have time for reflection in honor of the many who have been victims of violence and racial discrimination. May we use these opportunities well and may this work of dialogue and self-examination continue to strengthen our learning community.
With respect and hope,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, June 2, 1:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
I expect, like me, that many of you are watching and reading about the expressions of concern around the country that have been occasioned by the death of Mr. George Floyd. I know that there are many troubling stimuli to process.
Our field borrows the ‘signal/noise’ dichotomy from engineering to emphasize that important information can become distorted or dampened by interference from other input. As we experience and process the emotions that are being shared, the words that are being said and the behaviors shown in our country, we want to pay close attention to the signal and not the noise.
The signal says that our country must rebalance systemic inequalities that have, too long, been part of the lived experience of people of color. The signal says that too many mothers and fathers have sent their young people out to play and to work with the fear that they would become hurt or killed. The signal says that all of us need to fix inequities in healthcare, education, economics and social engagement that become statistics rather than reflect real people. For William James College, the signal says, in particular, that we need to continue to work within our learning community to be sensitive and supportive of its growing diversity and to increase the number of professionals of color who can improve access to care and to lead our profession.
We are a community of healers. Some of us will be moved to act by becoming part of a demonstration, be safe as you do this. For most, this is a time that you have devoted to learning. Let us do this well. Learning involves being open to new information and committed to conversation and understanding what is signal and what is noise. Learning is an action that prepares us for the future.
Over the next several days, you will be hearing from organizers in our community who are being proactive to create the spaces needed to begin these conversations. Dr. St. Louis and her faculty colleagues, Ms. Gloria Noronha our Director of DEI, and others will be sending messages to invite you into these spaces. Please join these discussions so that we can learn and so that the future can be better.
With respect and hope,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, May 29
One Hundred Thousand and One Deaths
On Wednesday, our country passed a grim milestone in this pandemic, marking the passing of more than 100,000 citizens. It is right to take a minute to reflect about this. This number represents mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, partners and friends to hundreds of thousands more. We, also, reflect on the loss of Mr. George Floyd who died in Minneapolis while under arrest for allegedly passing a bogus $20 bill. His death has, also, impacted hundreds of thousands of people.
These deaths tell a powerful story of loss and love and they tell a powerful a powerful story of disparity. Disproportionately represented among the 100,000 lost to COVID19 are older people, African Americans, Native Americans, and the poor. Most of the younger people who fell victim to COVID-19 are those who could not escape densely populated areas to socially distance and/or who had a long history of poor nutrition and inadequate medical care. There are disparities in our own field, we know, where only 4% of mental health professionals identify as interested in working with older people and the plurality of our professionals are non-Latino Caucasian.
Many of us are living with great anxiety about contracting this disease, but the data say that the odds of dying from COVID-19 very much in our favor. The death of Mr. Floyd, however, reminds us that the odds of dying are very much not in the favor of Black and Brown men.
The other evening, reporter Joy Reid noted how comfortably the police in Michigan seemed to tolerate the frightening image of white men with automatic weapons standing outside Governor Whitmer’s office in protest of her guidelines on social distancing. Ms. Reid further observed that unarmed protestors in Minneapolis, many of them Black and Brown, were met immediately by police in riot gear and with teargas, as they marched for justice for Mr. Floyd.
Sometimes our discussions of inequity and race seem distant or historical. Sometimes they feel too familiar, like we have covered this material before. These 100,001 deaths underscore the need to reflect again. The way forward, out of respect to these 100,001 lost men and women, requires actions to be taken. These steps are complex and challenging. William James College is a community of gifted and compassionate people; I know that we will find effective ways to honor the memory of these who have been lost and help to bring change for those who remain and who will come.
With respect and hope,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, May 22, 3:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
I have a few updates to share today, but I want to start with a note to our graduates.
We are concluding this academic year in a fashion that none of us could have predicted even a few months ago and, unfortunately, that has altered our normal traditions. Graduation conjures up images of caps and gowns, of ceremony, and of walking across a stage to mark a great accomplishment. Each of you deserves to have that moment and I am sorry that you won’t have it this month.
When we asked our community, earlier this spring, how to approach the spring graduation celebrations, most felt that the College-wide celebration should be reserved for a time when we might gather in person. The site and the honorary degree recipients have been rescheduled for September with hope that conditions will be favorable for a fall event. Academic departments have scheduled virtual recognitions, and I hope that many of you will be celebrating with your families. As you gather for these, know that we are all incredibly proud of you and your efforts over the course of your study, especially through these recent, unexpected circumstances. In whatever ways you are celebrating, with your cohort, with your family, I invite you to please share pictures with us on social media or with me or your professors and department chairs by email. We’d like to be present, even if virtually.
There are, always, important stories to tell at the end of an academic year. At the risk of omitting some, let me note that the first class in our BS in Psychology and Human Services program is graduating this year. Most of these eight students had been out of school for some time, prior to enrolling at William James. All of them have complex lives. Many of them thought that they would never complete their degrees. Six of these eight are graduating with honors and one is a Summa Cum Laude graduate! These men and women and the faculty and staff who partnered with them deserve credit for persevering and achieving. Nice job.
Some accomplishments are obvious, and some are subtle, but remember that graduation is more than a ceremony. Completing your degree and receiving your diploma marks the end of a considerable period of growth and the beginning of the next phase of your life. Each of you is well-trained to bring relief and support to organizations and individuals who need your talents. We speak about the limited access to psychological services at all levels, your arrival on the scene changes that a bit.
We plan to gather to celebrate your accomplishments with a formal Commencement ceremony in September, but we want you to have your diplomas in hand now. We will be mailing them to you in June. I very much wish that I could hand it to you directly and shake your hand. I look forward to that moment when you and I can meet on the stage in September.
For our students, faculty and staff who are now moving into Summer session, we will remain connected as a community but separate from each other for another few months. As I wrote earlier this week, faculty and staff will continue to work online while we continue to assess the external situation and the impact of the Governor’s reopening plans. We will follow this workplan until, at least, the July 4th holiday. As we have a better understanding of the virus’ local impact, we will begin to announce more details about the plan to repopulate the building. For this moment, we are erring on the side of caution and grateful that we have success enough to be flexible.
Fall classes are scheduled to begin in person, although health conditions may dictate that they begin online. We are busily preparing for both.
There are new bulletin boards available via One LogIn for posting and obtaining information on housing and part-time work.
The WJC Resource Hub events calendar has new offerings, including groups for Frontline Healthcare Workers (offered in Spanish and English). And, please click on the link at the end of the next sentence for a special message created by musical members of our community.
Please continue to connect with each other, not just to engage academically or professionally, but as you need support or friendship – there are times in our lives when we all need somebody to lean on.
Continued thanks for your patience and resilience. Congratulations to our graduates.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, May 18, 8:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
Governor Baker’s press conference today addressed plans for the start of a phased reopening of businesses and government services around the Commonwealth. A key component of his message, as expected, was to encourage those who can to continue to support remote work.
The curve is flattening, but the impact and the influence of this virus continues. Essential workers, be they in our supermarkets, healthcare agencies, city services or those making deliveries, can be supported best by others who continue to follow many of the guidelines that are already in place.
The College has remained open and is operating virtually throughout this crisis. We have the technical capability, the talent, and the good fortune to be able to continue working this way. We will move ahead for the next several weeks with faculty, staff, and students working remotely and continue to assess our needs as we make plans to return to 1 Wells Ave. Summer courses, as announced, will be completed online.
We are a hardworking and dedicated group. These are far from optimal times, but I am especially grateful to each of you now for your commitment to learning, to service and to each other. As we continue to move forward together, apart, you have my thanks for your hard work and for your patience.
Should you have any questions, please send them via the form on the COVID19 FAQ page on the website.
With respect and hope,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, May 9, 10:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
It snowed this morning and it is early May. Unemployment rose to 14.7% last week and the Dow Jones Average gained 400 points. Northeastern University announced that it is planning to re-open residence halls in the fall, two days after Governor Baker issued an order for everyone to wear masks outdoors. WPI President Leshin asked several Massachusetts presidents to help her to draft a report to the Governor about opening Higher Education. These discussions are happening while Mayor Walsh notes that the desirable number of positive results of viral testing is 10% but the rate, today, is near 30%.
If it feels hard to find your bearings these days, it is not hard to figure out why.
We expect to learn more about the Governor’s plan near May 18th. Although his ideas are likely to influence ours, we are working to develop a process of several phases that can put us in the best position to reopen our College while we protect the health and safety of our community.
Unlike residence-based universities, we have the opportunity to deliver coursework and many services with the assistance of technology. The College is investing in more personnel, resources and training to continue to develop this medium. This week, Mr. Lance Lewis joined the College as Director of Online and Professional Education. Lance’s ten years of leadership in online learning at Northeastern and his skills in instructional design adds to the talents of Ms. Carolyn Foley in that department and Dr. Jason Osher who directs the Center for Faculty Development. We have retained the services of one of the architects of the SNHU online program and we are working with faculty to increase the connectivity programs that Drs. St. Louis, Court and the Deans of Students have been offering. While our preference is to be physically present to each other, these resources allow our faculty to bring their best to the classroom, even though virtual. They, also, provide flexibility in continuing to educate in the safest possible environment.
Summer classes will be online, that won’t change; but fall is yet to be determined. It is important that those students who are not enrolled in exclusively online programs be in the area by fall, so that you’re ready to join classmates and professors when it is right. For those who need help with finding housing, we have resources available to assist you. Please contact the Dean of Students Office to learn more.
In the meantime, ‘While you are out.’ the Facilities crew and an outside contractor have been working with masks and at safe distance to clean the furniture, make some repairs and repaint the classrooms. Admissions is working diligently and our numbers for fall are ahead of last year.
We’re seeking ways to bring our community together during this time apart in a way that invites connectivity and idea sharing. There will be announcements of new programs forthcoming, and I’d welcome your ideas on the topic.
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Give a call and a virtual hug to the MOTHERS whom you know. In this time with the world so preoccupied with illness and death, let’s celebrate the gift of life that they have offered.
Stay strong, involved and connected,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, May 3, 8:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
My family and I took the day off this morning and travelled up to the North Shore. It was quite an unusual experience with very warm weather and crashing surf, but a thin group of walkers, lots of parking, and closed shops. On any other warm day in early May, there would have been a rush of activity. People passed us, many taking deliberate steps to avoid even making eye-contact and a few offered a warm greeting through their protective masks. My son wondered later: “Is this virus going to make us afraid of each other, or better connected?”
We are about to begin another week and we have welcomed a new month. We’re each marking the passage of time in new ways these days, still without a clear idea of the end of this pandemic.
The research and writing of John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth and others highlight the primal need that human beings have to engage with each other. Psychological attachments help us to feel safe, to take risks, to discover our strengths and, most importantly, to develop our sense of ‘self.’ Humans become attuned, engaged, enlivened, enriched and empowered through social interaction, but, DW Winnicott writes that we can become ‘antisocial’, unless we intentionally invest in creating healthy engagements with others. Human connections require intentionality, authenticity, trust and an investment. Whether it is through a protective mask, or six feet apart on the street, or as square on Zoom, let’s continue to consider how we can continue to engage and to affirm each other.
Our COVID-19 Task Force continues to meet. Members have begun discussing the eventual phased return to campus that I wrote about earlier. I will be joining a small group of Massachusetts college presidents to discuss how and when the more general return of higher education will happen. I will keep you updated on those plans as more information becomes available. We’re also continuing to explore ways to continually make improvements to the online learning experience so that it best serves our community in the coming months and well beyond this crisis in the years to come.
On a related note, I hope you saw Dr. Berman’s email announcing a new addition to our campus community. On Monday, Dr. Lance Lewis will begin with us in the role of Director of Online and Professional Education. Dr. Lewis is an experienced educational technology professional with an extensive background in higher education. Welcome, Lance, we’re looking forward to having you on the team.
As you know, William James is creating a ‘Peace Corps’ type initiative to attract new professionals into behavioral healthcare, especially those with an understanding of underserved minority communities. We are calling it the Behavioral Health Service Corps℠ (BHSC). This is a good opportunity to take an entry-level position at an area community agency, receive 9 credits towards a Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA, and to receive ongoing mentorship in the field. At its most limited, these BHSC scholars will spend a year and learn about the people, the needs and the programs in behavioral health. At its best, they can move onto a career position with one of these agencies and complete their master’s degree.
This program will benefit from your personal support if you can send it through your social network. Please become familiar with this important initiative and help it to grow, if you can. Below is what we have sent out… feel free to add your own message.
The COVID-19 crisis has disproportionally impacted our nation’s communities of color. These communities have long been hurt by healthcare disparities, including mental health treatment. There is a critical need, now more than ever, for behavioral health providers who know these communities and who can bring language and cultural understanding to their care.
William James College has launched the Behavioral Health Service Corps℠, a first-of-its-kind paid service and learning opportunity for recent college graduates. Members will gain familiarity with the people, needs and services of Behavioral Health through entry-level career experience and academic credits toward a master’s degree. This project part of William James’ commitment to developing a more diverse behavioral health workforce and we are scaling up our original plans to meet the acute needs created by COVID-19.The article linked below has more information about the program, along with a link to our application.
A few other notes:
Governor Baker has announced that masks are now required when in public. I’ll take this as an opportunity to remind you that masks are available to you, thanks to the generosity of several community sewers. Please contact Cheryl MacDonald if you have need of one. The volunteer support for this initiative has been extraordinary, with hundreds of masks donated so far – several accompanied by notes of thanks and gratitude for the work that you are doing in the field.
The public events calendar on the William James College Resource Hub remains full, with new sessions and programs regularly added. These events are free and, though some are intended for specific audiences, many are open to all -- which of course includes our community. Please use these resources as you see fit with your professional or personal needs and, to the students, staff and faculty members who are coordinating, promoting or facilitating these groups, thank you for this incredible effort.
Ending with a couple lighter notes. We occasionally hear from external partners about events and activities they are offering. The Museum of Science (MOS) reached out to us to share updated at-home offerings; a full schedule of the live presentations is available here. And, for those who are missing campus, the Marketing Team has rolled out some new Zoom backgrounds to help you feel a little more “at home,” you can find these on our Website.
Wishing all a productive week,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, April 29, 4:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
Governor Baker has extended the state’s “Stay Home” order until May 18. He also announced the formation of a Reopening Advisory Board, which will play a key role in deciding how best to increase the Commonwealth’s economic engine in phases. This phased approach is wise. We, too, are thinking about how to structure a phased return to campus when the timing is right.
Our exit from Wells Avenue in March was necessarily swift. Our return will be slower. When the time comes, we know that members of our community will have to make to make arrangements for childcare, scheduling conflicts, and, perhaps, travel back to campus. The health and safety of students and staff will need to be safeguarded as we reunite. This type of planning is difficult because the circumstances of the virus change a good deal and the lens that people use to evaluate future plans is highly influenced by the emotions of the present. Future plans will seem quite out of place to present emotions.
Nonetheless, we have decided to commit to online classes through the summer session. This allows faculty to plan their instructional work and students to plan their schedules. It is unclear when or, exactly, how we will bring our staff back to campus, but this will be done with some degree of flexibility and anticipation. When it is time to move, the social context will be in a better place to support this effort.
As we await those moments, let me share two news items. This fall, WJC will begin a fully online Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. The College is grateful to Drs. Nilda Laboy, Stan Berman, Stacey Lambert and several others who have brought this important initiative forward. For people whom you know that cannot relocate to Boston, please share this news. Additionally, please also spread the word about the launch of our new Behavioral Health Service Corps℠. Our hope is that this will become a ‘Peace Corps’ for mental health and a way to attract and support a more racial and culturally diverse workforce in applied psychology. We are interviewing now.
On a final note, with the second half of the Spring semester now underway, we continue to think about our graduates. Although our large ceremony will be delayed until Fall, Department Chairs and Faculty are discussing ways to mark the completion of your hard work. Looking ahead, it is hard to imagine, but I very much look forward to shaking each of your hands and clapping mine to honor your work.
May this be a good week for all, with successes to celebrate. Stay in touch with your peers, colleagues and advisors, and reach out if you need support. Your community is here for you.
Remember: Better must come.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, April 25, 11:00 AM:
Dear William James Community,
Yesterday, on our staff call, I asked folks to share some examples of lessons they’ve learned from the changes around us over the last several weeks. The responses ranged from the utility of online meetings; to missing routines, in-person connections, and familiar faces in our building; to the stark realization of certain privileges. It was a moving conversation. These continue to be difficult weeks, but I hope we can all hold on to some of the moments that are teaching us about ourselves, our communities, our profession.
Charles Darwin famously wrote that compassion would be the saving value of a society: “Those communities which include the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best...” Each of the world’s largest religions emphasize the tension between self-centeredness and compassion and prioritize the inestimable value of caring for others: No one is a believer until you desire for another that which you desire for yourself. Acquaintances of Cheryl MacDonald in Field Education responded to an ask that she made for masks to protect our students in the field. Some 300 of these have been created and delivered to the College by those who wanted to use their talents to support our own frontline. If you have a need for one, please reach out to Ms. MacDonald.
This week, I made several calls to our employer partners who looked exhausted on ZOOM. As with many of our colleagues, they all described these weeks of inventing new avenues to deliver clinical care as some of the most demanding of their professional lives. William James is endeavoring to create some supportive services for their employees and they took the time to say, again, how grateful they are for the considerable support of our students who are working in the field, preforming Telementalhealth services from their homes or sites, and providing direct service to clients. The sites are working very hard to care for some of the country’s most vulnerable and we are all grateful to those of you who are demonstrating such compassion.
William James is moving forward with a ‘Peace Corps’ type program this week to introduce the work and the people of mental health to recent college graduates. Our Behavioral Health Service Corps℠ will begin in July and it will offer a position at a local social service agency, provide a good salary, nine free credits towards an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and ongoing mentorship. It is especially aimed to attract those with an interest in working with underserved populations. I invite you to get to know this program and to please share the information about this opportunity with your colleagues.
To those returning to our virtual classrooms next week, I hope that this past week provided a much-needed respite. As we progress into the remainder of our spring semester, I remind you to stay connected and seek the support you need. If you missed grading policy announcements last week, please take a moment to read the message shared on April 17.
Enjoy this weekend, stay the course and practice compassion.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, April 17, 9:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
Each Friday, we have a large staff briefing with all of the WJC employees. I would like to share a bit of this with you. We spoke about how the days feel like they are running together in an indistinguishable blur. It took a moment to remind ourselves that Monday is a holiday and the College is closed. While the business of these days is certainly serious and, even alarming, it is critical to find ways to disconnect from work and worry and to reconnect with people whom we love and care about.
The upcoming week was originally scheduled as an April Vacation. When the community was asked, most people felt that the break would be a welcome respite so next week will be free from classes. Please take advantage of the break to rest and recharge. There will be more work ahead.
Throughout this crisis, the Department Chairs and our Institutional Research Department have engaged in regular polling to understand community opinions and needs on various topics. The consensus from a recent query for feedback on how to conduct summer sessions was to keep classes online. Making this decision now will allow everyone to plan schedules and it allows for an abundance of caution regarding the risk of infection: Summer Sessions 1 and 2 will be held online.
Dr. Lambert also asked students and faculty about the current grading policy. Seventy percent of both groups preferred to continue with the Credit/No Credit system through this summer session. However, recognizing that a significant minority preferred otherwise, the faculty and the Department Chairs have proposed the following:
- Students who wish to receive a traditional letter grade (as outlined in our student handbooks) may do so by opting in by the June 5th, 2020 deadline.
- If a student does not make the formal request by that date, they will receive a grade of Credit or No Credit by default.
- Students can make this determination for each course, opting for letter grades in some and Credit/No credit in others.
- Once selected, however, the option cannot be reversed regardless of the circumstances.
- If one were to take ill, a grade of incomplete would be given and when the work was completed the grading system already selected would still apply.
Earlier this week, I shared news about the impressive APA match rate in our Clinical program (96 percent!) but I forgot to include the 100 percent match rate our School Psychology PsyD students saw this year. Two students who sought APA placements were successful. Unlike with Clinical Psychology, there are only very few internship positions for School Psychology. Obtaining one of these is a real accomplishment.
More than 85 percent of WJC students have remained in the field either directly or through Telementalhealth. The Field Education Department has heard from many field sites about the contributions that students are making to clinical care in our community. They are offering individual and group sessions; participating in crisis planning and intervention; consulting with parents, teachers, and school administrators; ensuring students have access to meals; leading crucial social and emotional learning sessions; and providing professional development around anxiety and creating trauma-sensitive classrooms. Dr. Arlene Silva, Chair of School Psychology, reports that students are calling parents to check on student progress, organizing resources for parents and teachers, and joining teachers in their online classrooms. A faculty member shared one story about a student working at a school site in Framingham who is using her Portuguese language skills to connect with families who speak little English. WJC students’ commitment to service is a source of great pride for all of us. Thank you.
For those whose field experience has been interrupted by this health crisis, the faculty and the staff in Field Education are working on opportunities for you this summer. If you are among those impacted and haven’t yet spoken to your advisor, please do.
On the eve of this long weekend and break, I wish you all peace and rest. I don’t have a specific plan, but I do encourage you all to find some enjoyment and pleasure this week. There will be advantages from this crisis that will come to each of us in this learning community. In the meantime, we have benefitted from the patience, flexibility and professionalism that so many have shown to each other and to the greater community. Thank you for that.
Enjoy your weekend and the find time to rest during the holidays.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, April 15, 11:00 AM:
Dear William James Community,
We’ve now been in working and learning remotely for a little over a month. It seems we’re all still adjusting to being apart, though we are finding new routines. I continue to appreciate the ways in which we’re working to stay together and working to support each other and our work. Nothing terribly inspiring today, but a few notes of importance.
Posted to the Boston Globe website this afternoon was an article on how parents can find help “in these strange times.” We were proud to see William James College INTERFACE discussed among the resources. The INTERFACE team is providing critical support to communities and callers in need. Cheers, too, to the other programs and individuals working to create supportive programs during this crisis.
This week, several other Community Engagement programs started offering new online groups and events, including virtual playdates for young children offered by the Freedman and Brenner Center teams; ideas and strategies for work from home and managing stress and anxiety were presented by Brenner and CAFES; and a speaking engagement on organizational response to COVID19, presented by OLP and the Leadership Learning Hub. Dr. John D’Auria offered a program this morning to more than 100 school personnel called: “Feelings are Contagious.” CMGMH continues to host events, including virtual readings and musical performances. Links to login information for these events can be found here.
If you’re looking for other ways to engage, please look to your colleagues. Cheryl MacDonald, Assistant Director of Field Education, is organizing volunteers to make homemade masks for students who need them for placements. If you would like to participate, please email Cheryl directly (Cheryl_MacDonald@williamjames.edu). Students, if you need a mask please also reach out to Cheryl by email.
And, thank you, to those making time for celebrations – as we still need to be celebrating important milestones. A recent “Match Celebration” recognized those who successfully matched for an APA Internship in the coming year. Dr. Angela Wilbur previously announced the unusual success (96% Match) that our students achieved in securing an APA-approved training site, this year. Faculty and staff all celebrated together virtually to recognize this important event. Students were able to share the sites where they matched, and faculty and staff were able to express their best wishes and pride. In a time with so much disappointment and uncertainty, it was nice celebrate something so positive.
Times do remain uncertain, but please remember that our community is here to help. I am told seminar discussions continue to be a productive place for students to share. Please also take a look at the announcement from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that was sent earlier today about upcoming programs and community connection events.
We’ve had a mix of sunny and gray days this week; we are all looking forward to more sunny days ahead. For now, thank you for shining for others. As Maya Angelou said, “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”
Dear William James College Community:
Over the last several days, I have met with trustees, faculty and staff. I wanted to end this week with a message for our students.
Students, thank you for the work you’re doing now and the work you’re training to do. The world needs behavioral health care professionals now more than ever.
Dear William James Community,
End notes for the week
I hope that you and your family are remaining safe. It seemed more than prudent to reschedule our June Commencement date so that people could plan to attend. Thanks to a good deal of work from Ms. Denise Feeley, we plan to gather on Sunday, September 13 at 10:30 AM to celebrate our graduates. We are honored to award the Doctor of Humane Letters degree to author, mental health advocate and policy expert, Professor Elyn Saks of the University of Southern California; physician, researcher and national authority on healthcare disparities Dr. Joseph Betancourt of Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital; and filmmaker, photojournalist and humanitarian Mr. Michael Carroll. More details to follow.
As I shared in my brief email to the community earlier today, the Board of Registration for Psychologists voted unanimously today to temporarily relax requirements around face-to-face supervision. This result is good news, as it will increase the quality of mental health care available during this emergency and lessen worries for students and supervisors. We are grateful to Mr. George Cronin at Rasky Associates who coordinates our government relations work. I am, also, grateful to Dr. Robert Kinscherff who loaned me his legal mind to help with the letter to the Undersecretary.
Feedback from students and faculty regarding the College’s online learning experience continues to be positive. In a recent survey of faculty, 97 percent rated their experience as “good” or “excellent.” Faculty continue to have access to trainings and support in online pedagogy, including consultants. Many faculty members have been putting extra time and effort to learn new skills and techniques related to online education. It is typical of this group to invest generously in the educational experience of our students, but we are grateful to these professionals for making this transition work so well.
Drs. Nadja Reilly and Julie Ryan created a new audio series on Managing Anxiety (which is available here) and, many of you have benefitted from the online instruction on Telementalhealth that Dr. Bruce Ecker created. Faculty and staff teams are working on additional instructional materials including caring for medical professionals and first responders; and help for school districts and paraprofessionals.
Please remember that, per the Governor’s order, our building is now closed to everyone except designated essential personal. This means no one can enter the building and services like the library and copiers are not available in person. Governor Baker recently extended his “stay home” order through May 4. The building will continue to remain closed to until the order is lifted. Faculty and Staff who are not designated essential personnel will continue to work remotely during this time.
Times are very tough. For many the sprint to move online and to work remotely was exciting. However, as we move more into the Marathon mode, things might become more frustrating or boring to some. Understand that we want to be available to each other. If you need to connect, please reach out to your peers, advisors, professors or a staff person; we remain present to each other even at a distance. Should anyone need more, the Student Health Insurance Plan has extended coverage for all students (regardless of prior health plan enrollment) for digital behavioral health services through August 2020. Visit the SilverCloud Health website to sign up using your William James email address.
On a final note, this Sunday, April 5, would have been our Annual 5K to celebrate the legacy of Alumna Dr. Cynthia Lucero who died while running the Boston Marathon in 2002. I’d like to ask all who are able to join the WJC community on Sunday for a virtual Lucero5K celebration. If you can, post a photo or video of yourself to social media running, walking or participating in any at-home exercise using #LuceroLegacy and please tag the College’s social media channels. Cynthia’s mom in Ecuador is not well and we would like to forward some pictures of this community remembering Cynthia. Take time to do this.
With wishes for a healthy and restful weekend and thanks for the grace in which you all continue to handle these difficult days.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, March 31, 8:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
Our COVID Task Force now meets three mornings each week to monitor the news and the needs around us. A few weeks ago, we moved quickly from 1 Wells Ave to operating online and remotely. Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become the new normal for faculty and staff who are managing degree audits, commencement plans, admissions, summer registration and community engagement, while continuing to educate and support their students.
Students, too, have adapted their approach to managing coursework and practical training while finding new ways to stay connected but physically apart. This afternoon, as several parents brought their young teens to practice driving on our nearly empty campus, half a dozen WJC students circled their cars (each at 6 feet apart) to hold an impromptu meeting in the back lot. It’s not quite the same as gathering on the couches on the third floor, but it is this spring’s new normal.
As we continue to navigate this health crisis, an important topic at top of mind for many continues to be Telementalhealth. Tonight, I’m writing with a couple updates on that topic.
Telementalhealth and Psychology Licensure
Concerns about Coronavirus have prompted many field sites to move students to deliver behavioral healthcare electronically. While this modality has been around for some time, relatively few practitioners made frequent use of it before this crisis. Insurance reimbursement and Licensing Boards have, also, lagged in providing payment for services and clarity around supervisory hours. This venue is proving to be an accessible new normal, but there has been ambiguity about whether Telementalhealth training hours can count towards licensure.
Last week, I wrote to the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation to urge the Board of Registration of Psychology to provide decisive language that licensed psychologists may provide services through electronic means. The letter asked the Board to immediately revise the “face-to-face” requirement for supervision and to clarify that supervised hours though Telementalhealth will qualify for licensure hours. Boards of Registration in other states have allowed for these changes and Massachusetts needs to do the same. Today, I was told that these issues will be on the Board of Registration’s agenda at this week’s meeting. A copy of the letter is attached to this update and I will let you know the outcome.
Training and Resources
William James Faculty members have curated articles and educational materials on Telementalhealth and published them on the William James College Resource Hub, and are creating additional coursework to help professionals to practice competently in this new environment. These materials and trainings are designed to improve practical skills and to clearly communicate to field sites that WJC trainees can work competently with Telementalhealth. These resources are being made available to our community colleagues, as well. Additionally, the College will soon be offering formal coursework on online treatment. More information about these efforts will be available and shared in the coming weeks.
There will be a lot learned from this work and our experiences during this time. Keep your eyes on the prize, and your eyes on each other, as we move through another week.
With admiration and respect,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, March 25, 8:30 PM:
Dear William James Community,
I will write with a longer update about this week’s activities on Friday. Tonight, I wanted to share the link to the new Resource Hub that I mentioned in my last email. This online space offers a collection of materials curated or created by William James College Faculty and community members. It is accessible via the College’s homepage or directly via: https://www.williamjames.edu/resourcehub.
Through the Resource Hub, we aim to provide much-needed training tools for mental health practice in this critical time. We plan to share these resources with our Field Site partners; educators and leaders in school districts; parents seeking ways to engage and educate children at home; and, of course, provide mental health resources for the general public. It will be regularly added to and updated, and your suggestions are welcome. As I type this, the team is building a page on culturally responsive practices; this crisis has offered yet another window into the state of healthcare disparities, income inequality, racism and discrimination in this country, and to people who are impacted in significant ways by these inequities and disparities in ways far beyond the physical health threat this crisis has created. We are fortunate to have Dr. St. Louis and her colleagues in CMGMH who have created some thoughtful and useful resources for us on this topic.
I would also like to extend my thanks to Dean Josh Cooper, his team in the Dean of Students Office, and the Student Government ACES for hosting today’s midday forum, and for welcoming my participation in it. I look forward to joining the conversation for a bit this evening, as well. My thanks to Dr. Bruce Ecker for his excellent overview of Telementalhealth practice on our Resource Hub. Dr. Jason Osher and his colleagues have been creating resources and training to advance the online education skills of our faculty. Dr. Lambert, the Department Chairs, our Directors of Field Education, Registrar Sonja Paige and others have been reviewing the academic and proficiency status of our pending graduates to determine what must be done to ensure their successful matriculation.
Thank you all for this work and to the community for your commitment to learning and service, as we manage our worry and our sequestration.
A couple of quick notes:
We will reschedule our Commencement ceremony to be held the fall. Our graduates have invested significantly in their education at WJC, we want to recognize and celebrate their accomplishments with a special day. Degrees will be awarded upon completion of coursework, but we will party, formally, in the fall. A date to come soon.
The College has asked our Legislative Agent (Lobbyist) to appeal to the Commission that manages the Board of Licensure in Psychology to provide, immediately, the same clarification on supervision for Telementalhealth and a ruling on the number of supervised hours of practice required for licensure, as other states have already produced.
The College will keep the April Vacation. While some thought it beneficial to just continue with coursework, there are Financial Aid restrictions that impact this decision as well as the sense that many students and faculty could use the break.
My thoughts remain with all of you and your families. I hope you are staying well. You have my continued gratitude for your work and your service to others during these difficult days.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, March 24, 1:00 PM:
Dear William James Community,
Governor Charlie Baker has issued an order effective tomorrow at noon with new directions for workers in nonessential roles. Effective Tuesday, March 24 and extending through April 7, consistent with the Governor’s instructions, William James College will cease certain non-essential activities and on-campus building operations, including library access. Most of our community has already transitioned to online/remote work and learning, as such, services will continue to be available to support students, staff and faculty remotely.
Please note the formal extension of online classes: We will continue to conduct all classes online for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester.
Regarding Field Sites: Medical Professionals and caregivers (including physicians, dentists, psychologists, mid-level practitioners, nurses and assistants, infection control and quality assurance personnel, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists and assistants, social workers, speech pathologists and diagnostic and therapeutic technicians and technologists, other providers of mental and behavioral health care, personal care attendants, home health aides and home care workers) are defined as essential personnel. Students, especially those who are operating under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional are ‘other providers’ and essential personnel. Agencies will be making decisions about their status and whether they will remain open and continue to offer essential services. Students are asked to continue to take direction from Field Sites. And, if your site asks you to continue, please request that they issue a note that describes you as ‘essential personnel.’
As I stated in Friday evening’s email, our Field Education policy is meant to be consistent with our mission to educate behavioral health professionals, to be supportive of our community colleagues, to recognize the important role that our profession plays in lives of vulnerable people, and to be respectful of our students’ safety. The College will not require students or staff to remain in an environment in which they feel that they cannot work safely and competently. Should anyone believe that they must leave the field, our Faculty advisors and Field Education staff will help you with an application for accommodation.
Several WJC Faculty have developed an online Resource Hub with training materials on delivering Telementalhealth and related information on remote behavioral care. This resource will be posted to the WJC website by noon, tomorrow, Tuesday, March 24. An announcement will, also, be sent to the community so that they will know that our students have the opportunity to become trained in this essential service. We will also be providing training materials to the more than 400 sites that we serve in Greater Boston to aid them in transitioning staff to this modality.
Again, I appreciate your patience, your courage and your professionalism in this challenging time.
With great respect,
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, March 20, 9:00 PM:
I know that there has been a good deal of feeling about the school’s policy on remaining in Field Placements. I am sorry for the distress that some of you are feeling, in the midst of a very unnerving time, and I write to provide some context that I hope will help. Let me share some of the considerations that shape this policy.
William James College’s unique character
Behavioral health programs at some universities have pulled their students from the field. That is certainly their right to do. We are different from most academic programs. Central to the mission of William James College is a commitment to educate healthcare professionals. This charge leads to an institutional perspective that is multidimensional: we collaborate with community partners to deliver care; we educate future healthcare professionals; and we protect students from harm. Where research universities invent new knowledge, the character of William James invites us to develop new programs to train child therapists when there is a shortage, to vigorously include race and culture into curricula to improve clinical competence, to attract and support new professionals from underserved communities, and to Train Vets to Treat Vets. That William James College would retreat from caring for patients when the demand is rising is not consistent with our mission.
The healthcare careers of many members the faculty and the administration inform this policy. However, to check ourselves, we contacted colleagues at peer schools and several leaders in Field Education to find that many (e.g., The Chicago School of Professional Psychology) are doing the same as we are. Earlier this week, myself and several Field Education directors called more than a dozen large sites to see how they were operating and to ask what would happen if our people left their agencies. Their concern for your wellbeing was clear, but just as clear was the message that they have an unusual and significant need for your help with their patients.
With these things in mind, here is a statement of our current policy:
Our COVID-19 task force continues to meet each day to evaluate the needs of our community and the communities that we serve. After this review, we agreed to continue to promote the following:
WJC students should remain in the field; guided by the field sites regarding safe practice in the midst of this public health crisis; and be educated by the field sites, with support from our faculty, about safe and appropriate professional practice, unless and until the site dismisses the students or the Governor orders everyone to shelter in place.
This policy is meant to be consistent with our mission to educate behavioral health professionals, to be supportive of our community colleagues, to recognize the important role that our profession plays in lives of vulnerable people, and to be respectful of our students’ safety.
What about an accommodation for those who are, or who feel that they are, in an unsafe practicum situation?
In promoting this policy, we want to acknowledge that not all sites are the same and that individual differences with the current experience of being in the field certainly exist among students. Although we know of none, a site that is not taking care to maintain a healthy practice for staff will create intolerable anxiety for our students and their staff. As such, while our policy is as stated above, WJC will not require students or staff to remain in an environment in which they feel that they cannot work safely and competently.
Faculty advisors and Field Education staff will work with any student who needs to consider a unique situation in light of this policy and help with an application for accommodation. As is the ordinary case with changes in field training, approval from both the student advisor and Field Education will be required and then reviewed by the Department Chair. While students have the responsibility to fulfill their academic and professional competencies, we are still an intimate learning community that will work with students to accomplish this.
In addition, should a group, a Clinical Seminar or an individual need more time than usual to process the experience in the field, I encourage you to find the time to do that. Even while we are working remotely, faculty advisors, staff and administrators remain available to you and they are there to help.
This is a very difficult time with no recent precursor. Again, I’m sorry for the stress around this issue that presents itself to some; please know that it has been carefully considered in an effort to balance mission, regulatory requirements, and individual interests. I hope that this note shows that. Should government directives change, so will our policies and procedures.
While it is difficult to know when this crisis will end, we will continue to work with each other to complete your education in the best, safest, and most professional way possible. Thank you for your commitment to the field and to the faculty and staff who are committed to you.
Update From William James College Vice President for Academic Affairs Stacey Lambert, March 20, 12:00 PM:
Dear Faculty and Students,
In his update email yesterday, President Covino wrote about the College’s efforts to enhance our teaching pedagogy in the context of the online delivery format. This format is new for several of our departments. He also noted our move to incorporate some asynchronous delivery. Today, I write to provide you with more specificity on two important academic policy changes.
First, some background. As you know, we very quickly moved to online delivery in all departments last week. To support this rapid transition, and for consistency in this first week, we opted to stick with synchronous delivery: meaning, classes occurred in “real time,” live with an instructor, during their regularly scheduled timeslots. Asynchronous delivery, on the other hand, involves offering lectures and coursework that is still bound by a schedule but allows for a different pacing.
We will still encourage synchronous delivery for classes that are typically delivered in a traditional classroom format, to the extent that it is practical, because of the important opportunity that offers for students to interact live with peers and instructors, but we also understand that people’s circumstances at home are complex right now and may require some adjustments or accommodations.
As such, we are temporarily adjusting some of our policies around delivery practices. Effective March 30, 2020, the following applies:
- Introduction to Clinical Practice and all Clinical Seminars will remain synchronous to comply with group supervision requirements from licensing and accrediting bodies.
- Faculty who are available to continue providing synchronous lectures will do so, and
students are encouraged to join live.
- The lectures will also be recorded, so students who are unable to join live can access them later.
- Faculty are responsible for recording each Zoom meeting and making it available to students. Students who have questions can send them to the instructor.
- Faculty who are unable to deliver a course live will post the video lecture before the scheduled class time and will provide a discussion board.
A second notable change pertains to our grading policy. In light of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the decision has been made to move to a Credit/No Credit system for all classes in all departments for the Spring 2020 semester.
This decision was made in consultation with faculty and Department Chairs and is consistent with the current practice of many schools around the country, including our neighbors at MIT. The intent of the change is to ease some academic burden during a period of significant societal disruption.
Understandably, some who were anticipating a letter grade of “A” may feel disappointed, but we hope that those students can still take pride in the love of learning and knowledge that their professors can still recognize their very hard work. Effective immediately:
- All classes for the Spring 2020 term will be graded as Credit or No Credit. Specifically, end of term performance of above 80 points will constitute a passing grade. Please note that for APA accredited programs, as is customary and still required by APA, students must pass all Discipline Specific Knowledge (DSK) and Profession Wide competencies (PWC) assigned to each required class as represented on the syllabi at the Minimum Level of achievement (MLA). This change is allowable within current APA guidelines and will not impact our accreditation.
- Similarly, we are reducing the Spring 2020 semester DP II and IV task expectations for this semester only. Regarding the grading for Doctoral Project II and IV, we will continue with the current rubric such that students are expected to have “completed at least 80% of the contract requirements” to receive a passing grade in each DP course. This is also stated on the DP Progress form and has been the standard for the past 5 years. The use of the 80% standard has allowed faculty flexibility in determining grades in the DP courses and consideration of factors beyond control of student and chair. The current system was established to provide a balance between structure and flexibility and hopefully maximize the benefits of both. I believe it will provide the leeway needed by faculty to take our current situation into account when assigning the grades for DP courses.
These changes will remain in place for as long as they serve the best interests of our students and faculty. I am checking in constantly with Department Chairs, faculty members and students. I will keep doing so, and I will continue to communicate with all of you. Thank you for your work and your professionalism during these trying days.
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.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, March 17, 3:30 PM:
Dear William James Community,
For my update today, Dr. Lambert and I would like particularly to address our students with the following update:
Today, along with several members of the department of Field Education, we have been in touch with CEOs and Training Directors of several large Field Sites. To say that they are grateful to you for staying with them through this unpredictable and unprecedented health crisis would be an understatement. They expressed their great appreciation for your professionalism and competence. Behavioral health providers are being called to a unique position of service in a very uncertain time. Children, people with severe mental illness, and numerous others still have needs to be met, some of them quite critical. Most Sites clearly do not have the staff to meet this need and they are relying on us to help.
Some clinical services do not lend themselves to telementalhealth, while others have been moving toward this service. In order to be helpful, several faculty members have been busy, today, collecting appropriate teaching materials and preparing others. These will be made available to students, faculty and to our community colleagues over the next several days and weeks. In addition, a number of faculty members have been preparing short teaching units on other issues relating to anxiety disorders, PTSD, cultural responsiveness, and substance use with the unique focus on this current event.
As we move through this semester, we will make every effort to acknowledge the unique times in which we are studying and take care to ensure, as much as possible, that normal instruction continues. While none of us could have predicted this crisis, the ways in which each of you have stepped up to assist your sites in delivering critical behavioral healthcare during an emergency makes us proud to count you as our students.
Respectfully and with gratitude,
Nick and Stacey
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, March 16, 1:00 PM:
Dear WJC Community,
We continue to monitor recommendations and take direction from the CDC and the Governor’s office. This is an evolving situation, and our policies and practices will evolve as well. Following recent announcements and recommendations, we are implementing a new remote work policy and making changes to building access.
Effective at 1 PM today, March 16, all William James College faculty and staff members are encouraged to work remotely. Please collect the materials that you will need today to complete work remotely for the coming weeks. At this point the date that staff will be expected to return is undetermined, but we will continue to be in touch. The building will remain open only for selected services, and for the designated few staff members who have been directly asked by their supervisor to continue to report to campus to oversee this work.
Work-from-home resources and guidelines are available on the IT website.
All support questions must go to email@example.com, not to the personal addresses of staff members. The “support” email address is being monitored by a team. Please use resources such as Teams and Zoom to conduct meetings, and please be in frequent contact with your supervisor.
All staff are reminded to continually check the College’s COVID-19 Information page and FAQ for updates: https://www.williamjames.edu/covid19
While our working hours in remote locations will remain the same (i.e., if your regular schedule is from 8AM to 4 PM, you should continue to observe those hours) our access to the facility will be limited to weekdays from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM. The building will be closed on weekends. Beginning, Thursday, March 19, from 8:30AM to 3:00 PM, only the ground floor and first floor will be accessible. Services currently offered on other floors will relocate to the first two levels. Only authorized staff will be permitted to access floors 2 through 5.
Many of our field sites are relying on us to deliver critical behavioral health care during an emergency. As such, we continue to be guided by the leadership at Field Sites regarding students’ presence at the site. If you feel ill; are symptomatic in any way; have been asked to self-quarantine by a medical professional; have reason to suspect that you may have been exposed; or if you are living with someone who is immunocompromised or may be put at risk, please be in touch with your Field Site supervisor to communicate this. Please see Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Our community’s health and safety are of the upmost importance. We, also, need to continue to run the business and operations of the College. Over the coming weeks, I invite your creativity and suggestions for ways to support each other and to continue keep our high level of service to our constituencies and stakeholders. I have asked Gloria Noronha to serve as a point person for anyone who would like to offer to assist teams who are currently handling additional tasks. Please email her at Gloria_Noronha@williamjames.edu.
Thank you, all, for your patience, your dedication and your professionalism during these unpredictable and unprecedented times; you are what makes our community strong.
I encourage you to be in touch with me, directly, if you have questions. I will continue to reach out to you with updates.
With appreciation and respect.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, March 14, 1:00 PM:
Dear WJC Community,
I want, again to express my appreciation for your patience and cooperation as we create a plan to meet the challenges presented by COVID-19. This week, we successfully moved all of our courses and related instructional work online. The efforts of many people in many departments over the past few years (e.g., OLP Faculty, IT, Online Learning, Academic Affairs, Finance, Marketing and Admissions, Trustees) have created the opportunity for this effort to be effective. Thank you.
In recent days, teams have been in close communication about ways to rework the non-academic responsibilities of the College to ensure continuity and to allow additional groups to transition to remote work. I appreciate your professionalism and dedication as we work to make this happen. We continue to follow CDC recommendations regarding the cleaning of our facility to allow us to keep it open for our community and clients in the meantime. In fact, a team of professionals will be conducting a deep cleaning of the facility all weekend.
Given the nature of our business and operating model, there are steps that we need to take to effectively transition the work of additional groups to remote settings. I write, now, to ask for your help in taking the next one.
This week, our transition will involve the following:
- On Monday, all College Faculty are asked to deliver their instructional classes from locations outside of the building. Should an instructor need to use the facility for some reason, the building will remain open. Staff will be available to help.
- On Monday, College Staff are asked to report to work as usual. We will convene to discuss what is needed to successfully conduct a test ‘Work Remote’ day on Tuesday. This will allow us to ensure that our necessary systems and operations will continue to work without interruption.
- On Tuesday, March 17, and Wednesday, March 18, the majority of the College community will work remotely, with a skeleton staff of designated personnel remaining in the facility.
- In the morning of Wednesday, March 18, a group of selected administrators will meet on campus to evaluate the trial. If the transition is successful, remote work will continue through this week and next, with ongoing evaluation to determine the end of this phase.
- Through the next two weeks, a small group of Staff will continue to work within the building to ensure that important student or community work is able to be conducted.
- The building will remain open for business, during this period. Students and staff are encouraged to conduct their work electronically, but necessary meetings can occur. Please DO NOT come into the facility if you are symptomatic in any way, but, we want to offer an opportunity for anyone who is feeling the need to have a place to work.
- Many of our students are providing necessary clinical services through their field sites. Thank you. Continue to look to your site for direction and pay attention to directives from the Field Education Department.
Again, you are asked to pay close attention to the WJC COVID-19 update page on our website. This resource will be updated regularly and it will contain useful information. Our communications team has added an FAQ section that aims to address questions you may have about access to the building, online classes, technology, and staff/faculty policies.
This College community has been highly collaborative and professional as it embraces and encounters several novel, dramatic, and scary phenomena. While not wishing to underplay the serious nature of this public health moment, we know that as with other challenges that we have faced in recent years, this one will not last and we will return to normalcy. Hopefully this will be shortly.
Thank you for your patience and for your good-will towards each other.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, March 13, 4:00 PM:
Dear WJC Community,
I first want to express my continued appreciation for the care and compassion that has been demonstrated by our community as we continue to navigate these unpredictable times.
As an update for today, let me begin by reminding you to pay attention to the WJC COVID-19 update page on our website. This resource will be updated regularly and it will contain useful information. Our communications team has just added an FAQ section that aims to address questions you may have about access to the building, online classes, technology, and staff/faculty policies, among other topics. You are invited to submit your questions via this page and this page will be, also, updated regularly.
Here are some additional updates:
- A deep cleaning of the building is scheduled for this weekend. Our Facilities Team asks that you remove papers and other objects from the surface of your desk. Please also put away any private files or information.
- Our HR Team has received questions about our Telecommuting policy and information about child care resources. Please see the FAQ for information on both topics.
- Should you find that you need help accessing online classes or other technology, our IT Team is available to you. Again, please review help topics listed on the FAQ page, but don’t hesitate to contact the Help Desk for assistance should you find you need it.
- We are providing hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and disinfecting wipes for your use while you are in the building. These supplies are not to be taken home. If you have inadvertently removed something, please bring it back with you on Monday so that we can continue to protect our common health.
Our Administrative Task Force continues to meet daily. At this time, based on current recommendations, the model that allows us to best serve our community and those who depend on our services is the model we have in place; online classes that reduce the number of people gathered in the building and having our talented employees running our business operations. We continue to follow CDC guidelines for cleaning, group gatherings, and social distancing, and we will monitor current recommendations from government experts. Plans and policies will be adjusted as we are advised.
During times like these it is more apparent that the spirit of “service to others” that has typified William James College is at the foundation of our organization. You have my gratitude.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, March 12, 3:00 PM:
Dear WJC Community,
This morning, I wrote to tell you that we will be moving all classes online beginning Monday, March 16. This will extend through Friday, March 27 and be continuously monitored by our Task Force. Our goal is to reduce the number of large group gatherings held here at the College. Our building remains open and we will continue to conduct other business as usual.
I am writing to follow up and to answer some of the questions that we’ve received. I expect there will be more. Our communications team will be posting responses to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to the website to help keep our community informed. I anticipate this FAQ will be posted later this afternoon to our informational page. Please see: www.williamjames.edu/covid19.
Student Attendance and Use of the Building
In my email this morning, I stated that students are asked “not to report to campus.” This only pertains, at this moment, to attending classes. The building remains open for other business and students and faculty are welcome to use the library or other resources, or complete work-study hours here, if you so choose. Please refrain, however, from gathering in large groups.
Students, we ask that you please follow your field site policies. We are in communication with site supervisors and today shared the following information with them:
WJC has been able to amend our malpractice policy to allow our trainees to deliver telehealth services, with your training and supervision, as long as the following provisions are met: HIPAA compliant platform; supervision the same number of hours/week by a qualified supervisor; same documentation of services; qualifying supervisory backup in real time; attention to licensure of supervisor to only provide telehealth clinical services to clients in states where the supervisor is licensed.
Please communicate any interruptions in training to the field education department of your academic program. We understand that some students might end up with fewer hours of clinical service than planned; we will work with you to problem-solve these situations individually.
Faculty & Staff Attendance
Faculty and staff who are well, and who are not in a CDC defined high-risk category, are expected to continue to report to work. Our facilities team is cleaning all surfaces in the building with a disinfecting solution per CDC guidelines at a minimum of every two hours. We have also scheduled an additional professional deep cleaning of the building this weekend which will address public and community spaces, along with offices and equipment including desks, doorknobs, keyboards and phones. Please clear your desks of papers and other materials.
Once again, staff members should stay home if you are symptomatic in any way; if you have been asked to self-quarantine by a medical professional; or if you have reason to suspect that you may have been exposed. If you have someone in your immediate family who is immune compromised, please speak with your supervisor about any accommodation that might be necessary. Otherwise, the existing employee policies for vacation, personal days, work from home, and sick time remain in effect. Please see the employee handbook.
There is a list of informational resources and training links for Faculty, Staff and Students posted to the website. We will also be providing additional support for any student, faculty or staff member who feels they have a need. There will be upcoming trainings for faculty and students, please be alert for communications from Department Chairs.
College Updates and Communications
Again, please visit www.williamjames.edu/covid19 for regular updates. Please also take a moment to make sure your contact information is up to date in the WJC Notification system: https://msppsupport.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/211585966-Signing-up-for-Campus-Alerts
Let me express my gratitude for your patience during this unusual time. As we continue to learn through our monitoring over the coming days, we will revise and update our policies. Thank you for being respectful and supportive of each other. This situation will certainly improve, and it will be helped by our efforts to be kind and compassionate with each other. If you feel the need to reach out to me, please do.
Update From William James College President Nicholas Covino, March 12, 9:00 AM:
Dear William James Community:
I am writing to let you know that from this Monday March 16 until Friday March 27, William James College will move all classes to an online delivery system. Our building will remain open during this time and our staff will continue to conduct business; however students are not to report to campus. The Safety Task Force will continuously monitor the evolving situation and will make any further recommendations as needed.
In yesterday’s report to Congress, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci encouraged the country to move its focus from preventing infection to containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus by reducing large group gatherings. While Massachusetts, by all reports, remains at a low risk for infection, this action by William James College is in keeping with his advice.
At this point, for those involved in field education, the policies of your site will determine what is expected of you. Please follow the directives of your site and local supervisor with respect to attendance. Our conversations are ongoing and updates will be provided as more is learned.
Members of the College Administrative Team will be in contact with relevant constituencies during today and moving forward. Regular updates will be made to our website www.williamjames.edu/COVID19. Please check that webpage and your email frequently over the next two weeks.
I will be in touch with you all, again, later in the day.
Thank you for your attention and for your patience as we move through this evolving situation.