April 29, 2020 | Bringing It #37: Celebrating Opportunities to Connect and Learn During a Time of Loss

Dear friends, 

ICYM Our Last Issue of Bringing It...

In this time of technological scrambling, we had an IT mini-crisis of our own when we tried to send out Bringing It #36 two weeks ago. It turns out that many of you didn’t receive it. We’ve now solved the problem and you can read our last issue here.

That issue invites you to fill out a survey gathering ideas for BTtoP virtual programming. We would love to hear your input! You can also always reach us directly at info@bttop.org.

The Sadness of Lost Ceremonies

Amidst all the tragedy and hardship of the pandemic, the loss of graduation ceremonies is a much smaller heartache. But it’s a heartache nonetheless. Caitlin is graduating this spring from her master’s program in educational design. David’s son Isaac Scobey-Thal is receiving his bachelor’s. This year they and millions of other graduates won’t have the Commencement ceremonies that annually bring together family, friends, teachers, and fellow students to celebrate their personal achievement.

When David served as the dean of a bachelor’s program for adult, working students, he was always blown away by the raucous pride of the graduates, many of whom brought children, parents, and partners to the stage to receive their diploma, even as the audience cheering made the rafters shake. If the road to Commencement was hard, the joy was even deeper.

We celebrate everyone who has completed their studies this spring. We hope you are able to feel your achievement even now, and we hope that you’ll be able to celebrate with fellow students, families, and friends when this time of isolation ends.

David Interviewed by Giving Compass

Our friends at The Milken Institute for Strategic Philanthropy recently featured David in an article in Giving Compass. He addressed the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on student, faculty, and institutional well-being in higher education, as well as what philanthropy might do to respond. Here’s an excerpt: “Students’ primary connection to their learning communities has been thinned out to screen connections with their course instructors, who are themselves struggling with their personal, family, and financial stressors. And students’ practical anxieties—about immediate finances, access to jobs and pay, academic standing and progress, and future prospects in the face of the pandemic—are all themselves causes of social-emotional distress.” 

Additional contributors included Dr. Deborah Donahue-Keegan (Tufts University), Dr. Bridget Burns (University Innovation Alliance), and Dr. Carla Chugani (University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine), as well as student voices. We offer our warm thanks to The Milken Institute and Mali Locke for inviting David to share his thoughts during a time of heightened uncertainty and change.

Grantee Spotlight: James Madison University, Elon University, and Kansai University

Below our friends from James Madison University, Elon University, and Kansai University share their work fostering deep learning and connections via virtual spaces. We cannot stress enough how timely this work is! If you are a faculty member hoping to build better connections and learning via virtual platforms, you may find the video interesting and useful. 

This collaborative project between James Madison, Elon University, and Kansai University with Crossing Borders Education (CBE) elucidates creative ways to encourage, strengthen and nurture authentic student voices, which are instrumental to the development of emotional intelligence and intercultural awareness. The current shifting landscape of global higher education…[calls for] resources that can facilitate meaningful dialogue and reflection in any online learning environment...What we observed in this project can help to address a number of key challenges of online interactions by supporting students to overcome isolation and address fears by connecting deeply across differences. 

In collecting video and focus group data from students through selected courses, we noted that large group online interactions alone do not produce deep learning. Some key elements for learning in a virtual space are: 1) assessing who students are before they participate; 2) intentionally creating small, diverse group interactions in virtual exchange and 3) preparing for intercultural dialogue through Micro-Learning Units.

...This brief video offers a glimpse of what we have learned from one aspect of our project that features Crossing Borders Education’s use of authentic peer video prompts to model and facilitate self awareness.  

Wishing you safety and joy as we continue to navigate these uncertain times. 

With thanks, 

David, Caitlin, Mercedes, and Kate