Transitions: Community remains priority

When the Intercultural Network students left for Spring Break on Friday, March 6, after completing a community service project, they had no idea that literally, in a couple of days, our world would be turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It would be the last time they would have face-to-face interaction with TCC faculty, staff, intercultural staff and their peers for the rest of the spring 2020 semester.

The spring 2020 semester had been going well. Student engagement was high and we were looking forward to end-of-semester events that were on the calendar. One of the highlights of the Intercultural Network program is our weekly empowerment sessions called, Elevate, that occur every Tuesday.

How quickly things have changed. Our face-to-face Elevate sessions are now hosted virtually via Blackboard Collaborate. Like so many others, the Intercultural Network Staff had to develop continuity plans, pivot and assess how to serve our students in a virtual platform.

The virtual Elevate sessions consist of Cynthia Johnson and me, along with guest speakers providing information on how to manage the transition to online classes, anxiety and information about COVID-19. It also is a platform for students to express their thoughts and feelings surrounding the current changes and life being out of their control.

One of the great things about the transition to a virtual platform is it has allowed us to tap into our network and feature special guests who we would not have been able to host otherwise because of the physical distance. One of our guests was a nurse scientist and college professor in Memphis, TN, who shared information about COVID-19. Another guest speaker, a successful entrepreneur who received a bachelor’s and master’s degree online, shared how to be successful working from home.

Our program is built on community, brotherhood, sisterhood and relationships. More than ever, our students need us, and we need them. We need community. We need conversation. We need family. While the future may be uncertain, what we do know is that we will continue to be there for our students and serve them in the best way possible.

Michael Russ, academic advisor and interim coordinator of the Intercultural Student Engagement & Academic Success at TCC South, enjoys sports, traveling and is fascinated by airplanes. Above all, he enjoys spending time with family and friends and is passionate about serving in ministry at his local church.

During her free time, Academic Advisor Cynthia Johnson enjoys traveling with her husband, family and friends. She also enjoys reading, watching movies, playing miniature golf, interior decorating and hosting vision board parties.