Like most faculty and teachers across the world, we spent much of the summer attending online faculty development courses which gave us a hurried introduction to the world of online teaching and learning. Just as we finished that, the fall semester was upon us again and it was time to put our new skills to the test.
The COVID19 pandemic necessitated drastic changes to the ways the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) provided support and programming for faculty. Several publications have discussed the effects of isolation and separation on faculty well being. A recent survey reported that half of faculty respondents were feeling emotionally drained, a circumstance arising partly from
a lack of connection with others. Understanding that faculty were facing many challenges, the CTL sought ways to keep faculty connected. Hostos has a robust campus culture which infuses us with creativity and strength; the loss of that resource has been acutely felt by faculty and staff alike. To ameliorate this loss, the CTL created the Virtual Lounge, a place for faculty and staff to gather and talk about the challenges of teaching during the COVID19 pandemic.
I hosted the inaugural session of Virtual Lounge on September 10 and was so happy to see and chat with all the faculty who attended. We spent some time catching up on recent events, how we spent our summers and shared our plans for the upcoming
semester. The hour passed by very quickly, but the meeting had served its purpose- we were able to connect with each other and remember that we are, still, a work family; that we are not alone although we are separated. In total, the CTL hosted 5 Virtual Lounge events via Zoom at different times of the day. Hosts were members of the CTL Advisory Council: Prof. Linda Miles, Prof. Cynthia Jones, Prof. Rayola Chelladurai, and Prof. Stacey Cooper.
More than ever, faculty need programming which will help them address the challenges of distance learning, especially those who are working with the most vulnerable students. Whereas before we were caught by surprise, we now have developed a foundational understanding of the tools available to us and the promise they bring to expand our pedagogy. The CTL will continue to offer the Virtual Lounge in the spring 2021 semester, and it will continue to be a safe place for faculty to discuss challenges and hardships. However, as 2021 progresses, we hope it will also be a place for faculty to share their pedagogical innovations and successes.
Diana Macri is an Assistant Professor in the Dental Hygiene Unit of the Allied Health Department, serving as Senior Clinic Coordinator. She earned a Master of Education, Higher Education Administration degree from Baruch College in 2012 and joined Hostos shortly thereafter, in 2014. In 2015 she first became a member of the Center for Teaching and Learning Advisory Council and has continued to serve in various capacities. She became Chair of the POINT Committee in 2017 and now serves as Faculty Liaison for the CTL Advisory Council. An avid writer and reader, she has created a Writing Intensive Course, an Open Educational Resource and is currently working on infusing mindfulness approaches into her courses. she is deeply committed to utilizing evidence based technologies and teaching methodologies which promote student success and is invigorated by working alongside the many faculty and staff at Hostos who are equally dedicated.