How We Did It: For students, University supports made a tough time easier

KINGSTON, R.I. — February 3, 2021 — As a University of Rhode Island journalism student and an editor at The Good Five Cent Cigar, Leah Crowley’s skepticism about the University’s decision to have students return to campus in the fall was probably a healthy thing.

The editor of The Cigar newscast, called 5CCN, had her reservations about in-person classes and students living in on-campus housing.

“I was not worried about myself, as my classes were almost entirely online and I was living off-campus, but more so the campus community. I thought students would be sent home after two weeks, and at first, I thought my prediction was going to be correct,” Crowley said.

Leah Crowley
Leah Crowley

Through her friends, working at The Cigar and from her own experiences, she knew that not all students in clinical rotations were being tested for COVID-19 and some students were gathering in large groups on campus at night. She also thought that many people’s “bubbles” were much bigger than what they should have been.

“Quite frankly, I thought bringing everyone back was a bad decision. I thought that throwing young people who had been cooped up for months into a college community was likely not going to end well,” said the junior from Plainville, Massachusetts. “However, I think we hit a turning point with mandatory and walk-in testing.”

She said that as soon as she could go to the Memorial Union to get tested, she felt safer.

“To me, the COVID-19 testing was the best service URI offered for the fall semester,” Crowley said. “Everyone who tirelessly worked the testing sites was friendly, professional, and efficient. I got tested four times and every time I was in and out within 5 minutes. I never felt unsafe while I was there and I got my results within one to two days.”

She had to travel home a few times during the semester.

“Even though I strictly followed guidelines and was never exposed or had any symptoms, getting tested was the greatest safety blanket. Nothing helps reduce stress in these difficult times like a negative test result.”

Lauren Poirier
Lauren Poirier

Lauren Poirier, a senior English and public relations major, took all of her courses online and lived in off-campus rental housing.

“For the most part, my professors teaching classes online were wonderful,” the Little Compton, Rhode Island resident said. “They used the technology provided to them proficiently, stayed in contact with students, answered emails quickly, and were as engaging as possible via Zoom or Brightspace.

“William Ballard was an excellent professor,” Poirier said. “I took HDF 318G Health and Wealth as my grand challenge, and the class was asynchronous. While I’ve never even seen his face, I learned a lot from him and felt that his class was the perfect amount of work while also being engaging and interesting.”

Poirier said the testing program offered by Health Services was superb.

“I felt so grateful throughout the entire semester that I was able and even encouraged to get tested whenever I felt I needed to,” she said. “The turnaround time was fast.”

Student Senator Katie Siegle, chair of the Student Organizations Committee, was pleased with the University’s effort to reopen in the fall.

Katie Siegle
Katie Siegle

“As an off-campus student, I was made fully aware of all the guidelines and precautions that were put in place, and I felt safe when I had to visit campus,” said the junior journalism and sports media double major from New Milford, Connecticut.  “I was thrilled with all the new changes that were made, particularly the installation of room capacity signs and the development of the URI (RhodyConnect) app.

“Going into the fall semester with so much uncertainty, I felt reassured to know that there was COVID-19 testing for free on campus,” Siegle said. “This fall I got tested every week, and knowing that I was negative gave me the peace of mind that I was doing all the right things to avoid getting the virus. I am really glad that URI was able to offer that service to the campus community.”

Siegle said she also was fortunate to have professors who understood how unprecedented and confusing the semester was, adding she never felt pressured. At the beginning of the term, she had some difficulty adapting to her asynchronous, online classes, but she eventually developed a routine and schedule that worked for her.

“For my classes that were strictly online, my professors were very efficient users of Brightspace, which really made the classes much more productive and meaningful,” she said. “My professors were quick to reply to any questions and were always open to communication.”

Julia Moro, a senior journalism major and intern at The Public’s Radio, Rhode Island’s National Public Radio outlet in Providence, said the pandemic has been incredibly difficult for everyone, as people have lost loved ones and jobs, and students have lost crucial classroom time. She said everyone had to adapt.

Julia Moro
Julia Moro

“I have a great deal of appreciation and respect for my professors who have done their best to adapt quickly,” the Setauket, Long Island resident said. “URI professors never faltered in showing compassion and patience, which helped students the most. I know many students who struggled to understand the material or get an assignment in on time. I also know that in every instance, professors were always quick to provide support.”

She said many professors were extremely flexible with office hours, assignments and deadlines.

“I am so appreciative of the professors I had,” Moro said. “I knew if I ever needed some extra help or leniency because I was struggling, I could get it. The compassion and sense of community that URI faculty members showed during this time will always stick with me.”

All individual student head shots were taken by the students themselves in physically distant settings. The shots meet the photo guidelines set by the University.