When the college is at its best, we are (1) focused on student well-being and development; (2) using evidence to enhance knowledge and knowledge to improve practice; and (3) doing it all collaboratively.
Enter the college’s Covid Care Program.
As we were planning for the fall semester, we knew we needed a first-rate contact-tracing system. But, give terrific staff some space and a big mission, and the next thing you know, you have a full-blown plan for how to thoughtfully take care of students facing the anxiety of potentially being infected and, if so, quarantined or isolated. Give the same staff time to listen to student input, talk to each other about ways to provide even better care, put a few more rock star staff in place; become best friends with the Beloit Health System; add in a dollop of serendipity; and voila, Covid Care is born.
This story benefits from a little depth. Early in the fall, we turned the fourth floor of the Powerhouse into a Covid-19 testing center. We require that students take a PCR test every other week. Of course, this is nerve-wracking, but the whole process is face-to-face with staff who make sure they get to know each student a little better with each test. When a student tests positive, they are immediately notified, and the process begins to move them into isolation as rapidly as possible. Imagine what that feels like to the student!
Beloit College staff who are trained in professional contact tracing immediately talk with the student to learn about their close contacts. Importantly, these same staff also listen carefully to the infected student’s concerns and anxieties. This is a stressful moment, and attention to that stress is essential. Stress begets more stress. Every student, faculty, or staff member identified as a close contact is notified, and the quarantine process begins.
In case you are wondering what isolation or quarantine really means, it means you are stuck in your room all the time. Books are brought to you, classes are zoomed, food is delivered, and you see almost no one.
The essence of Covid Care is to bring a boatload of humanity to an otherwise really lousy situation. Covid Care staff reach out to every student in isolation or quarantine at least once a day to learn what the student needs. Students also are encouraged to contact Covid Care staff so that as their condition changes, they have immediate access to someone who can help. Processes are in place to be gloriously responsive. Covid Care staff are attentive to how a student is coping and adept at drawing out concerns that, absent some attention, could turn into bigger issues.
This attentiveness matters. To help make students happy and comfortable, an endless array of requests have been delivered: books, clothes, medicine, packages, Halloween candy, calligraphy pens, more packages, crazy amounts of food, hugs (safely), and the list goes on. No beer. Check in; ask; dig a little deeper; see if food is eaten or more food needed; check on symptoms; deliver packages (so many packages); talk about which students are struggling; talk about if this were your child, what would you like to have done; talk about caring every step of the way.
Oh, I nearly forgot about the serendipity. It turns out the college received a timely anonymous gift prior to the pandemic, designated for residence hall renovation. We opted to use it for the second and third floors of Chapin Hall above Commons. Now, the beautifully refurbished rooms on the second floor are for quarantined students and the third floor for isolated students. To have these students directly above food service, in really nice spaces, makes a ton of difference. Rarely has a gift been put to such immediate and valuable service. Thank you.
But, what matters most is that the very finest human beings are bringing their collective energy to caring for our students. All the resources in the world do not hold a candle to people who care. Their names make a difference. At the center are Tara Girard and the Health and Wellness staff, Erica Daniels, Angela Bishop, Elaina Szyjewski, Karen Mayse, Ryan Schamp and the Res Life team, Cynthia Ou, Ken Hnilo and the Bon Appetit staff, and the Beloit Health System.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you to our Covid Care team. You are Beloit. We are so lucky that you are Beloiters.
From here at Chapin’s desk,
President Scott Bierman