It is without a doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed everyone’s lives here on campus. Classes typically taught in person have had to be taught online instead, there is no Hurst Day coming this semester and many field trips and study abroad programs have been cancelled or postponed. Many sports and departments have had to make changes in order to keep staff and students safe, and the AIM Program is no stranger to these changes.
One major change that AIM had to make during these times was the cancellation of the CREATE summer program for this year.
“Every summer we bring 30-34 high school and beyond students on campus to engage in a summer experience designed to help potential students determine whether they are ready for the demands of college life,” Tessie Staaf, AIM’s Intake Coordinator, said.
“Due to the restrictions that we would have had to follow at that time, which would have been during the month of July, we felt the students would not be able to have the college experience that CREATE is known to provide for them and, as such, we decided to postpone the summer program for the summer of 2020. The health and safety of all students and staff was our utmost concern. We do plan on having CREATE up and running for the summer of 2021 and look forward to sharing our beautiful Mercyhurst campus with a new cohort of college-bound students,” Staff said.
AIM began going virtual with their programming during the spring, and that continues to a significant extent now. Some programs, such as RA programs, remain virtual, but advisor meetings and lunch bunches are in person.
“In the spring we continued meeting with students on a regular basis throughout the end of the semester, but conducted these meetings virtually through Microsoft Teams,” Jennifer Surrena, associate director of AIM, said.
“We also created virtual activities and events for our students to connect with each other, whether through group discussion in a Teams chat, a virtual trivia game night or hosting a guest speaker, like Temple Grandin, who addressed our students via Zoom last April.”
Surrena also noted that efforts to guarantee space for social interaction have not stopped for the fall.
“We have continued to do some of the same virtual programming this fall to accommodate large groups. While we have been meeting with students in person, we are also able to meet with them virtually if they are feeling unwell for any reason and want to remain in their room,” Surrena said.
Although there are still some aspects of AIM that remain in person, such as weekly meetings, efforts are still being made to combat the spread.
Amanda Mulder, Student Support coordinator at AIM, has been working hard at these efforts.
“Since AIM staff can meet with students in person, we measured 6 ft. in our offices, and rearranged our furniture to accommodate 6 ft. of social distancing, utilize plexiglass barriers and signs and markings on the floor,” said Mulder. “AIM has plenty of hand sanitizer and cleaning spray. AIM staff wear facemasks during student meetings. Many of the AIM staff also have staggered work schedules to help with limiting hall traffic, so not all employees arrive at the same time. Students also must have an appointment to meet with staff members, so that helps with reducing the hall traffic at certain times of the day.”
AIM is just one of many departments working diligently to assist their students at these times.