Normally, faculty are a group stretched thin. The time spent on designing classes, teaching, and grading is only a fraction of what their academic life encompasses. There is a considerable amount of time spent behind the scenes researching and advancing as a scholar, and the time they spend supporting students goes far beyond coursework.
2020 events, including the COVID-19 Pandemic and racial unrest, exacerbated faculty workload and poor work-life balance. As students exhibited signs of stress and mourning, many faculty members took on the additional roles as counselor. As everyone in the country became “Zoomed Out”, many faculty members struggled to keep students engaged. This shift caused many colleges to re-evaluate the programming they offer to faculty to support them in their teaching. How could we support our faculty 360 in order to provide the best teaching to our students?
For D’Youville College, our focus shifted in 2020 to supporting faculty wellness and difficult conversations through a series of initiatives.
Our 2020 Conference on Teaching Innovation was held virtually. A Caring and Counseling panel made up of our Chief Diversity Officer and two mental health counselors discussed caring for students and self-care in a post-COVID-19 campus. The panel answered questions on determining the correct course of action when a student is dealing with illness and/or death in this pandemic, mitigating racism due to media and cultural representations of COVID-19, and dealing with the stress that caring for students may bring.
The January 2021 Faculty Development Day was dedicated to inclusive practices in the classroom and in our community with presentations by area health organizations. Sessions included: An Introduction to Cultural Competency, GIS Tools for Mapping Risk Related to Social Determinants, Measuring Cultural Competence Skills in Student Work, Mitigation Strategies for At-Risk Students, Good Intentions: Helping Students Confront Racial Blind Spots, and Social Determinants of Educational Attainment.
In Spring 2021, the college launched a 24/7 mental telehealth program called SaintsCare. While most mental health initiatives on campuses are only contracted for students, our institution contracted these services for faculty and staff, as well, after hearing from employees who could benefit from a convenient way to receive counseling and health coaching telehealth visits.
In addition, the D’Youville School of Pharmacy has been offering COVID-19 rapid antigen tests on campus. No insurance or prescription is necessary, making it easy for everyone on campus to get the answers they need quickly.
Supporting faculty beyond teaching and learning is critical for every institution. In an era of great uncertainty, campuses need to innovate ways to support faculty in all aspects of their lives so that they may be the best versions of themselves for their students. Finding better ways to support faculty wellness in the new normal will help institutions improve the success of their students.