Editor's note: This open letter was written by Academic Advisor, Tricia Monnig to her students majoring in Entrepreneurship. We felt the content might be helpful for others.
To be clear, these are my thoughts and do not represent Horn Entrepreneurship or the University of Delaware. It is written from my perspective as your Academic Advisor and as the mom of an incoming UD freshman and a 2nd year college student who is attending a school that is quite far away (so paying out of state tuition!). So, while I may not know your exact situation and how you were and are being affected by the pandemic, I can relate as our family has been experiencing many of the same losses, worries, frustrations and uncertainties.
Reflections on Spring:
Before I talk about the fall semester, I'd like to reflect on the spring semester. WOW! Nothing could have prepared us for that. So. Much. Disruption. Many events were postponed or cancelled. Things some of you have waited your whole life for. And it sucks. And I’m sorry.
However, here are some things I wouldn't change for anything: getting out of my comfort zone - being forced to adapt rapidly, think creatively and work together as a team to give our students the best experience possible. Precious time with my daughter who was a high school senior - (who missed out on being captain of her lacrosse team, prom, graduation, etc). I know many of you missed similar things as well: UDance, formals, graduation, rushing, study abroad, spring break, etc. There was so much uncertainty! But here are some things that remain certain. God is good. All the time. We can use bad situations for good. There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for. I call them “COVID Brightsides”. Mine were: Not having to commute gave me time to exercise and connect with nature. Wearing my foam slides to work. Eating lunch away from my desk and often outside. Spending time with my husband (Rick), daughter (Emilie) and dog (Trooper). Having more time to talk with students about life and not just courses or degree requirements. In the summer, I had DOUBLE the amount of time with incoming students for their New Student Orientation appointments. This was awesome!
Just to touch on Spring 2021 briefly since many people are asking my thoughts. I don’t have a crystal ball. Wish I did. I have absolutely no idea, but I am REALLY hoping we are back on campus and in a somewhat normal environment. To make that happen EVERYONE (that means YOU) has to do their part. WEAR A MASK. Keep proper physical distance (I dislike the term “social distance”). Wash your hands. And encourage others to do the same. It takes guts, but be the leader. Do it and insist others do the same. It’s the only way, until there is a vaccine. And that will take awhile.
Thoughts on Fall:
I wanted to see your face, in person. I really did. The fall transition to online is not what any of us wanted (this I feel comfortable speaking on behalf of everyone at UD). I can tell you that since the pandemic started, the UD administration has been making decisions based on the health and safety of students, faculty and staff first and foremost. Their decisions are based on science, data and CDC and state guidelines. With the rising number of cases and students coming from all over the country, they didn’t feel it was the right thing to bring thousands of students together in such an unstable situation. Even if we were in person, the experience was going to be WAAYYY different. Masks and 6 ft social distancing (even if classes moved to outside), no small group work, no sharing of materials or supplies, assigned seating, limited numbers of students in any one location, etc. Honestly, I can deliver a much more engaging experience online than I could have under those conditions.
The biggest concern I am hearing is with regard to online classes. I fully expect the online classes to be a better experience in the fall than it was in the spring. In the spring, we had 2 weeks to transition all in person classes to virtual…all while transitioning our lives to working from home, figuring out child care, dealing with illnesses, technology challenges, etc. Since we have been doing this for several months, we have now adapted to the virtual work environment. Also, UD has invested quite a bit in online learning resources for faculty. I’ll address this more in my “Thoughts on UD”.
In addition to improved online classes, students will still have all of the support services they would have had in person. Advising, student health & wellness, counseling, and tutoring and study groups will be offered virtually. Also, the library has amazing online resources and currently has in person pick up service and student life will be offering activities.
The other big question I get is “Will the Venture Development Center be open?”. I know how much you love the VDC. We all love it. It’s our home away from home. At this point, I don’t know. We’re working on a plan, but waiting for guidance from the Provost’s office. If it is open, it will be very limited. What I do know is a maximum of 17 people could be in the Co-Lab. Masks and physical distancing will be required. The kitchen area and water cooler will be off limits (no sour patch kids or coffee).
Horn Entrepreneurship will have MANY opportunities to make connections with students - a welcome “party”, peer mentor program, trivia night, game nights, a creative version of the Food Network show - Chopped, just to name a few. We have an entire Horn Enrichment team dedicated to giving our students the best experience possible. There is no way it will duplicate a “normal” college experience, but everyone will be having the same experience. And it will be YOUR experience. It will be what you make it. Our positivity to make the most of it can go a long way.
Thoughts on UD:
I started working at UD in October 2012 (so almost 8 years ago) and I’ve NEVER been more proUD to work for UD! From the day the first cases of COVID-19 on campus were announced, the administration responded swiftly and with the entire campus community’s wellbeing and safety being first. In my opinion (and compared to my son’s school) they’ve been great communicators with their COVID website, academic town hall meetings, social media and weekly emails. There were two town hall meetings for students & parents. I attended the one on Monday night!
It saddens me to read the negative comments about UD on social media, particularly on the parent pages. These individuals are not criticizing a building. They are criticizing the human beings who have been working tirelessly for our students in this extraordinary and unprecedented situation. They are humans who have had to adapt to working from home, deal with technology issues, care for children and ill family members. All while working really hard to predict what impact the pandemic would have on our area several months or even weeks later. I can tell you they worked all spring trying to give students the best possible experience and they have been working all summer trying to plan to welcome all students to campus in the fall. But they also had the foresight to have us plan for multiple outcomes: fully in person while following CDC and state guidelines, hybrid, and fully online. Their plan and hope was always to bring students back to campus in the fall. It was only when it seemed to jeopardize safety and well being did they make the very difficult decision to go mostly online.
With regard to online learning, UD has provided faculty with more opportunities to learn how to teach engaging online courses than one could possibly take advantage of. Since the beginning of summer, we were asked to prepare for in-person teaching with a plan in place to transition to fully online at a moments notice in case there was an outbreak.
We have been taking classes, participating in workshops and one-on-one course consultations. UD is VERY committed to giving students a robust and engaging online learning experience. And they are demanding excellence from us.
Another question I get is “with so much notice, why would there be ANY asynchronous classes”.
Asynchronous means the class is fully online and self-paced. There is no specific day & time. It’s important to note that UD has been offering online asynchronous classes for many years. Some courses were designed specifically to be taught online and have only ever been offered online. In fact, there are several ENTR courses that were designed as such: ENTR155, ENTR156, ENTR157, ENTR158, etc. I personally took the online asynchronous course ENTR654, which is the grad level of ENTR350: Intro to Entrepreneurship, back in 2014. It was a great course! Other courses have had sections adapted to be taught online asynchronously for many years, which several students have taken advantage of. These students have enjoyed the flexibility of scheduling and self-paced learning. There are both advantages and disadvantages to both online formats. One key advantage of asynchronous worth noting is that it lessens the feeling of “Zoom fatigue”. It’s a real thing!
UD may not be perfect. And they may have changed plans. And there may be a delayed response to emails and phone calls. UD has had to make adjustments to part-time staff positions and human resources are limited. But I sincerely believe they are doing the best they can under the circumstances, all while keeping the student’s best interest first and foremost. I honestly believe they are living out their Guiding Principles. Here are a couple of things I think they did and are doing really well for students: new student orientation, the modified pass/fail grading option, free parking and return to campus website.
Thoughts on an Entrepreneurship Education:
There’s no better time to be an entrepreneurship student! Since day one, it has been our mission to help students adapt and thrive amidst rapid change. And boy is that being tested! I can tell you many success stories of how our students have not just been surviving, but how they have been thriving during the pandemic.
We are resilient. We have grit. We are creative problem solvers. We are leaders. We look for ways to turn problems into opportunities. We are creating value and positive change in the world.
To see how the Horn Entrepreneurship staff is putting their entrepreneurial mindset & skill set into practice, check out the Horn Lemonade blog series.
In closing, here is some advice to get you through the fall:
- WEAR a MASK!
- Observe physical distancing
- Practice gratitude daily
- Today, I’m grateful for a hot shower, a cool morning breeze and a perfect summer tomato.
- Be kind to others. Show empathy. You don’t know their story & what they are going through.
- Be mindful regarding Social Media
- how often? how much time?
- how do you FEEL when you are on it?
- before you post, ask yourself 3 questions: 1) Is it true; 2) Is it kind; 3) Is it necessary. If you answer NO to ANY of the questions, rethink before you post.
- Practice self-care. It’s not selfish. It’s essential.
- If you have an asynchronous class this fall, schedule time on your calendar as it were meeting in person - 3 hrs for a 3-credit class (options: 3 - 1hr blocks, 2 - 1.5hr blocks, or 1 - 3hr blocks). Your choice should be guided by the subject matter and how you work best.
- Get outside and “walk between classes” just as you would if in person. The fresh air and movement will do wonders for your mindset and attention span.
- Make the most of your time! It is a gift. You will never have this kind of time for yourself or your family.
- Discover your passions, discover what “wakes you up” and what brings you true joy.
- Tap into your entrepreneurial mindset & skills set - If you encounter problems, how can you turn them into an opportunity?
- ASK for help if you need it. There are so many resources available. Don’t know where to go? Try google: udel + whatever you want to know. OR just ask me or any Horn team member! We are all here for YOU. (editor's note: if associated with UD you may wish to visit the Student Services website page).
Program Manager, Academic & Enrichment
University of Delaware Horn Entrepreneurship