Christina Jaquez, in her presentation, “Hindsight Isn’t 2020: Considerations for Students and You,” gave me the opportunity to PAUSE. In a year that has been anything but standard, Christina reminds us to PAUSE, for our students and for ourselves. Her explanation of PAUSE is: Purpose, Accountability, Understanding, Support and Empathy.
When a challenging situation presents itself, like a frustrated student looking for support, let us first determine the purpose at hand. Yes, the student may be expressing frustration, but what is the crux of the issue? Is the student asking for something we can help with, like a tuition credit request, or perhaps an extension on an assignment. In our roles as staff and faculty, we need to find a way to identify the purpose and understand how we can support, all while maintaining our standards and holding students accountable for their role in our processes. This can be a nuanced approach, and I can tell you that the folks on the Student Affairs team can expertly navigate that nuance. If you need support or just a sounding board for ideas, please connect with the folks in Student Affairs, like Christina, to help walk through this process.
Providing support and empathy throughout is equally important. Christina helps to highlight the critical differences between sympathy and empathy. Too often I think we are quick to sympathize with our students, but are we really empathizing with them? Christina reminds us that our students may not be representative of the students we once were. Many of us were more traditional students: young, away from home, focused solely on school. Our students tend to be less traditional and to have far greater life experiences, holding jobs and supporting families while navigating school. Throw in Covid, and now our students are navigating ALL at the same time! They need us to be able to take minute to walk in their shoes and to empathize with their situation, though it may not be our own, and to PAUSE so that we can bring our best selves to our students.
Christina reminds us that we too have experienced incredible challenges this year. We need to give ourselves the same grace and PAUSE for ourselves and for our colleagues. The better we can practice this with ourselves and our teammates, the better support we will be to our students.
Rachel Orlansky, Director of Student Affairs at Ashford University