COVID-19 doesn’t stop faculty from supporting students

Published by , Date: March 13, 2020

The Rocket is committed to bringing you the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak. We have a section on our website with complete coverage HERE.

UPDATE (MARCH 20, 11:50 a.m.)

The Student Counseling Center will no longer be operating out of the office, according to clinical director Dr. Kenneth Messina.

“We are working on making sure we are providing support and access to students in a variety of ways while most of our students are away from campus,” Messina said.

He added that he is unsure of specifics because the center is still in the process of finalizing plans to be able to meet students’ needs in the best way possible, but that students who are currently utilizing the counseling center’s services will be contacted as soon as plans are finalized.

“Our counselors are working hard to make sure we have a plan that ensures the best access for students and remains consistent with the best practices of our profession,” Messina said.

He said students can email the Student Counseling Center at or call the office at (724) 738-2034 with questions as he and counselors are checking the voicemail remotely.

Karla Fonner, director of Student Support, said the office will be making minimal changes in order to continue to connect students to resources that best fit their needs at this time.

“Our Student Support office helps students find ways to navigate stressful life events making it difficult for them to complete coursework,” Fonner said via email.

She added that though the Boost peer team will not report to campus, and all Boost events have been canceled, they will provide helpful resources and wellness reminders through their Twitter account.

Fonner said the best way to reach Student Support is to send an email to her, or to enter the information into the Care network. The Care network, she said, will continue to be monitored regularly, and all students referred will still receive outreach.

Dr. John Rindy, director of the Office for Career Education and Development, provided further details about how appointments with career coaches will be conducted.

He said they cannot answer their phones due to the physical office being closed, so all appointments should be scheduled online through Handshake’s Career Center tab. Once a student schedules an appointment, he continued, they will receive an email either directly from the Handshake system or from their career coach with the Zoom video URL they can use at the time of their meeting.

He added that if students don’t have a laptop or computer with video and audio capabilites at home, they can use their smartphones for their appointments by downloading the Zoom app. He added that students should reach out directly to their career coach, who can arrange a phone appointment.

“Students can opt out of using video during their appointments unless the appointment is for a mock interview or for interview advice, since those appointment types require that the career coach can view the student and make observations and provide advice on things like nonverbal communication,” Rindy said.

He also said juniors and seniors looking for internships should utilize Handshake as there are hundreds of jobs and internships posted.

“Companies who post on Handshake have specifically chosen to send their jobs to SRU, so it is a search tool that is far superior to Indeed or Simply Hired because 100% of the employers in our system deliberately chose to seek SRU graduates or interns,” Rindy said.

He added that the Uncommon Hour programs will continue virtually, and several other topics have been added to the series. Students will be able to register for any of these on Handshake’s Events tab. Upcoming events include:

  • March 24: Designing Your Life (Life Design Workshop)
  • March 26: Developing Strong Professional Writing Samples for Applications
  • March 30: Increasing Your Chances for Grad School Acceptance
  • April 6: Developing Cover Letters — When? Why? How?
  • April 7: Careers in Commercial Real Estate
  • April 16: Managing Money and Debt

Uncommon Hour programs to be added include topics such as LinkedIn; education, business, science and technology resumes; and searching for jobs and interviews.


In response to the coronavirus outbreak, SRU President William Behre announced Wednesday, March 11 in an email sent to university stakeholders that SRU will extend its spring break by two weeks; he announced Monday in another email that instruction will resume through distance learning modalities starting March 30.

A revised FAQ document attached to the March 11 email stated that campus is open only for basic business operations and that ancillary facilities — Aebersold Recreation Center, Bailey Library, the Macoskey Center and Storm Harbor Equestrian Center — will all be closed.

Though auxiliary facilities will be closed, campus offices such as Student Health Services will remain open to students.

Dr. Natalie Burick, director of the Office of Disability Services (ODS), said she and the rest of the office staff will be working remotely.

“We have been working diligently to ensure our services are streamlined for an online process,” Dr. Natalie Burick, director of the Office of Disability Services (ODS), said. “We can Zoom, Skype, or call students from our cell phones using Google Voice.”

One particular service the ODS provides is note-taking. Burick said note-takers have already been directed to continue taking notes for their classes as per usual and have been given instructions for submitting notes electronically.

“If the class format changes and notes aren’t needed, note-takers should contact us immediately so we can communicate with students,” she said. “We also reached out to students who receive notes and told them to communicate with us if there are issues regarding notes.”

She added that communications have already been sent to students informing them about what they should do if they need certain accommodations; students should check their email and respond if they have questions.

Director of Student Health Services Kristina Benkeser said the health center will maintain its 24/7 hours, but she encourages all students to call the health center before visiting.

“If we can handle it over the phone, we will,” she said. “A nurse will be available at all times to answer students’ calls and help them. We want to limit exposure as much as possible at this time.”

Benkeser said nurses at the Student Health Center can schedule appointments, help students with transferring their prescriptions and talk with students about any health concerns or problems they may be experiencing over the phone.

She added that, during this time, it’s absolutely important to practice social distancing, to wash your hands and to be prepared for anything.

“This situation is constantly evolving and changing,” she said. “Every day is a new adventure.”

Dr. Kenneth Messina, clinical director of the Student Counseling Center, said the center will remain open during the extended break and will continue to reassess based on student need. He added that all in-office services will still be available to students, but all planned outreach events on campus have been canceled.

“We still have groups and individual sessions,” Messina said. “Our walk-in services are still available as well. We are encouraging students to try to call and schedule appointments as we want to reduce the number of people in our waiting area, but still want students to utilize walk-in time if they need those services.”

He said counselors are also prepared to assist students in finding services in their home areas. Students who need assistance finding a mental health provider in their area can call the counseling center’s front desk to schedule a phone call with one of the counselors to begin the referral process.

Messina encouraged students to watch for updates in emails, on SRU’s website and on the counseling center’s Twitter page.

Student Support will also remain open and active, according to director Karla Fonner, but there will be no face-to-face meetings. All meetings will be conducted via the Internet or phone call. She added that the best way to contact Student Support is to email her ( or to submit a Care Report.

“All students referred will still receive outreach from our office or the necessary campus partner,” Fonner said.

In addition to in-person meetings being suspended, Boost student staff will not report to campus, and all Boost events have been canceled.

Dr. Lyosha Gorshkov, assistant director of the Women’s and Pride Centers, said the Women’s and Pride Centers will not be operating as they normally would, but he encourages students, staff and faculty to reach out with any questions or concerns they may have via email.

“We are hoping that after March 30, we will be able to get back to our regular schedule,” Gorshkov said. “We have to wait until the president and his cabinet make the announcement regarding campus operations.”

All dining services will remain closed through the extended break until March 30, according to Christopher Cole, director of Auxiliary Operations and Student Services.

Cole said students who are registered to stay in the residence during the extended break will have access to boxed meals from Boozel Express beginning with dinner on Sunday, March 15. Breakfast will be available from 7-9 a.m., lunch will be available from noon to 1 p.m. and dinner will be available from 5-6 p.m.

The Office for Career Education and Development, according to director Dr. John Rindy, will be open and keeping all previously scheduled appointments, but they won’t be face-to-face.

“Anyone who has already scheduled will receive an email from their career coach that will include a Zoom URL to click on at their appointment time,” Rindy said. “Zoom works from PCs, Macs and newer iPhones. I recommend being at a laptop or desktop, especially if you are having a document reviewed. That can get pretty tiny on a smartphone.”

Students who need to complete a career assignment can still do that by scheduling on Handshake — on the Handshake app, choose “School” to find the appointment function. All appointments that can be done face-to-face can also be done via Zoom, Rindy said.

He added that his staff may be reduced dramatically, depending on whether his contingency plan for the office is approved by university administration.

“Many coaches on our team are graduated assistants and undergrad peer educators — that’s 3/4 of my staff,” Rindy said. “As long as administration approves my grad assistants and students having appointments from their laptops at home, we should be good. If we have to default to my full-time staff, then we will only be able to accommodate a fraction of the hundreds of appointments that would still have sought services from our office. For now, though, we hope to be full steam ahead!”

He said all Uncommon Hour programs will also be hosted virtually. Everyone who registered will receive a URL for viewing the programs live, and the office will tweet the links to the virtual Uncommon Hour programs for other students who want to attend.

Lisa Ringer, director of the SGA preschool and childcare center, said the center closed Monday at 6 p.m., but they plan to reopen Monday, March 30.

For more SRU-related COVID-19 information, visit


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