by RACHEL GILES
Student employees at UMW are adjusting to teleworking, or in some cases, not being able to work at all.
For employees of the Digital Knowledge Center (DKC), their work to provide digital resources and tutoring to students, faculty and staff has become even more salient during this period of transition to online learning. Senior communication and digital studies major Jennifer Hill is the student manager of the DKC, where she has worked since her freshman year. The Monday students came back from spring break, the DKC had a meeting, where, according to Hill, closing was not the first thought in anyone’s minds. Instead, the team discussed response measures to COVID-19, like wiping down tables and limiting contact.
However, the situation escalated rapidly. By Wednesday of that week, Hill said, “I was already thinking about ways to move the DKC remotely, because we were obviously going to be at the front line of this. It was very evident that our work at Digital Learning Support and the Digital Knowledge Center helping students would be very important. Our main focus and priority was helping with the online transition. We were also thinking about the tools that professors would need.”
Hill further detailed the DKC’s important role and tutors’ dedication to providing support during the online transition.
“I was there personally 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. that Thursday, Friday, and Monday in the office,” she said, “I didn’t do a lick of homework, and I didn’t want to. For me, at that time, and I do stand by this, I felt that where I could best serve everybody, was at my job, doing the work I know I am capable of, and was suddenly in demand.”
Hill also said that tutors worked to help professors transition their classes to online platforms and taught them how to use tools like Screencast-o-matic, while she established a procedure for remote tutorials.
“Remote tutorials were something we had discussed, and we had just had our first test this semester. We were taking ideas from ‘this is something we could do’ to ‘this is what we have to do,’” said Hill.
The DKC’s transition to remote work has been extremely successful, and the hard work of Hill and the tutors has paid off.
“We moved our entire process online. We came up with projects that tutors can do online by themselves, just on their computer. We also made sure to offer remote hours, and we didn’t force everyone to go remote. We understand that it’s not feasible for everyone. It brings up the conversation that’s been happening regarding internet access. We also didn’t want to overwhelm anyone,” Hill said.
Other student employees have had an easy transition to teleworking. Senior communication and digital studies major Jo Sherwood, who works as the senior student coordinator of publicity for SAE, was offered the opportunity to work remotely immediately. Sherwood works to design and post announcements to social media and is in charge of creating and sending out the SAE newsletter. The online transition has done little to change her role.
“It doesn’t change anything about how my daily duties are done because my tasks are 100 percent computer-oriented. The only thing that would change is if we decide to conduct meetings over Facetime or Zoom,” said Sherwood.
Senior English major Caleigh Pope worked at the Fitness Center as a Fitness Center supervisor and as a group fitness instructor. The Fitness Center has been shut down indefinitely.
“I was sad to lose my fitness classes because I had so many workouts and playlists planned that I wasn’t able to use,” she said. “My next thought for both of my jobs was ‘what am I going to do about losing two jobs?’ I’m missing almost two months of work, and those paychecks go towards my grad school savings fund, as well as any weekly expenses I have.”
While Pope has not been offered remote work for her position as Fitness Center supervisor, she has had an opportunity to work remotely as a group fitness instructor.
“Typically I spend 1-2 hours planning workouts and playlists every day,” Pope said. “I also keep up with my at-home workouts so I can teach on the Instagram page. When I teach an [Instagram] Live class, I memorize the workout, have the music set up on my computer, and have a family member record the workout.”
However, there is still uncertainty regarding her paycheck. Pope said, “I am being paid for group fitness, but I don’t know how much or when I will be paid.”
For those positions unable to move online, student employees have lost major sources of income. Junior biology major Sophia Ayoud works as a Fitness Center attendant.
“I have not been offered to work remotely. I don’t see that being an opportunity for a job like mine. I am not being paid at this time, but we were paid for the hours we worked before the shutdown. I tried looking for another job, however everything has shut down, so I’m essentially without a job now,” said Ayoud.
Psychology major sophomore Gabe Martin is a student aide at the Simpson Library. Martin decided to move off-campus quickly after he was informed of the university’s decision to suspend in-person classes. For him too, work has completely halted.
“I worked at the library circulation desk in the HCC connecting hallway. I helped students check out and return books and helped with setting up exhibits in the lobby of Simpson. I also tweeted for the library. It is kind of frustrating that I can’t work on social media from home, but I understand why,” said Martin.
Even for those with opportunities for remote work, students are sad to lose the time spent with coworkers who they have developed friendships with.
“In the office, we have this giant heptagon shaped table and a couple of us would just sit there and work on our projects,” said Sherwood. “We knew that we could go into the office and be productive while also being able to just sit and take a breather. SAE became like another family for me, so I’m going to miss the whole family dynamic. We had a lot of love and respect for one another.”