Jamie Hisel, MPH is a faculty member and undergraduate program advisor in the Environmental Health Science Department at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU). Jamie has been a member of NEHA for four years, and she currently serves as president of the Association of Environmental Health Academic Programs (AEHAP). In her interview, Jamie discusses the unique challenges that COVID-19 has brought for universities and the students that they support.
Jamie ends her interview with some thoughts on the importance of resiliency and hope. In her words, “Now, more than ever, the world is seeing first-hand the impact the environment has on our health. This virus has quite literally shut the world down, and people can now see that EH is on the frontlines fighting this thing head-on to make a better tomorrow.”
NEHA: How has Eastern Kentucky University responded to the COVID-19 crisis?
Hisel: EKU responded quickly to the COVID-19 crisis. Fortunately, the university was on spring break the second week of March when things became more critical and we were able to act quickly to negate having all students return to campus after many had been traveling all over the U.S. I can only imagine what may have happened had we postponed moving to an online format and allowed many students to return to campus. The results could have been devastating for our county. We have a strong administration and a coronavirus taskforce was quickly put together in February to address the issues and make the best decisions to move forward for the campus.
NEHA: What does a workday look like for you since the onset of COVID-19 in Kentucky?
Hisel: The workday has changed significantly as I am now working entirely from home. I have tried to keep a regular schedule, however, I have found I am working a lot more. Many nights and weekends, I am answering emails, helping students with blackboard issues, advising, reading discussion board posts, reopening quizzes, exams, zoom sessions, creating lecture videos, the list goes on and on. It seems never-ending at times, but we are all making sacrifices, and, above all, I want to be there for my students.
While I am thankful we live in a time in which virtual learning is possible, it has definitely been challenging for me to quickly adjust my classes and switch to an online format. I always strive to give my students the very best instruction possible and I did not want that to change just because of the current circumstances. I wanted to still provide my students with clear, meaningful, and engaging lecture material while being sensitive to the unique challenges they may be facing in this time of uncertainty. I wanted them to learn the material, but also not overload them with excessive amounts of work. It has been a delicate balance, but I have already gotten some positive interaction and feedback from my students.
On a more positive note, this time has given me an opportunity to improve my course structure, be more creative in developing assignments, and allowed me to become more familiar with many different forms of technology that I had not used previously. For many months, I had longed for a chance to ‘slow-down’ and work on my courses and this time has allowed me to do so.