[MUSIC PLAYING] RYAN LOMBARDI: All right. Good afternoon, everybody. It's great to be with you. My name is Ryan Lombardi. I'm the Vice President for Student and Campus Life. Nice to be with you again. I know that it's been a number of weeks since we've had one of these fora. But I look forward to spending the next hour with all of you and my colleagues that I'm joined with today.
It's a little after 1:00 o'clock, Tuesday, here in Ithaca, New York, another snowy day. We still have about, at least in my yard, about a foot of snow on the ground. It snowed for a little bit this morning, some snow showers as they call them, but didn't accumulate to much more. So that's good. And we're supposed to get some warmer temperatures later this week. We're very excited that we should break into the low 40s.
When I tell my parents who live in Florida about that, they chuckle quite a bit, when I'm excited to put on a slightly lighter jacket when we get into the low 40s. I hope that everybody is doing well. I hope this day finds you and your loved ones doing well and staying safe. Again, I'm joined by my colleagues today, and we look forward to sharing some information and updates with you today.
I also want to thank everybody for the questions you submitted. We'll do our best to answer those, as we have framed our comments for you today. So let me give just a real quick recap in terms of where we're at. And then I'll introduce my colleagues, and then we'll get started.
We're just a few weeks into the academic semester, as you know. Although it feels like we've been going a little longer since move-in started a number of weeks before the semester. And you also know that we were at COVID alert level yellow for a period of that time, given that we had seen some clusters of positive cases on campus as we were starting this semester.
I'm very pleased that we were able to revert to COVID alert level green yesterday, which I'm sure that many of you are aware of. And we've been able to begin opening up some opportunities for recreation and fitness, which we'll also expand on a little bit later today. I do want to just address briefly some of these gatherings that led to us moving to yellow.
Most of these things, I want to be clear, are happening in small groups and small groups of students who are getting together, understandably, out of a desire to socialize but doing so in a manner that doesn't comport with public health guidelines. And so one person who is carrying the virus in a small group like that can make it spread very quickly, especially since younger individuals, many of them tend to be asymptomatic, not all of them, but many of them tend to be asymptomatic. So it makes that much more able to happen.
And so we just continue to reiterate for our students to adhere to all of the guidelines. Even small groups can really, deeply impact our campus, so to avoid those at all costs. But most importantly too, if we do have situations like we did beginning this semester, to make sure that the students are fully cooperating with our staff and Cornell Health and with the county health department in regards to contact tracing efforts, we have a great team who will ask students about who they've been in contact with.
That's very important for us so that we know that. And we can get those students tested. We can get them in quarantine. We can get them isolated if necessary if they end up testing positive. Our ability to identify positives, but then identify contacts of positives, and to get those people out of kind of general campus circulation really is the secret sauce in terms of our ability to keep this campus open. So if I can implore for all of you to make sure that people are being fully transparent with us when it comes to contact tracing and cooperation with our teams.
I will say that the numbers have moderated not only on campus but in Tompkins County. We meet regularly with the county health director, Frank Kruppa, who's been a great partner to Cornell throughout this process. And although we were peaking during the months of December and January when students weren't here, the numbers in Tompkins County have similarly declined meaningfully, as they have on campus, as we've seen across the United States as well.
So that is encouraging, but we cannot let our guard down. I think all of us are keeping well apprised and realized that while those numbers are encouraging, we can't get complacent, because they could come roaring back if we're not careful, if we don't adhere to all the necessary steps.
I do want to just make a couple of other comments about our virus prevalence on campus. And we know that we have more students on campus this semester than we did last semester, but still, a good number of students who have decided to continue their education virtually, which we understand and support. I do want to emphasize that we still have not been seeing any COVID transmission to occur in the classroom. As we really study hard how the virus has spread on campus, that is not an area where we're seeing spread take place.
And we will be talking a little bit more also about the impact that this toll continues to take on all of our mental well-being. Actually, Sharon McMullen, my colleague, will talk about that at the end of the panel today. And I just want to acknowledge very sincerely, I recognize that challenge.
I've shared with my staff, many of the people who are on this Zoom today, that the challenges, it's been-- the challenges that I faced myself, my family. I have two middle school age kids who have faced enormous challenges as well. I've talked to many, many students on campus, and I recognize how hard this has been on so many people.
I also recognize, and at least for me, I feel like we at least are beginning to see a light on the horizon about the potential for ourselves as a country to make it through this pandemic. So we will focus and we will speak about mental health. But I wanted to just state from my heart how important it is, I think, that we all acknowledge that and realize the challenge that this is placed on so many.
And, of course, I also want to continue as I have in previous fora to acknowledge and thank those of you who have been on the front lines. Of course, some of my colleagues here on Cornell have been doing that for the last year. But I know many of you also who work in the health care industries or in the service industries have done the same.
And obviously, just yesterday as a country we marked a very unfortunate milestone of half a million people that have lost their lives due to COVID. And I want to extend my condolences to all of you who might have had an impact because of this terrible virus. And be sure that you know that our thoughts are with you and your families as we continue to work through this.
Like I said, we do have reason to see a little bit of light on the horizon. We're fortunate today among our other panelists to have our medical director Dr. Jones with us, who will talk a little bit about the vaccine and what that is looking like here locally and hopefully more broadly as the semester goes along.
I also want to remind you that our COVID website remains a great place for information. I know there is a great amount of information on that website. But we keep it updated. We keep adding information to it. So I encourage you to visit that covid.cornell.edu to stay fully informed.
Now let me introduce my colleagues very briefly. I'll just go through real quick and introduce them one by one so that you're aware of who's with us. And then I'll come back around and make a few more comments before we move through the panel.
First-- and I just referenced her-- I want to introduce Dr. Anne Jones, who's our medical director for Cornell Health and a COVID public health advisor for our campus at large. And Anne's going to talk with us today about vaccines. Anne, you want to say hello?
ANNE JONES: Hi, everybody. Good to be here. Thanks for joining.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thanks. Another familiar face, Jenny Loeffelman, who's Assistant Vice President for Student and Campus Life. And Jenny will be speaking today about an update on our in-person activities and what we can experience now and in the weeks to come. Hi, Jenny.
JENNY LOEFFELMAN: Hi. Hi, Ryan. Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us today.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thanks, Jenny. Another familiar face that has joined us today to help us focus on supporting student success in the classroom is Dr. Amy Godert, who's the Director of the Learning Strategy Center and the Executive Director of Academic Student Success Programs. Amy, do you want to say hello?
AMY GODERT: Hi, everyone. It's nice to be here.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thanks, Amy. And last but certainly not least, another familiar face, Sharon McMullen, who is the Assistant Vice President for Health and Wellbeing of Student & Campus Life. And she's going to be giving some updates, as I mentioned, around student mental health and some changes we're making in how we're focused on supporting our students, in this moment and all the time. Sharon?
SHARON MCMULLEN: Thanks, Ryan. Hi, everyone, delighted to be here, looking forward to this hour.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Great. Thank you so much, Sharon-- and everyone. All right, so I will start off as I always do, answering a few of the general questions that came in to our query before this panel. And then I will turn it over to my colleagues that I just introduced. So let me tell you a little bit about some of the questions and comments that we got coming in.
First is about student behavior. So I was just speaking a little bit about this and how important everyone following our public health guidelines really is to our success this semester, as it was in the fall. And I cannot be more proud of our students in how they stepped up and really did what was necessary in the fall to get through that semester. And I have full confidence that that will happen again this spring.
Certainly, people make mistakes. We've had students make mistakes. We understand that. But we are hopeful that students will-- if they do make a mistake, that they'll be reminded of the need to stay focused and stay diligent about the public health guidelines.
I do want to say-- and there have been questions about have students-- have there been consequences for students who have violated our guidelines? The answer is yes, there have. We don't as an institution-- and I feel strongly about this-- we don't make it a practice of advertising those consequences. You've seen some institutions who have chosen to do that, and that is certainly their choice.
But I've chosen that we're not going to be out advertising the consequences that happened to students. But we do follow up on misbehavior, reports that we get, and information that we have around students not adhering to our behavioral compact or to our public health guidelines.
We hope that most students make a choice to not violate those guidelines. But again, we do recognize that both individuals and organizations, in some cases, must get some other more punitive consequences, which, unfortunately, we have had to put in place.
I also want to continue to ask all of the parents who have joined us today to continue to be our partners in this. We need your help re-encouraging-- reinforcing, I'm sorry-- with your students, all of our guidelines and really encouraging them to cooperate with us in this practice.
We do know some cases where the information is not flowing smoothly between students and parents. I can imagine why. I've certainly experienced that myself and know that that's a phenomenon for sure. But if you can do everything to help us by encouraging your student not only to follow the guidelines but really to deter travel, I cannot emphasize travel enough.
When we studied the fall semester, we looked at travel. And it was actually one of the bigger risk indicators we found for virus spread in the community. In fact, I think the data, if I'm correct, a student who traveled had an eight times greater likelihood of contracting the virus than a student who did not travel. So very significant, and that's why we've been more strict with travel this semester.
Also with visitation, I know this is hard where we've asked people not to be visiting campus. We don't want a lot of extra guests and visitors up here. And I know that there have been questions about that desire. But we're please asking not to have visitors during this semester. If we can change things later in the semester, we will. But it's so critically important that we keep our campus and our community safe right now when it comes to student travel and to visitation.
I do want to also share, and I think many are aware of this, that we have increased surveillance testing frequency to three times a week for some of our student populations. Our populations include student athletes, people who live in sororities and fraternities who are members of those organizations, students who live in cooperative housing, group housing scenarios.
This is not because we're trying to pick on those students but because we're following the science. And, again, when we analyzed the fall semester, we found that students that live or interact in those settings had a greater likelihood of testing positive and actually comprised a good percentage of the number of positive cases we had this fall.
So we think that adding an additional level of testing-- and we studied this extensively-- reduces the likelihood of continued virus prevalence on campus this spring. So that was a really important step. I think all of you have probably heard by now how painless and quick and smooth our testing procedure is. I do it myself all the time, as do my colleagues. And it really is a breeze in and out. I think our team who's done that work has just been amazing to set up that system in such an efficient way.
I certainly know that there is a lot of interest in in-person activities and a lot of pressure to open up and to do more and more and more. You saw my announcement probably yesterday about us starting to open our fitness and recreation centers. We are working on opening those as the week proceeds. And we do anticipate loosening restrictions further if we continue to keep the prevalence low. And that is a big if. We can also revert and tighten things up if we need to, which we don't want to be the case.
But our ability to get back or get more active really is predicated on how much we're able to adhere to the continued guidelines. But it's certainly all of our desire to provide as many opportunities as possible for students and everyone to engage on campus.
A few other questions-- housing, a couple of questions about housing, and my colleague Pat Nguyen isn't going to join us today, because there were just a few of these. I want to note that for those of you who are remote and still thinking about coming back to campus this semester, we've asked that you have made that decision and return to campus no later than March 15.
After that time, you'll need to just remain home for the remainder of this semester. That's what we're asking folks to do. So again, that's quite a ways into the semester, about six weeks into the semester. So hopefully you'll have made those decisions by then.
I also recognize that we have to start thinking about next year. And for students who want on-campus housing for next year, that process has begun. We'll put the link in the chat so that students can express their interest.
This is non-binding. It's a no commitment right now or fee or anything along those lines. But it gets them enrolled in the process so that later next month, we can give them an opportunity to find an on-campus room next semester. So that information is in there as well.
So those were just a couple of the questions about housing that I wanted to emphasize in what that looks like. We are starting-- and I'll share this a little bit more at the end-- we are starting, of course, to talk about the fall semester in general and what it's going to look like for campus. I'll close with that today, so I won't get into that in this moment.
And then by far, the next-- the question that was highest on people's minds, beyond the ones I've already mentioned, is really around commencement. And what are our thoughts, and what is our thinking about commencement for this year in May of 2021?
No decisions have been made. I know everyone is very anxious for a decision to be made one way or another about what commencement will look like. We have been planning multiple scenarios for commencement this spring. They range from kind of completely normal commencement to completely virtual commencement and things in between too, some type of hybrid model for this year.
And we don't know where we'll land yet, but we do hope to make that decision here in the next number of weeks, hopefully just in the next few weeks. I will say, and we've posted this information on the commencement website, I think it's highly unlikely to expect commencement to look as it normally has pre-pandemic. I think that there will have to be some modifications made in order to make sure that we can acknowledge our students and celebrate in a way that's both safe and meaningful.
So we're still working diligently on that. But I do want to emphasize the information on the commencement website that really discourages any non-refundable travel arrangements because I do think it's unlikely that we'll be able to have everything as it was pre-pandemic.
I also want to acknowledge, I know that a message was distributed-- I think it was last week-- about the class of 2020 and plans to do something in-person at reunions this year in June, which have been moved to virtual, and regret that that has caused a lot of disappointment for the class of 2020, but similarly hope that we're able to figure out a way to celebrate those students in fine fashion, eventually with them, probably at reunions at some point, and look forward to that.
So a lot of questions about commencement. We will share any information. We will share a message broadly when those decisions are made. In the meantime, I do encourage you to keep an eye on the commencement website where we're keeping updates and adding and tweaking that information all the time to keep you as apprised as possible.
All right, so those were the big questions. Like I said, I'll talk just very briefly about the fall semester in general at the end of the session. But now I'm going to ask my colleagues to go through some of the topics that we talked about early on here. And we're going to start today with Dr. Anne Jones, who I mentioned is our medical director and Cornell's COVID public health advisor. So Anne, I will turn it over to you.
ANNE JONES: Thank you very much and again, great to be with everybody. So one of the most common questions that we're getting at Cornell Health these days is about vaccine and plans for distribution about vaccine on campus. And so I wanted to take you through the three main updates, really around eligibility, supply, and distribution of vaccine at Cornell.
So going back, COVID vaccine became available first in mid-December in New York State. And that was first to emergency responders, health care workers in the state, and since then has moved through a process of assigning eligibility in phases, mostly according to job functions, until actually-- or other characteristics such as age or chronic medical condition, which actually was a list that was approved and rolled out just last week.
And as each week has progressed since then, there have been more and more groups who have become eligible. And the eligibility process is a process that is done through the local health departments, either through the Tompkins County Health Department or the New York State Department of Health, which would create access to vaccine at one of the state-run vaccination sites through New York State Department of Health.
So all of-- oh, and there's a link around the eligibility process. So all of that being said, although these eligibility approvals are coming through week by week, the supply that's being allotted to each region in the state is coming through in different intervals and is often occurring in different intervals. And what that has created is that we know that many, many people who are eligible to receive the vaccine actually have not been able to receive the vaccine due to the supply not catching up to the demand or the eligibility in the region.
And so on the Tompkins County Health Department website, there are designations around what groups of people should go to the state-run vaccination sites and produce a self attestation, which is the process through the state sites. And then there are other specific clinics that are held locally through the Tompkins County Health Department that are usually made available to certain eligibility groups.
Sometimes it's a special clinic for health care workers. Other times it's a special clinic based on another eligibility guideline. And so what this means is that it's important for all of us.
And this has been something we've all been doing regularly is monitoring these eligibility requirements as they come out on the state website and then looking to keep track of the vaccine clinics that are coming online locally either through the health department, through Tompkins County Health Department, or through one of the state-run sites.
So that's a lot to keep track of, but it is a very quickly evolving and moving process and requires just a lot of diligence and looking and refreshing those websites. So I'm glad we've given you the links so that you can keep track of them. In some cases, we've learned that students may be required or advised to produce a letter to verify, especially if they're in a situation where they have a comorbidity status, and especially this may apply for out-of-state students or students who are studying remotely out of the state.
And if that is needed, there is a process we can help you with at Cornell Health where you can have us produce a copy of the medical record that you have, give you the information that would be helpful to allow you to get a vaccine, wherever you are. Of note though, in New York State, those letters are not required. It's a self-attestation process. But we are here to help students either way.
So now on to Cornell distribution-- many, many people have been asking. And the primary question is, are we distributing vaccine here on campus? And the answer to that is no, not at this time. But then the next question is, when will we be able to distribute vaccine on campus, and how will we be able to do that?
So the process began for that back in December as well, when applications opened up for entities within New York State to apply to be a POD clinic. POD stands for point of dispensing clinic in New York State. And at that time, Cornell University submitted an application to serve as a POD clinic for the state. Since then, we've received preliminary approval from the state, but we have yet to receive final approval or specific approval to move forward to receive and dispense vaccine on campus.
So what we're doing now is that we're in the planning and preparedness process of working with various university teams and partners, to look at things like feasibility, scalability, infrastructure, and to ensure that when we do get the go-ahead from the state, we will be ready to actively deploy and deliver vaccine to the community as soon as we can.
And at this point, we've created a planning team. It's led by myself in collaboration with Dr. Frank Cantone on campus and is including leadership and representation from many groups on campus-- Cornell Health, facilities, and Campus Services, public safety, information technology, infrastructure, communications, and human resources, to make sure that we're ready across the board.
There are many, many unknowns still out there regarding vaccine, many questions that are unfortunately unanswerable at this time. We know we've been getting many of these questions. But they include questions like, when do we think we might be approved? How much vaccine do we think we might expect? What are the expectations for how quickly we would need to be able to deploy vaccines on campus or administer?
We don't know the answer to those questions at this time. But we do know from keeping a close eye on the process across the state that in general, these systems are highly regulated by the state. And so we will be closely following state guidance, state guidelines and rules, especially regarding distribution, eligibility, and across the board, attempting to increase accessibility to the vaccine as much as possible.
And really that, again, leads to say, although there are many, many unknowns, what we do know is that COVID vaccine will be one of the most important tools to bringing this pandemic to a halt in our world, in our nation, and at Cornell. And we want, sincerely, as many people to be vaccinated as is possible for us to achieve as a community.
What we know from the scientific literature so far is that COVID vaccine reduces the severity of illness and disease in individuals for those who get the vaccine. But another unanswered question is how well it inhibits spread or transmission.
And so that's another question that we're getting quite often is, for individuals who've received the vaccine, is it still a requirement to continue with masking, social distancing, et cetera? And the answer to that is yes, until the vaccine is in much greater supply or until the literature catches up and gives us the guidance.
We have been getting other questions about the process for working through positive cases on campus. And I just want to say briefly that there's a team called the Cornell COVID Response Team that works on every case on campus, including students, faculty, staff, looking for epidemiologic trends, connections that we need to be aware of, with the primary goal of ensuring campus safety and public health.
Cornell Health manages every student who tests positive, doing notification, placement, contact tracing, and does that in collaboration with Tompkins County Health Department. In particular, if there are concerns about any activity on campus, any location, including classrooms, we're specifically looking at those situations one by one, as Ryan mentioned in the beginning, taking a very protocolled, standardized, and evidence-based approach to each one.
And we're happy to report that specifically in the classrooms, we've been able to note no evidence of classroom-based transmission, based on the social distancing guidelines and public health measures that are followed, which have been really excellent. So with that, thank you very much. I continue to enjoy being with you always.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Great. Thank you so much, Anne. That's great information. And I appreciate all you and your team in Cornell Health are doing to support our students and our campus in this trying time. Next we're going to go to Jenny, who's going to talk a little bit about our programming and in-person activities.
I do want to-- as I turn it over to Jenny, I just want to say again as I said at the onset, I realize there is a lot of interest in us moving as quickly as possible. And we very much want to do that. But we will be driven and guided by the data and the evidence on campus to make sure we do so in a safe manner.
We think it would not be wise to move too quick and have ourselves in a place of needing to shut down or even worse, prematurely end the semester. So we think that taking a slow and gradual approach is the right way. But Jenny, why don't you take us through a little bit about what we've got planned now and as the semester goes along?
JENNY LOEFFELMAN: Sounds great. Thank you, Ryan. Good afternoon, everyone. I am excited to share with you a few of the opportunities that we are going to be having available here on campus over the upcoming weeks, knowing that vigilance is still our top priority.
There have been a variety of questions about how students can remain physically active on campus. And that's been our first priority here starting this week, both in Barton Hall, Lynah Rink, Reis Tennis Center, Helen Newman pool, and bowling, in addition to our fitness centers, will begin opening throughout the week for individual student use. That link is here in the chat so you can see the hours and the availability for those fitness center and athletic and recreation opportunities.
Due to the winter weather in Ithaca, unfortunately our outdoor facilities are not going to be open right away. But as they become available for recreational use throughout the semester, we will be opening those up for really safe outdoor activity like we had in the fall. We're also working to provide more outdoor activities that students can participate in, in small groups. So more to come there, but our team is working on that as we speak.
Our intramurals and club sports teams are also currently conducting activities virtually and will continue to do so at this time. As we begin to phase in in-person activities for both athletics and club sports, students will be able to have individual and limited group activities. But that will be later on in the semester once we're able to keep the prevalence down and make sure that it's safe. So for right now, all club sports activities are still remaining virtual.
We have received some questions about sororities and fraternities and involvement in those organizations this spring. Sororities and fraternities offer a great way for students to remain connected and have done an amazing job this year of remaining virtual. Both the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council are hosting virtual recruitment as we speak.
Fraternity Bid Day was yesterday. And the sorority Bid Day is later this weekend. And as I mentioned, both of those experiences have been completely virtual.
There are a maximum-- once students join sororities and fraternities, there are a maximum of four weeks allowed for the new member process. And so that will take place over these next four weeks. The multicultural Greek and Fraternal Council process is rolling out throughout the spring and varies based on organization. But that will also be an opportunity for students to get involved this spring.
One quick note for students who join fraternities and sororities-- they should be aware to make sure you confirm your housing requirements with those organizations and do so in advance to the housing lottery on campus. All those timelines are here these next couple of weeks, so stay tuned.
There is one other deadline I'd like to make sure is on the radar for new fraternity members. And that's the dining deadline. You are able to reduce your meal plan if you would like to have meals, grab and go from the fraternity houses. But you do need to make sure you do that by March 3. There are additional details about sorority and fraternity life and engagement in those organizations on the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life website. So that link will go in there too.
We've also received a bunch of questions about service opportunities. And our Public Service Center and many other organizations on campus have done a great job of continuing to provide service opportunities for our students.
Our service activities continue to stay virtual. All of our service programs are finding impactful ways to support our community through online tutoring, engaging with elders virtually, supporting K-12 students with supplemental in-class instruction, and providing translation services.
We have limited in-person community work study positions at some local agencies and adhere to strict COVID health and safety practices for those experiences. Additional information about the virtual and in-person service opportunities that the Public Service Center is providing will also be found on the website that we just posted in the chat too.
Our Campus Activities office continues to find amazing ways to connect students virtually. Hopefully you have all been aware of the Weeks of Welcome. Several weeks of virtual events and programming hosted by Campus Activities have been off to an amazing start with great attendance and tons of different programs from comedians to game nights to concerts. And these organizations-- these events have been hosted by organizations all across campus.
So if you haven't joined anything yet, please feel free to explore the campus group's website and see just the amazing schedule of events that are planned virtually. The most notable, we just had our spring ClubFest, where 5,400 students connected virtually to learn about our over 1,000 student organizations and clubs.
Clubs will have their own virtual programming and will stay connected through the semester. And, again, hopefully over the next few weeks, we're going to be able to offer limited in-person gatherings soon for our student organizations and our student activities on campus.
I think that's everything. I know I talked fast, but lots of moving parts in the campus involvement and community engagement space. So thanks for the opportunity today, Ryan. And I'll turn it back over to you.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thank you, Jenny. And I appreciate the good work that you and your team are doing to try to help keep our students engaged. And I know-- would say to everyone, I know it's tough. And especially if you're a student, or if you are a student that's a little bit more introverted in nature, I know that's particularly challenging. So you just really have to lean in, put yourself out there, and make some of these connections that we've set up for you.
We're going to switch gears now and have Amy Godert walk us through some advice and opportunities to promote academic success. As I mentioned, Amy leads Cornell's Academic Success-- Student Success initiative. So Amy, why don't you take us away?
AMY GODERT: Great. Thank you, Ryan. I appreciate the opportunity to be here with everyone today. It's actually really hard to believe that we're already three weeks into the semester. It's gone by really quickly for me and slowly in other respects, actually.
As everyone knows, like last semester, we're offering courses in multiple modalities. We have online courses, in-person courses, and hybrid courses. We know that many students had been looking for more in-person opportunities in terms of the classrooms and their academics.
And we're happy to share that we have 50% more classes with in-person components this semester as compared to last semester. And the faculty that I've talked to have all expressed enthusiasm for being back in the classroom and for seeing their students in person, even if it is physically distanced. It's nice to be in that classroom environment together.
As many of you may remember, towards the end of the fall semester, we conducted a survey of students' learning experiences. And we learned a lot of valuable things from you and your peers that we want to share with you because they are really important. And they actually mirror some of the things that we in the Learning Strategy Center share with students as well. So I want to talk a little bit about the keys for a successful semester. So if we could go to the slide.
What you're going to be seeing on the slide are the four distilled keys of a successful semester. Again, this is based on things that we in the Learning Strategy Center share with folks and also what you all shared with us in that survey.
So probably the most important thing-- and they're all connected too-- the most important thing here is really thinking about, when you're thinking about success, managing your time. And our student tutors, who are amazing and work with different disciplines across campus, this is one of the things that they point to is what's helping them be successful. And so I'll just mention a few things about managing your time.
One thing that if you haven't already done so, I encourage you to think about mapping out important due dates and events all in one place in something we call a semester calendar, something-- maybe it's a dry erase board that you have on the wall or a piece of paper where you can see everything at a glance. That's really helpful when you're looking at, what are the upcoming things that are due, and how do I plan backwards from that?
Another thing that you can think about doing is a weekly calendar, planning out how you're going to spend time during the week, and many of you mentioned, especially those of you who are in asynchronous courses, is to plan time for watching the videos for your courses, or for going to those office hours, and not scheduling over those times that you have. And having a weekly calendar will help with that.
Now, the other thing that we probably all know is that a calendar can only go so far. It's really important that you maintain focus and try and minimize distractions. And one way of doing that-- because there's a lot of stuff going on-- is to set a timer for maybe working for 25 to 30 minutes at a time, then taking a 5-minute break but really focusing in on those 25 minutes that you're spending.
Connected with that is something that came up a lot in the survey, which is avoiding procrastination. And there's a lot of different reasons why people procrastinate. I would venture to say that some of us in this room, Zoom room, have procrastinated at one point in time in our lives, maybe recently. But think about when you're procrastinating, why is it you're procrastinating?
It's important to dissect and reflect on. There's different reasons for procrastination. Sometimes you might feel overwhelmed. Sometimes it's you feel like it has to be done perfectly. Or maybe you just don't have the motivation to do something.
But for each of those different reasons that you might procrastinate, there are different things you can try, different strategies to help get you started. And I would encourage you to take a look at the Learning Strategy Center web page to get some ideas for how you might minimize or avoid procrastination.
Something else that came up in conversations with students from last semester and just in general was this idea of learning from mistakes. And I know Ryan started by talking about mistakes here. In the academic environment, mistakes are a really important part of learning. And, again, mistakes are something that when you make them, it's not the end of the world. What you have to do is you have to learn from them.
I'm going to encourage everybody who is here to make mistakes in lower stakes environments. These might be getting help in an office hour or going to tutoring and asking questions there. So that way when you get to your prelim or that final paper that you have, you've already addressed some of the things that you may not have known before. So learning from mistakes is going to be really, really important.
Another thing to think about with mistakes is you want to work through some of these things that are challenging. So you do want to make mistakes as you're learning. But you don't want to struggle too much. And so make sure-- and this gets me to my last point here-- that you get help when you need it.
Sometimes things can be really challenging. And you don't want to spend too much time on something-- you do want to try a little bit. But you want to make sure that you know where to get help when you need it. And one of the key points that came up in the survey that was conducted was to encourage everybody to interact with their peers and with their instructors as much as they can.
So if we could go to the next slide. And I'll talk a little bit more about places where you can go to get help. So a few years ago, the Learning Strategy Center conducted a survey of students. And one of the key things that they suggested is that you go to get help when you need it. And you're going to need help at some point in time with some of the courses that you're in. And maybe it's not even course-related.
So I have some ideas up here on the slide about where you can go for help. One thing that is important to keep in mind is that studying with others has a lot of benefits. And Ryan alluded to this as well. So we're encouraging you to find someone in your classes to connect with.
And, again, this might be awkward. But the reward is definitely worth it. These people that you connect with, you can ask them about due dates, study with them, ask them content questions, maybe watch videos together. You can also go to office hours together. So getting help from your instructors is really important in the learning process.
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University leaders held an informational forum Feb. 23 to provide students and parents with an update on fitness and recreation opportunities, and other updates expected this spring.