These days, the Gonzaga University learning experience is looking a little bit different. To take precautions against the spread of coronavirus, classes and events have all gone digital. However, this impacts a fundamental part of student engagement with faculty: class registration for the fall semester. 

GU takes advantage of its small student population, allowing students to have quality one-on-one interactions with professors. When class registration rolls around, it is common for advisers to set up in-person meetings with their advisees to make sure they are on track in their academic plan and to answer any pressing questions.

The transition to online learning could be a deterrent to having quality one-on-one interactions between advisors and advisees. It turns out it is just the opposite; without in-person interactions, advisors are learning to be more creative in their efforts to help students figure out their “game plan” in registering for classes.

Jonathan Rossing, associate professor and chair of the Communication Studies department, detailed what his department is doing to help students when the registration process looks different than normal.

“Communication studies has hosted multiple community advising sessions via Zoom," Rossing said. "We wanted to provide a space to answer frequently asked questions, while also reconnecting with friends and community members who we aren’t getting to see. We also wanted to answer the common questions in a group setting to free faculty up to provide other support as needed to advisees.”

Kevin Rounsey, an adviser within the Office of Academic Advising and Assistance, said that online interactions are actually an effective way in communicating with advisees.

“As a staff member, I feel that our new online learning community has opened up new opportunities for me to be even more accessible to a greater number of students," he said. 

Although the new normal can bring challenges when preparing for the upcoming semester, Rounsey’s advice for students during this time was consistent to advice an academic advisor would give in person.

“[If] there is a specific course you need for your major that is full, speak with your adviser," Rounsey said. "Also, the schedule you make in April can change a lot by the time we get to the end of August, so be on the lookout if there was something specific that you wanted to get.”

Rossing said these online advising sessions not only serve as a guide to figuring out students’ class schedules, but also as an opportunity to receive emotional support from faculty. 

“The registration process already comes with many different student anxieties and concerns," Rossing said. "Now on top of that, we have the emotional and psychological effects of this global pandemic and its consequences. From my perspective, we’re not just helping students pick classes and plan for fall, we’re also needing to check in and listen, provide support and do other types of emotional labor along with the standard work of advising.”

Rossing also mentioned connecting with students on the Communication Studies’ Instagram page, @gu.comm.unity. This page has recently been featuring pets of professors and students within the department, as well as self-care quotes.

Rossing said although it is a small gesture, it is another way to provide an outlet for a different kind of connection and support.

Other on-campus resources such as Cura Personalis, the Health and Counseling Center and the Student Development Office are providing support for students over Zoom, phone and email. Additionally, the Learning Studio is still offering real-time tutoring online.

Catherine Vaughn is a staff writer.

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