Highlanders keep learning

Jessica Beckett, Ph.D.
Jessica Beckett, Ph.D.

Unprecedented times call for out-of-the-box ideas and innovative actions. That is how Jessica Beckett, Ph.D., director of the Radford University Harvey Center, approached developing new ways to help Radford students keep learning at a time when they are not on campus.

Beckett proposed the idea of creating the Keep Learning webpage, a landing spot for students as they navigate the remote learning environment.

She, and many others, worked nearly nonstop for two weeks, coordinating with key academic and social support areas across Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Information Technology and University Relations to develop and evolve the site to serve as a resource for students, according to Jeanne Mekolichick, Ph.D., associate provost for academic programs.

Beckett said her goal was to create a hub that would ground students likely feeling bombarded with information, while also experiencing personal anxieties and confusion during a disruptive time in their lives.

“The Harvey Center and our staff exist to support and empower students to achieve their own success,” Beckett said. “Moving classes online doesn’t mean ceasing that support or empowerment. It means changing what that support and empowerment look like.”

At the same time, Beckett was connecting with her team of 35 academic coaches, eight student office assistants and six graduate assistants to mentor them in their transition to the Zoom tutoring environment, while also supporting them as students and young adults in navigating these very uncertain times.

“While this crisis has been devastating on many fronts,” Beckett said, “it has also privileged me with the opportunity to think creatively and critically about how to support students, instead of just relying on the structures and routines already in place. This creative problem-solving led to the creation of the Keep Learning website, the launch of Zoom, email and phone peer coaching and tutoring appointments, the creation of a student-led online workshop and an increase in engagement through email and social media.”

Beckett also hosted drop-in support for faculty transitioning to remote learning to help them understand the resources being developed for students. She said that the commitment of those faculty members has been inspiring.

“I have been consistently impressed by the way collaborations sprung up among University divisions, across academic departments and between the people who make up Radford University,” she recalled. “None of my work is done alone. I have a community of people offering information, providing opportunities to discuss and explore ideas and jumping in to help.”

Many of those same faculty, in turn, have found Beckett’s dedication energizing and motivating.

“Jessie has inspired, encouraged and served the Radford University community with grace and commitment,” said Mekolichick. “She poured her time and energy into ensuring students keep learning at the same high level they had been learning on campus while also taking care of her family.”

#HighlandersRise is an initiative to spotlight how Radford University students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members push through fear and frustration to pursue their hopes and dreams, even in trying times. Our resiliency sustains us, and our responsiveness empowers us. The entire Radford family, both near and far, is demonstrating a tremendous amount of strength during the unprecedented times we are facing locally, regionally and globally.

Apr 22, 2020
Mark Lambert