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    Staff ‘Check-in' Calls Show Strength of Community

    April 30, 2020
    By: Abigail Corrigan ’21

    Now more than ever, it feels extra special to hear a familiar voice.

    In a time where staying distant is the new normal, our emotions can get the best of us. In a school community that feels like home to most, students and staff alike are starting to feel homesick. It is difficult to comprehend the state we’re living in right now, and it is reassuring to know that our tight-knit University will do whatever it takes to keep our spirits high. 

    Through this pandemic, the University has found ways to be more connected than most of us ever thought possible. Whether it’s the transparency of Father Pilarz’s emails, the Remote Royals updates each week, or simply spending a few hours sharing laughs with friends over Zoom, the University community found ways to reach out to our fellow Royals.

     But, more recently, a handful of staff members took an extra step in keeping us connected. Two weeks ago, Fr. Pilarz notified students that he had asked staff to make calls to students to check-in and see how we were doing. I caught up with a few University staff and students to reflect on the calls and what it felt to hear the voices of those we might usually see walking around campus.

    maria-marinucci.jpg

    Maria Marinucci (pictured at left), director of the Cross Cultural Centers, reflected on meeting new students, the positive attitudes during this challenging time, and hearing the experiences of those who had been sent home from studying abroad.

    “I really enjoyed making calls to students this week; in fact, it was one of the highlights of being a remote Royal for me!” Said Marinucci. “I didn’t know any of the students on my list, so getting to connect with new students is always exciting and at times confronting boredom in different ways as well.”

    She found that students were feeling challenged, yet supported.

    “Each student with whom I spoke was really positive, even while discussing personal and academic challenges,” she said. “Without fail, each student shared how many of their faculty members were being really supportive, and they acknowledged knowing we all were navigating something completely new together and they described a sense of togetherness even in isolation.”   

    grace.jpgGrace Okrepkie (pictured at left) is an occupational therapy first-year at the University. She is one student who feels the “togetherness” that Marinucci described.

    “Everyone is scared during this time of uncertainty, so it is comforting to know the University cares about the well-being of its students,” she said. “As a first-year, I just recently decided to attend here mostly because it was heavily emphasized that this community feels like a family. This has proven to be true, considering the staff has generously decided to check in on each of the students.”

    The calls turned out to help staff feel connected as well, said Marinucci.

    “We were able to empathize with one another about general uncertainty and stress, as well as the difficulties of focusing on school or work at home and navigating competing demands, gotten sent home from a semester abroad, which was just a new level of disappointment,” she said.

    The students that Marinucci talked to were “upbeat and understanding,” she said. “I found that so motivating and inspiring.” 

    They told her how they were connecting via Zoom to study, play trivia and just talk. 

    “It reminded me how even in the toughest of times when we reach out to one another, we can often find strength, encouragement, motivation and connection. And it also made me even more grateful for our Scranton community!” she said. “I can only hope the students felt as uplifted by me as I did by them.”

    toby.jpg

    Toby Lovecchio (pictured at left), who serves as chief of staff to Fr. Pilarz, made calls to graduate students, and some of the students, he said, were surprised to hear a real person’s voice. One student anticipated a pre-recorded check-in and was “just so happy to hear [his] voice.”

    Lovecchio said out of the 40 students he called, he was able to speak to about a third of those, and the majority of students said they were glad to get spiritual messages from the University.

    “It’s a cool idea, it says a lot about who we are,” said Lovecchio. 

    matthew.jpegMatthew Marcotte (pictured at left), a junior forensic accounting student at the University, found that the check-ins a reflection of the strength of this community.

    It’s “a really good representation of how supportive the Scranton community is,” said Marcotte.  “It was an effective way for students to understand that they’re not alone; there are people who care about them, and we’ll all get through this together.”

    Okrepkie agreed.

    “The dedication goes above and beyond, thus making me proud to be a Royal!” she said.

    Staff or student, the check-in calls prove that even if we might be many miles away from one another, we are still close.  We will get through this difficult time, “for and with others,” just as Royals do. 

    Abigail Corrigan is a junior in the Kania School of Management.
    Abigail Corrigan is a junior in the Kania School of Management.

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