Calling All Gators! UHD Reaching Out to Students During COVID-19
By Mike Emery
The current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has introduced many new words and phrases into our daily vocabulary. Of particular consequence is the term “social distancing,” which has major implications on how the University of Houston-Downtown serves its students.
During this time of maintaining a safe space, the UHD wants
to stay close to its students … at least through its communications.
“These are unprecedented times, and getting through these times requires that we make sure every member of the Gator family has the support and encouragement they need,” said Dr. Eric Carl Link, UHD Senior Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs and Provost.
Members of the University's Student Affairs team and the Student Government Association have spent the past few weeks directly contacting students to help identify the challenges they face as they adjust to online learning.
Calls have been made to students based on data compiled from the Student Needs Assessment Survey. The online survey is currently collecting information from UHD students regarding any barriers that might be preventing them from succeeding academically as a result of the pandemic and Stay at Home orders.
“It is important that we continue to try to connect with each student to show that we really do care about their safety and success,” said Interim Dean of Students, Dr. Meritza Tamez. “Keeping the lines of communication open with students provides consistency and comfort amid the disruptions caused by COVID-19, and allows them an opportunity to let us know their own individual struggles.”
Following these conversations, Tamez and her Student Affairs team have worked with departments and offices at UHD to come up with solutions for students in ineed. This assistance may include directing students to their nearest food bank, connecting them with UHD's Information Technology to obtain a computer or equipment, referring them to counseling services or making sure they’re aware of UHD’s career centers. They also are assisting students with applications for the Gator Emergency Fund, which is providing financial assistance for utility bills, rent, groceries and other expenses.
Now, Student Affairs, Student Goverment Association, University College and Enrollment Management will expand the efforts to connect with students through the Gator’s COVID-19 Awareness, Response & Encouragement (C.A.R.E.) initiative. Student, faculty and staff volunteers are being sought to contribute time and energy to contacting students and checking in on them … ultimately, reminding them that UHD cares about their well being and academic success. The goal of this initiative is to reach every UHD student.
“The Gator’s C.A.R.E. initiative is one way we are trying to make sure that every single UHD student knows that that we are here for them and want to provide a network of support for them in this very challenging time,” Link said.
These communication campaigns complement the University's other efforts to assist students during the pandemic. UHD has already supplied students with computers and is offering scholarships to cover up to two classes during the summer sessions. And, the aforementioned Gator Emergency Fund will provide much needed financial assistance to students.
“The most important resource UHD can provide all of its students during this unprecedented time of uncertainty is a sense of normalcy, consistency and, most importantly, a clear message that we care about their academic and personal success ,” said Dr. Scott Marzilli, Dean of the University College. “With more than 100 faculty, staff and students already participating in Gators C.A.R.E. initiative, we feel confident that our message of caring for the well-being of each and every student will be delivered and heard.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) – the second-largest university in Houston – has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.
As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates more than 15,000 students; boasts more than 61,000 alumni and offers 45 bachelor’s, nine master’s degree programs and 16 fully online programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service; Sciences & Technology; and University College).
For the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranks UHD among universities across the nation for Best Online Criminal Justice Programs (No. 27 and No. 15 for Veterans) and Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.
UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. U.S. News ranked the University among Top Performers on Social Mobility and awarded UHD a No. 1 ranking as the most diverse institution of higher education in the southern region of the U.S. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.