Behind the Eyes of UWF Professors

Abigail Denney, Staff Writer

In March of 2020, all UWF students were enjoying their spring break when they received an email. The email from the university stated that after spring break, our classes will be held virtually for two weeks. Unfortunately, those two weeks turned into 8 months very quickly. 

It’s no secret that college students have been struggling with their mental health and motivation since the pandemic started. But have you ever wondered what your professors think about this whole thing? And if they even realize what students may be going through because of COVID?  

I asked a couple of professors from UWF to get an understanding of what the other side looks like. Here is what Dr. Carr and Dr. Riddell had to say about everything!

  • Are professors aware of the likelihood of the pandemic affecting student’s mental health?

Dr. Carr said, “Yes, we are. UWF has spent a lot of time making sure that faculty know about the mental strain that the pandemic is putting on our students. We have held college-wide faculty meetings to discuss strategies and resources to best support our students. As a course director of the public speaking courses in the Communication department, I also lead discussions with my instructors about checking in with students and staying attuned to warning signs. Our students’ well-being weighs heavily on the minds of all of the faculty I talk to. We chose this career because we love our students and want to see them succeed, so it’s hard to see so much hurt right now. We see you, and we’re here for you.”

Due to the long-lasting pandemic our country is facing right now, it is also bringing negative impacts on higher education. There’s been increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Since we are working with unprecedented times, there was no way of knowing what was in our future. That being said- it was impossible for us to prepare for what was coming our way. We didn’t know what quarantine would look like and how it would affect us mentally and emotionally.  Because of the pandemic, the demands for counseling services are so high and colleges are having a hard time meeting student’s needs.

Last year a study by Forbes showed that 75% of college students said they needed help for emotional or mental health problems. That was in August of 2019, way before the pandemic hit in the United States. Just imagine what the number is now after the ups and downs and tribulations that came from the coronavirus.   

  • Have students openly discussed with you that they are struggling mentally (because of the pandemic) and that it affects their schoolwork? 

Dr. Riddell said, “Yes, and I hope that students continue to let their professors know what is going on. We want to support our students and help them through this semester.”

  • Have you noticed a shift in the lack of motivation in students, since the pandemic?

Dr. Carr said, “I wouldn’t say lack of motivation so much as being completely overwhelmed. I see a greater drop-off in student submission of assignments, but I don’t attribute that to a lack of motivation. I attribute it to the overwhelming number of things that students are juggling, while they’re using an online platform that many students are not comfortable with. Moreover, students don’t have the robust peer support system that they have in face-to-face classes, where some classmates remind others about assignments. Given all of that, I’m constantly surprised and impressed with the level of effort that my students are putting into their assignments. Most of my students are showing up every day for our class Zooms, and it warms my heart. I think that students are doing the best that they can.”

  • What are your thoughts on what students are currently going through?

Dr. Carr said, “I hate that this special time in their lives has been upended like this. Our students are incredibly adaptable, and I love the positive spirit with which they’ve tackled the roadblocks that 2020 has put in their way. They’re so strong. I also think that UWF has done as good a job as any university possibly could to balance a “normal” college experience with the robust safety measures that take precedence right now. That said – I know how hard it is, and how much students are missing. It hurts my heart. We’ll emerge stronger and will treasure everyday things so much more once we are past this.”

Personally speaking, I’ve been on campus five times this semester and it will remind you that this pandemic is still very much ongoing. There’s an eerie feeling when you walk on the empty campus and a very bizarre feeling walking into the library and only seeing a handful of students when you’re used to seeing hundreds of them. 

  • Most importantly, any advice you would like to give UWF’s students that are struggling mentally and finding the motivation for school? 

Dr. Riddell said, “You’re not alone. Not only are your professors aware and want to help, but there are additional support services at UWF to guide students through this difficult time. Also, I would remind students that although this can be overwhelming and demotivating, the effort spent is an investment in their future, and I believe UWF is giving them the skills to be successful.  What you do today will create a better tomorrow.”

It’s very important to know that we are all in this together and it’s okay to not be okay. You’d be surprised by how many people are feeling the same way you are. Reach out to some friends, coworkers, or family members and talk about how you’re feeling. 

Since March, the school looks completely different than we were once used to. With finals coming around the corner, I think it’s safe to say for everyone that we couldn’t be more ready for this semester and year to end.

UWF counseling and psychological services are offering teletherapy and provide a plethora amount of resources on their site. Click here to check it out.