Five Questions With: Inge-Lise Ameer

Inge-Lise Ameer is the vice president of student affairs and dean of students at Bryant University. As part of Bryant’s Welcome Week, Ameer recently created programming specifically designed for students whose high school experience was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic – both academically and socially.

Ameer spoke with Providence Business News about how the university helped students adjust to life on campus.

PBN: How did the idea of creating programming for students to adjust to in-person college learning come to be?

AMEER: Over the last 18 months, I have been so impressed, as I’ve watched our students rise to the challenges of the global pandemic on a daily basis on many fronts. They tested weekly and sometimes more, they quarantined and isolated when requested, they took hybrid classes, they socialized in pods. They did all of this with dignity, determination and resilience.

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I also observed the increased stress they experienced as circumstances were continually changing, and they were required to make constant adjustments in their academic, social and emotional lives. We could see that our incoming first-year students were feeling this way as well. Their high school experience was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic – both academically and socially, and many were part of remote learning environments for almost two years. We recognized it would be important to provide a supportive and safe landing place for incoming students to process all of this, while also getting ready to take the next big step of attending college.

Working with Director of New Student Orientation Jess Rafaele and our dedicated Student Affairs team, we developed programming to provide the first-year and transfer students with some days of reflection and concrete strategies for processing the past two years while also preparing to thrive in their new university.

PBN: Did you hear stories from students about how their high school education was disrupted during the pandemic? If so, can you provide some examples of their experiences?

AMEER: We are always talking with prospective students and families, and we pay very close attention the news, educational resources, research and best practices in education. We’ve also been watching and talking to our students and have observed firsthand that the remote learning environment is something totally different from the regular high school experience.

Feelings of isolation and anxiety among [students] have been widespread. We believed strongly that our new students would require time and space for reflection, connection in person and, of course, to learn how to have a successful in-person college experience. We hoped that Welcome Week would provide that opportunity.

PBN: There’s one session that was offered called “The Art of Handling Push Back.” Can you explain what that workshop was and what new incoming students learned from it?

AMEER: College is a time to be challenged and to learn new ideas, perspectives and subjects. Students are living and learning on campus for the first time with people of many backgrounds from all over the country and the world. Handling feedback elegantly is part of the learning and growth process. This session helps students understand feedback, receive it, and respond proactively and positively.

PBN: What has the response been for students who took part in the Welcome Week sessions?

AMEER: We have so far received very positive reviews from our students and parents. Students appreciate the effort and the chance to settle into their new environment while also reflecting on the past 18 months. They have especially appreciated the time to connect and socialize with their new peers in person.

PBN: Will this be an ongoing program offered at Bryant in the following fall semesters to come?

AMEER: We do plan to continue this type of programming. Some of the adjustments and adaptations we’ve made because of the pandemic have proven to be positive changes for the longer term.

Creating this special programming for our first-year and transfer students is fully aligned with our commitment to each individual student’s success. Our unique integration of academics, student life and experiential learning is what I call “the secret sauce” of a Bryant education. We really focus on educating the whole person, and the students really respond to that approach.

The pandemic is still with us and this generation has experienced education in ways that we have not seen before in high school. We’ve not fully seen the developmental impact of so much remote learning. As an educator, I think it will take time for students to settle in and that this type of programming is a step toward engaging in ways they were not able to in high school.

Our entire community is mobilized to ensure that our new Bryant students know of every opportunity and resource for success available to them, and we look forward to building a strong foundation for student engagement and success for all of our students.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.

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