Supporting Students in Uncertain & Challenging Times
Southern New Hampshire University
Looking back on 2020, it is unquestionable that we are working alongside our learners during an unparalleled moment in time. With the continued rise of inequality, conflict, and uncertainty worldwide, the number of displaced people has ballooned to a staggering 70.4 million. The ongoing refugee crisis is an acceleration of a decade-long trend. Refugees are among the most marginalized populations globally, and this has become even more evident in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Southern New Hampshire University Global Education Movement (SNHU GEM) connected learning model hinges on working collaboratively and successfully with partners located in the camps and urban areas. It has been an honor and pleasure to work alongside partners to ensure students still received support previously delivered in person. This support includes academic coaching, psychosocial support, and access to a laptop and internet services. Most importantly, these support services include ongoing staff mentorship, which ensures that each student has an advocate to support them along their academic and employment journey. The work of partners has been extraordinary in ensuring that students had uninterrupted access to their studies and additional support given the unique challenges they experienced due to the pandemic. For example, SNHU GEM took its usual in-person partner retreats virtual and offered partner staff a retreat on mental health and wellness to support students and staff.
SNHU GEM, our partners, and our students have faced many new challenges – and have achieved many new successes – over this past year. While the COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape of education, it also highlighted how well the GEM program is set up to support student access and success in uncertain and challenging environments.
COVID has also accelerated SNHU GEM’s efforts for employment advocacy through digital employment opportunities. All students still complete an internship (digitally), and SNHU GEM is proud to be a partner in launching Siriforce, an organization based out of San Francisco that aims to link refugees with employment opportunities, with the goal of proving that Silicon Valley level talent exists in all corners of the world.
Our students in Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, and Lebanon have continued to shine throughout the year. Indeed, we noticed that our students made accelerated progress at the beginning of the pandemic, and we have determined that the majority of our students are learning and completing their degrees at the same pace, on average, as prior to the pandemic. Our students report that the self-pacing aspect of our program has been key during this time. The self-pacing aspect gives them the opportunity to participate in learning while juggling competing priorities, including work, family obligations, housing insecurity (for our urban students), and food insecurity, all of which have been exacerbated by the recent pandemic.
“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, I managed to keep focused on my academic career, because SNHU tried to provide all the necessities that helped me to continue my studies. SNHU/GEM provided airtime for the internet during this COVID-19 situation.” Wilson, GEM student in Dzaleka Refugee Camp
Over the last year, SNHU GEM has continued to enroll new cohorts of students, and we successfully brought them onboard through our first fully remote orientations. These orientations used Zoom, Padlet, and other virtual meeting platforms. Holding remote orientations allowed students from several sites to interact and collaborate with each other and co-lead orientation activities across countries. We continued to engage our students remotely through synchronous and asynchronous learning, and we found new ways to support them and our blended learning model.
Additionally, earlier this year, we expanded our operations and added a new partner and additional site in Lebanon.
We look forward to seeing students continue to thrive and earn their Bachelor’s degrees even in the most challenging circumstances!
To read other stories from the 2020 CLCC Yearbook, click here