This year feels so different than Fall 2020. For most of the last year, campus resembled perpetual Summer school; our new building echoed with the empty hallways, while the campus presence was sparse.
In contrast, there are people everywhere this fall, and numerous IN-PERSON social functions. The seating areas throughout our building are again being used on a regular basis. All of the faculty have been in the building this semester, which is an almost-new experience for many of them (we had started working remotely so quickly at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that we barely had time to get used to our space). I even saw some of our students playing in the freshly laid dirt between our building and the new Foundational Science building last month.
Admittedly, it is hard to recognize people in real life, all masked up, when I am used to seeing them onscreen and mask-less. Even so, it is wonderful to be working on a “real” campus again.
COVID-19 remains a real, and dangerous, presence in our community. Ball State continues to require masks on campus, including in the classroom, and we are social distancing as best we can. The Practicum Clinic continues to offer telehealth-only sessions this semester; I don’t yet know about Spring 2022. Many of us who never thought we would provide virtual clinical services now swear by it. I have no doubt this treatment modality is here to stay.
Similarly, learning to understand an instructor and/or students behind a mask, learning how to effectively run in-person research labs, or even how to navigate social interactions with new peers, will continue to be part of our reality. Like most of you, I am tired of wearing masks all the time, but I am also tired of staring into virtual meetings. Yet, here we are. Be safe, be patient, and be compassionate.
Last year we created a Wellness Committee to help us find new ways to be social in a COVID isolated atmosphere (e.g., we had to cancel our department picnic for the second year in a row), but our professional interactions continue to suffer. Conferences, conventions, and business meetings are also being rendered virtual in response to the pandemic. Here in CPSY, we have a long history of faculty and student attendance at conferences. The virtual conference experience makes it harder to decide to “go;” on the other hand, a virtual conference is much less expensive. It is also harder to make social and professional connections in a virtual platform; I can’t easily introduce myself to a stranger online and express my admiration of their work.
I strongly encourage you to attend a conference or convention or workshop, even if it is “only” online. There is so much to learn outside of the classroom walls, and your own research and/or clinical ideas can be stimulated by the discussion. Many of the conferences I’ve attended in the last 18 months have allowed time for questions. I’ve even led small group social hour discussions for a couple of organizations. Don’t skip an opportunity to “meet” some of the people whose work you’ve read, or who are doing the kind of work you hope to do after graduation.
We just finished Fall Break, and are well aware of the importance of having that mid-semester rest stop. Wherever you are—whether you had a break or not—I hope you are ready to move forward and finish up 2021 with good humor and good health.
Sharon L. Bowman, Ph.D., HSPP, ABPP, LMHC
Professor and Chair
Counseling Psychology, Social Psychology, and Counseling