During the COVID-19 pandemic, University of Redlands classes and events have transitioned to online modalities when necessary, safety protocols have continued to evolve, and an array of resources and services have been made available to meet student needs. Many teams work behind the scenes, including the Student COVID-19 Case Team, to keep the community safe.
“These two years have been about pivoting because COVID-19 requires it, moving forward because there's no going back, expanding our capacity because we must, being resilient because there's work to do, and finding comfort in knowing we are all in this together,” says University Dean of Student Affairs Donna Eddleman, who supports the Student COVID-19 Case Team comprised of Student Affairs employees. “The Student COVID-19 Case Team and our campus partners are a testimony to all of this and more. I do hope the University community understands how valuable and necessary this work has been in supporting the student experience in and out of the classroom throughout this pandemic.”
‘A good pivot’
Community Coordinator Shaquille Manley is one of the Student COVID-19 Case Team members ensuring the safety and security of campus residents. Manley lives on the main Redlands campus full-time and currently oversees four different residence halls, trains community assistants to handle a variety of scenarios, and serves as a community standards educator, which includes discussing conduct-related violations with students.
When he started working at Redlands last August, he knew that the role of residence life and housing staff had changed because of the pandemic. The added responsibility of being a member of the Student COVID-19 Case Team made sense to him.
“It was a good pivot, especially regarding work in Student Affairs,” he says. “Helping students should be our primary purpose. If you’re in this work, you’re willing to serve students.”
As a case manager, Manley is constantly communicating with students who are impacted by COVID-19. U of R students are asked to submit a report through a secure online portal if they display symptoms of COVID-19, suspect that they were exposed to the virus, or receive a positive test result. After the form is submitted, a member of the case team follows up with the reporting student to review the information, conduct the contact tracing process, and ensure that the student has the resources and care needed—from isolation guidelines to meals from dining services.
With each case he handles, Manley assesses a student’s outlook, ensures that the student transitions into isolation smoothly, identifies and notifies close contacts, and calls to check in over a period of nearly two weeks. He says that witnessing the course of each case is both challenging and rewarding.
“I think it’s pivotal for us to reassure students that we have their backs and the University of Redlands cares about them, which is why we assign them case managers that they can contact with any concerns,” says Manley, who, like other community coordinators, staffs rotating shifts being on call.
When he speaks with students about COVID-19 safety protocols, community standards, or another topic, it’s always with the same approach. “I always wanted to work with students,” he says. “One of my primary tasks is making sure they are aware of their impact by educating them with the most up-to-date information.”
Whatever it takes
To ensure that students who are in isolation are comfortable, COVID-19 Case Team member and Harvest Table Director of Catering Amber Young has drawn on her varied career experience.
“When the pandemic began, I started doing a lot of operations on the dining side at the University,” she says. “We still had a few students living on campus and [my colleague] and I took turns cooking for students. I was doing pretty much anything they asked me to do.”
Two years later, Young continues to apply this spirit to her work. “I never know what I’m going to walk into—it varies day-to-day,” she says. “I can spend a whole day in meetings, or I can be out on the floor with the team, or I can be delivering meals.”
When a student enters isolation, Harvest Table staff are prompted to begin sending the student daily emails with the day’s menu so they can begin placing food orders. Young says there are many steps in the process of delivering food—from printing the orders and packing the delivery bags to ensuring the correct meals are brought to the correct locations—a responsibility that, for the past year, had been the responsibility of campus volunteers, but is now a service the Harvest Table team manages.
“As far as dining goes, we’ve had to make a lot of changes,” she says. “We just want to keep students safe. We want them to be happy and satisfied, and we want to make sure that they’re getting fed and feel taken care of.”
Supporting and guiding the day-to-day operations of the Student COVD-19 Case Team are Student Affairs Senior Associate Dean Ken Grcich and Director of Recreation and Outdoor Programs Patrick Whalen. In addition to training and supporting case managers such as Manley, Whalen works with different offices and partners on campus to design and implement dynamic COVID-19 response processes.
“Residence Life and Housing, Harvest Table, the Office of Community Standards and Wellbeing, and the Dean’s Office all work to support students when they’re impacted by COVID-19,” he says. “We can do a lot when folks work together and they’re on the same page. We were able to build this whole process because there were a ton of people in the room who were united with the common goal of supporting students through this and keeping their educational experiences as good as they possibly can be. What we’ve been able to accomplish because of that has been amazing.”
One of those accomplishments is limiting the number of COVID-19 cases on campus, which, Whalen says, has been relatively low compared to U of R’s peer institutions. He credits this success to efficient and effective communication across departments and an ongoing commitment to the health and wellbeing of students.
Looking to the future, Whalen harkens back to what made him want to work at Redlands in the first place. “I really value the experience of a liberal arts education,” he says. “People getting out and doing things—the applied piece of learning. It’s one thing that makes Redlands really special, and our response to COVID-19 aims to keep some integrity in that experience.”
Learn more about the U of R’s COVID-19 response.