DSA departments adjust to keep serving students during COVID crisis

During the past six months, many departments in the Division of Student Affairs shifted their services to a virtual format to better serve UNT students during the COVID pandemic. Many departments found themselves having to think outside the box to determine the best way to connect students with the resources the division and University provides.

Here are just a few examples of how some departments remained available to the UNT community even amidst this global health crisis.

Housing and Dining remained on the front lines of the pandemic even when the University transitioned to remote learning after spring break where they continued to house and feed more than 1,000 students.

They also made many adjustments to their processes to help keep students enrolled and prioritize their safety in the wake of this global pandemic.

“I am incredibly proud of the Housing and Dining staff that remained at work for the 1,000 students that needed to continue to live and eat on campus as well provide meals to the continuing essential employees,” said Daniel Armitage, Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services. “Hall, custodian, and kitchen staffs, as well as management and central office staff rose to the occasion and worked through the many challenges of the pandemic and the University close-down.”

The Student Health and Wellness Center implemented many different safety protocols to keep staff and students safe and healthy including mask mandates for staff and patients, removing excess chairs, to allow for social distancing, and placing Plexiglas barriers in high traffic areas among others.

Dr. Cynthia Hermann, Executive Director of the Student Health and Wellness Center and UNT’s Chief Medical Officer said one of the changes she is most proud of is the initiation of telehealth visits.

“This started in our psychiatric clinic providing mental health appointments and it worked so well, we extended it to the medical clinic as well,” she said. “We were able to continue to provide services to students who had to leave campus in March unexpectedly. This is something we had never done before but will certainly continue moving forward.

Student Legal Services remained available virtually and also hosted and collaborated on real-time interactive informational sessions and launched an inaugural newsletter, “The Legal Eagle”.

“Our students met many novel legal situations, including the intersection of governmental stay-at-home orders with obligations in lease agreements, the inability to work their jobs, continue to pay bills, and the complexities of navigating the unemployment system,” said Keisha Ware, Director of Student Legal Services. “During this time, Student Legal Services facilitated 428 student appointments and provided 140 consultations on legal matters that were a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Student Veteran Services set up many remote support systems to continue assisting student veterans such as weekly VETS Connect meetings via Zoom, a Discord group for the 24/7 communication channels, orientation zoom sessions for student enrollment support, and weekly Student Veteran Association Zoom meetings.

“Going all virtual was no easy task; however, in order to be successful in anything you do, you have to be flexible.  We proved to be flexible when it came to supporting our student veterans,” said Jim Davenport, Director of Student Veterans Services.

Counseling and Testing Services completely transitioned to virtual services while Testing began to offer virtual proctoring for UNT and the overall community. Counseling provided and continues to provide Telemental Health services to including virtual groups and workshops.

Rec Sports developed a wide array of programs in the spring to serve students, faculty, and staff virtually. Everything from live virtual group exercise classes to workouts with trainers, including an online library of workouts students could access at their leisure. Rec Sports also offered some Esports tournaments and some outdoor adventure clinics to connect students with nature.

“Rec Sports began remote services and quickly developed a “Keep Moving” webpage, offering an array of online and virtual programs to continue our mission of supporting and inspiring the wellness of the UNT Community,” said Laurie Klein, Director of Rec Sports. “In 5 months the webpage had 4,208 students and members participate in live virtual group exercise classes, 761 views of the daily and weekly workout guides, 79 outdoor-related instructional clinics, and 147 students participate in intramural gaming events.”

Read more about DSA’s virtual programs and services here.