Crisis Brings You Closer

September 20, 2021
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After a year as Carolina’s vice chancellor for student affairs, Amy Johnson said the highs outnumbered the lows.

After a year, it’s easier for Amy Johnson to joke about her first week as Carolina’s vice chancellor for student affairs, a week that began with a hurricane and ended with a pivot to all-remote instruction because of the pandemic.

“This is not the onboarding program that you would design for someone,” Johnson acknowledged.

But getting to know her new co-workers during a crisis also was a distinct advantage. “I feel closer to my colleagues at Carolina after just one year than I have in some other places where I worked for a number of years,” Johnson said.

The Well checked in with Johnson to see how that first year at Carolina went.

What were the highs and lows of your first year at Carolina?

The low definitely would be having to pivot to remote instruction for undergraduates a week after classes started last year. That was challenging and disappointing for everyone. There have been a lot of highs. Commencement being back in person — even though we staged it five times to allow for appropriate spacing — that was wonderful. Just a real celebration. And after a little bit of rain at the start, we were able to have convocation in person. That was also wonderful.

I’m also particularly proud and happy about the launch of our Multicultural Health Program in Counseling and Psychological Services this year. We have a total of six roles that are designed to support the needs of our students of color, especially with racially based trauma.

I enjoyed developing our Election Carolina website and working with Lynn Blanchard and my colleagues in the Carolina Center for Public Service to share resources and create a conversation about the 2020 elections and related civic issues. We hope to be able to do more of those types of projects with our academic partners in the coming months, to help connect the conversations that students are having in class — like what it means to be a global citizen — with their out-of-class learning.

How has this fall been different from last fall?

I would say we have a number of things in the plus column for us this fall. We are open in person, which is wonderful to support students’ learning and to address the serious mental health challenges presented by social distancing that many of our students faced. We know more about COVID-19 now and the protective factors that we can use to keep ourselves safe. And we have vaccines, which is one of those protective factors. We also have more students who are choosing to complete quarantine and isolation off campus, which is allowing us to have room on campus for those students who need it.

And we know much more about masking. Our medical advisers tell us that if you are wearing a good-fitting mask and are vaccinated, you are well-protected. The mere fact that you are vaccinated means that you are far less likely to end up in the ICU. But we also know that delta is more transmissible, even outdoors, so it requires us to be thoughtful about being in congested areas, when it’s important for us to put on a mask to keep one another safe.

Read the rest of the article at The Well.

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