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Faculty find ways to bring warmth, humanity to online instruction

Carson-Newman’s Dr. Patsy Boyce shares a light moment with her students during an exercise physiology class. Though she misses interacting with her students in person, Boyce, like her C-N colleagues, is determined to continue to serve her students while the University continues all courses online during the national COVID-19 outbreak.

(March 27, 2019) JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — The methods of instruction have changed, but Carson-Newman University’s faculty aren’t letting that stand in their way when it comes to loving and supporting their students.

Students have just completed their first week of fully online instruction, a major shift from how the institution usually delivers the majority of its higher learning.

While the campus remains open, the University shifted all instruction online as of March 18 to better protect the C-N community during the Covid-19 outbreak. The change is not without its challenges and adjustments, especially during such a turbulent time around the globe.

It was a particularly emotional moment when some students chose to return to their homes to complete the semester online.

Among the faculty and staff is a profound sense of heartache for losing what precious time we had this semester to strengthen bonds with our students. As students left campus, many tears were shed among friends and loved ones,” Provost Jeremy Buckner said. “I’m thankful for a loving God who continues to orchestrate through our collective work to see us through this crisis.”

Dr. Mike Sobiech, an English professor, said his goodbyes to “some of the sweetest kids on the planet” from 6 feet away. He then went online to remind his Eagle family that what students will remember most is how they are supported and loved.

Noting the anxiety of the moment, he said the most important thing is treating one another humanely.

“If there was ever a time I needed grace as a teacher, it’s now, and if there was ever a time a person needed grace as a student, it’s now,” Sobiech said.

Dr. Patsy Boyce, a biology professor, has spent 32 years teaching. She’s a hugger. Her warm enthusiasm for life and her students means she loves interacting with her students face-to-face. But she’s determined to make even long-distance encounters “warm, receptive and human.”

My connection with my students, and those who are not in my classes but whose paths I cross, is personal,” she said. “I have been blessed to know them and to share this formative portion of their lives. I treasure every encounter.”

Boyce was among many professors to receive a goodbye visit from students last week. Senior Rachel Langley, of Bethpage, tweeted about her encounter, shedding tears after Boyce told her she did not want this to be goodbye and encouraged Langley, who has been accepted into medical school, to “go and be wonderful.”

Langley said it was one of many kind and encouraging interactions she and her friends have had with their professors during this time.

It’s the kind of support they can expect to continue to receive. The University is committed to helping students successfully complete the academic term.

Our mission has not changed,” University President Charles A. Fowler has repeated. “The only thing that has changed is how we live it out.”

Founded in 1851, Carson-Newman is a Christian liberal arts-based university affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. The University is located in Jefferson City, Tennessee, among the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and has over 2,700 students. Carson-Newman offers 50 undergraduate majors, as well as associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

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