Flexibility, Empathy, & Patience
Category : PROspective
Whether you are brand new to Rollins (Welcome Class of 2022!) or returning for your 2nd year after a summer applied practice experience, you’re probably asking yourself, “What does success look like for the Fall 2020 semester?”
Excellent question. No one has ever done this before, so the truth is—no one knows how to make a success of it. We will all be learning, adapting, and improving as we go. That process will accrue benefits most rapidly if we recognize and practice flexibility, empathy, and patience in all of our endeavors and interactions. Humans are remarkably adaptable and resilient, much more so than we sometimes realize, especially when we can recognize common goals, reorient quickly when necessary, and maintain composure in the face of hardship.
With that in mind, I want to take this opportunity to share a few pandemic-adapted suggestions that, in the past, have helped students to make the most of their Fall semester at Rollins.
One of the great strengths of the science of epidemiology is that those who study it come from widely different personal and professional backgrounds. We embrace the diversity of perspectives as a strength. In our previous educational experiences, some of us studied public health, while others studied biology, mathematics, economics, psychology, languages, or arts, among others. What you already know will help you with your curriculum this semester, so let it shine through. Bring your unique perspectives to your classrooms and share it with others, and listen to the unique perspectives that others will share with you. Realize, also, that because of the differences in earlier education and experiences, some parts of the curriculum will come easier to you and some will be more difficult. This too will be an individualized experience. There is no point in comparing your academic progress with your peers; you will only steal your own joy by making such comparisons.
Commit to growing your network
This semester’s hybrid learning experience will make it more difficult to develop a professional network. We humans are pack animals and having six feet or a computer screen between us is an unnatural way to socialize. It is critical, though, that we adhere to these public health requirements during this pandemic – to protect our own health and the health of our entire community. Finding solutions and strategies for how to develop a social and professional network despite the barriers starts with realizing that it is a problem, and you will have to invest more than the normal effort to solve it. Get to know your peers in the program through the shared experience, even if virtual. Imagine how nice it will be to one day greet them in person, with a smile not hidden behind a face covering. The department’s Canvas site provides guidance on how to network with faculty. The guidance suggests that your initial contact with faculty include a specific request. My friendly amendment is to keep the bar low for that ask. For example, many faculty members hold regular meetings with their research groups. Rather than asking to join their groups, ask to listen in on one of their (now Zoom enabled) research group meetings. That is not difficult to arrange and provides a point of entrée to the group’s network.
Don’t forget career skills
The department’s overriding educational goal is to prepare students to be influential public health practitioners. The knowledge, skills, and philosophies that you will learn in the classrooms will be instrumental in achieving this goal. Important, too, will be the career skills that, despite often being complex and nuanced, are seldom part of the classroom learning experience. This column has often addressed these skills, so I encourage you to read the archives and begin work on honing these professional competencies. Once again, the lack of usual social interactions will make it more difficult to practice these skills during the pandemic. Recognize the problem, and plan to solve it. Realizing the importance of career skills and learning how to practice them will be instrumental in your success while at Rollins and for many years thereafter.
We can do it!
Welcome to the department and thank you for your faith in us to provide an excellent learning experience this semester. The faculty and staff have worked hard to prepare, and are ready to change and improve as the semester progresses. We look forward to working with you to make it a success.