Reaching out

Wright State faculty and staff make personal phone calls to check in with undergrads taking remote classes

In a heartfelt initiative, more than 200 Wright State University faculty and staff volunteers are making personal telephone calls to thousands of undergraduate students.

The RaiderStrong Outreach is designed to personally connect with students who because of the spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are taking their classes remotely.

“We wanted this to be a personal outreach,” said Craig Woolley, chief information officer. “We know people are lonely. We know people are not having a lot of human interaction.”

All in-person classes at Wright State have been moved to remote delivery through the end of the spring semester and most classes through the summer semester to try to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Wright State recruited faculty and staff volunteers to call every undergrad student at both the Dayton and Lake campuses to find out how they were adjusting to remote learning and if they were experiencing any unexpected challenges.

University leaders hoped for 50 volunteers and got over 200. Each volunteer went through one of six hour-long training sessions.

The heavy lifting in the training sessions was done by the Undergraduate Retention Team under Seth Gordon and Catherine Hernandez, Student Success under Tim Littell, and Myke Cooney with Computing and Telecommunications Services (CaTS).

Littell, associate vice provost for student success, said the large numbers of faculty and staff who stepped up to make the calls is a great testament to the Raider spirit.

“Although we are all working remotely from our homes, I’ve never felt more connected to our university and our students,” said Littell.

The volunteers began making calls on April 2, with each volunteer assigned to call 25 to 30 students.

“We were not only making the calls, but we were tracking issues that students communicated,” said Woolley.

If a student needed help or had questions about housing, financial aid or other issues, their needs were referred to the Student Retention Team or the appropriate university department to be addressed.

If the volunteers failed to reach a student, they left detailed voicemails and numbers the students could call and the students received a follow-up email communication.

Sheri Stover, associate professor and director of the Instructional Design for Online Learning (IDOL) certificate program, made 25 calls.

“Those students that I talked to were so, so, so, so grateful to get a call from Wright State to check on their well-being and progress in their remote courses,” said Stover. “I also talked to two parents, and they were thrilled that someone from Wright State was calling.”

Volunteers from the ranks of faculty and staff were led by Faculty President Laura Luehrmann and Staff Senate leadership Connie Bajek and Jennifer Attenweiler. Senior administrative members, including President Sue Edwards, interim Provost Douglas Leaman and COO Greg Sample, were joined by deans and chairs along with staff from the athletics programs and all of the coaches, including men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy and women’s basketball coach Katrina Merriweather.

“This was truly a unified Wright State community event, and I am exceptionally proud of how we are all working together to meet the needs of our students,” said Edwards.

Efforts are being made to call all 9,000 undergraduate students — 4,700 by the volunteer callers and the rest by individual offices that would call certain students in the normal course of business.

“I hope it results in our students realizing just how much our faculty and staff care about them and their success,” said Woolley. “Our students mean everything to us and we wanted them to know that their Wright State family is always here for them, no matter where they are. Even though we are a large university, we want to ensure that every one of our students gets the personalized attention that they deserve.”

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