Journalism department cultivates community during COVID-19 campus closure


Journalism Department Chair Sara Hansen and other faculty created a video to “welcome” students to the virtual department and online classes.

Olivia Schilcher, Reporter

Community is usually known as a group of people who share a common interest and often a common geographic area. But the Department of Journalism has tweaked that definition during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a virtual community to keep students, faculty and staff involved and connected.

Like the entire UW Oshkosh community, the journalism department faculty and staff have understood the struggles students have been facing since campus closed in mid-March, and they have been trying to support them in any way they can.

One way they have shown their support is through increasing the department’s digital presence on Canvas and all social media platforms, and using these tools to encourage and ensure that students continue to thrive during these unique times.

That includes offering virtual office hours and checking in regularly with students about their classes and how they are doing.

“A big part of that support was to increase our communication with students and create online spaces to be ‘here’ for them,” Department Chair Sara Hansen said. “We realize our students are overwhelmed and are adjusting to online learning. We know that many of our students are struggling with a lack of work or too much work while trying to get through this time, not to mention feeling loss from being away from their friends and campus life.”

To combat this feeling of disconnect, the staff have been posting videos featuring faculty and alumni, sharing updates, resources and ideas to stay positive and productive during the quarantine.

Academic Department Associate Cindy Schultz has been especially influential in spreading positivity over the last few months. Schultz has

Carissa Brzezinski, assistant director of brand communications at UW-Madison Athletics, encourages students to get involved in her video to current students.

been sharing inspirational quotes on the department’s Canvas and Facebook pages to boost the morale of students and staff alike and was even recognized by the university for her efforts.

Journalism students like Alexis Ratliff and Kennedy Wiegel have been working hard to

come up with unique ways to encourage students to stay engaged and maintain the journalism department community. They have been hosting weekly virtual events on the department’s Canvas site and posting content featuring this year’s graduates.

Hansen said this content is important, as she wants each student to know just how important they are to the department.

“Our message to students has been that we care, and that they are part of a bigger community that wants to see them succeed,” she said.

The journalism department intends to continue its digital support by featuring upcoming graduates, hosting virtual events, sharing alumni videos and updating students about department news.