Six silly neighbors in 1990s New York helped two complete strangers connect from miles apart.
Eckerd College Director of Athletic Communications Amanda Green ’16 casually mentioned in her first letter to a group of students finishing their Spring Semester courses at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic that she had been watching a lot of Friends.
“I had a student reach out and mention that she loves Friends too, and we talked about the episodes and how far we had gotten rewatching,” Green laughed. “I ended up learning about her family and asking about her classes.”
That connection was just what Vice President for Enrollment Management John Sullivan had been hoping for when the Retention Committee launched the Triton ConnECtors, a specially conceived contact program to give students, far flung from campus, another touchpoint at Eckerd during these times of social distancing that may make some feel isolated.
“With the change in the delivery in the academic program, we discussed how we engage students outside the classroom,” Sullivan said. “One of the ideas, for retention purposes, was to find some staff members who could serve as conduits to the College and help students find information and resources they might need.”
Amanda Green ’16 is connecting with students from afar, just as the Retention Committee hoped.
The team of 23 staffers from across the College is sending weekly emails to students reminding them of important dates and information and following up with postcards, emails, texts, video chats and other communications to help them feel more connected to the College.
Director of Sustainability Evan Bollier ’11 sent a two-minute video to his group of students and has talked to them about green living at home, as well as TV and podcast recommendations.
“I am on the phone more now than I’ve ever been,” Bollier opined. “They seem to enjoy the interactions.”
Associate Dean for Continuing Education and Triton ConnECtors Coordinator Amy Apicerno, Ed.D., said some students were assigned to ConnECtors based on their interests, campus job or clubs. Waterfront Recreation Supervisor Justin Quick ’17 has a group full of members of the Eckerd College Search and Rescue team, which operates in the same department.
“The danger with this unprecedented situation is that students can disengage, not complete the semester and then not return in the fall,” Apicerno explained. “That’s why we want to reach out to let them know that we are thinking about them and that we miss having them on campus.”
Three weeks into the pilot, Sullivan said he is pleased with the response and appreciative of the efforts of this new team.
“What has been really great is to see how different areas of the College have pulled together all for the good of our students and to support them in this time,” Sullivan said. “This is not the way anybody would like the semester to end. It demonstrates the wide community at Eckerd in support of the students.”