When the University moved to all-virtual instruction in the Spring of 2020, the AnBryce Scholars Program pivoted along with it. Along with maintaining our strong commitment to our students basic needs (among these, health, dental, and academic necessities like lap desks and wifi), we challenged ourselves to shift our open-door office/lounge policy to one online. We shifted our in-person mentorship opportunities to virtual ones over Zoom. We developed a suite of online programming with other units on campus (Center for Social Concerns, the Notre Dame Institute for Global Investment, the IDEA Center, and the Guaranteed 4.0 Program) to engage with incoming freshmen much earlier than ever before. We made sure students who needed to speak to a therapist were able to do so from home.
When students returned to campus in the fall, we moved to a hybrid approach, keeping alternating, in-person office hours, having larger all-scholar meetings online, and also creating opportunities for small groups to meet outside for picnic meals and discussions. All staff reached out regularly to students to check in on their academics, social acclimation, health and mental-wellness. When students had to spend time in quarantine, directors even reached out to family to assure them all was well.
AnBryce was able to do all of this thanks to a tremendous commitment from our scholars to stay engaged and help each other, as well as support from the Anbryce Foundation, and campus partners in the Provost's office, Student Affairs, McWell and St. Liam's, so many members of the Development team, and donors and supporters of our program.
A 2020 Covid Retrospective: Witnessing Leadership in Action
by Professor Maria McKenna
I don’t know about you, but it feels almost dream-like to think of the pre-pandemic world. I certainly took travel, touch, and togetherness for granted. And as much as I thought I appreciated our students, I don’t think I appreciated them enough. In our AnBryce community we consider the leadership capacity of our students as one of their primary gifts to our Notre Dame community. Over this past year, I’ve never been more proud of the leadership our students exhibited and I’d be remiss if I didn’t share just a few examples with the world.
This past spring after our new AnBryce cohort was introduced, a number of our upper division cohort members set up virtual networks for checking-in and inducting our newest cohort into the AnBryce community.
Over the spring and summer, as a staff, we often received brief texts or emails saying, “Can you check on this person or that person. They might need a bit of help.” These pleas weren’t to intrude, rather to make sure their peers had what they needed to continue to study and thrive.
A senior cohort member worked behind the scenes to translate salient pieces of our website into Spanish for our Spanish speaking families to learn more about our program.
One of our new first years organized a virtual graduation celebration for a new friend, and soon to be ND classmate, with a chronic condition that made Covid even more challenging than it already was.
One of our young leaders was a year-long sponsor for another cohort member joining the Catholic Church in 2020.
One of our AnBryce students noticed a new cohort member this year needing some additional TLC and texted me to say he was “on it”.
In moments when some of our students ended up in quarantine and isolations, others set-up Netflix watch parties, virtual birthday celebrations, and regular Facetime chats to fend off loneliness.
During our “one on one meetings”, directors learned about virtual networking that seniors were creating for the larger ND communities of color, cohort members continuing to press forward with arranging for first generation students to meet our new Provost, Dr. Marie-Lynn Miranda and Fr. Jenkins. Still others were talking up campus partnerships to first years looking for on campus opportunities and guiding them through the maze of how to find an internship.
In a recent virtual meeting, the number of people volunteering to help “vet” a business case competition submission for one of our first years was heart warming. Same goes for the number of our students creating study groups to support one another through tough coursework and offers of one-on-one tutoring sent in our Zoom chats.
Just this week a group of underclass students were about to miss their train to head home when a whole slew of older AnBryce students lit up a group chat volunteering to drive them in a matter of minutes.
I often share with our students an idea imparted to me many years ago, “details lend integrity to your work”. This is true whether writing a paper, submitting a job application, or cleaning the bathroom. In a similar way, what one does when no one is looking is truly the measure of their life. In this year of Covid, I’ve been reminded to notice the small things once again, attending to the ways that acts of service and goodness, especially when no one is looking, are as much a part of leadership as all of the managerial positions, titles, and accolades.
The gift of Covid for me has been noticing the deep and selfless leadership in action of our students all over again.