In March of 2020, President Trump declared COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency. Soon thereafter, Governor Doug Ducey of Phoenix issued the stay home, stay healthy, stay connected executive order in which several industries where deemed “nonessential” and were ordered to close their doors while the virus was taking ahold of the nation. It was also announced there would be a statewide closure of Arizona schools. This would include junior colleges and universities.

            I was attending Glendale Community College the moment the coronavirus sideswiped our nation. I was sitting in my ART111 class the week before spring break, and I could overhear a student jokingly tell another student “When I come back from spring break, I’ll be wearing a gas mask.” What those students didn’t realize is that spring break would be extended and before our break would be over, they would be notified that all courses would switch to online for the remainder of the semester because of a global outbreak. The pandemic changed many aspects of American lives including the way students learned. Students were adjusting to a new way of learning and the faculty at GCC were adjusting with a different way of teaching.

            I experienced what it was like to be a student during all of this firsthand, and I was curious to know how the staff at GCC were handling themselves. I had a conversation with Rose Cooke, a Student Service Specialist that works in the enrollment center at GCC how the pandemic has affected her and her interaction with students, she replied “I work for Global Educational Services, so our students, we mainly work with international students. During spring break a lot of our students go back to their countries, you know, for spring break to visit their families. During that time everything closed down. So, when our students tried to come back to the United States they were not allowed to. So, that made it very difficult for our faculty, for our staff and especially for our students-very frustrating for them-unable to come back.”

            Earlier that year I sat with a career advisor in person to discuss what courses I needed to take at the time. I wanted to know, with restrictions in place, what the process would be if I had to see a Student Service Specialist, Rose replied “We would go ahead and setup appointments, phone appointments, either a Google Meets or Zoom appointment. The college was able to buy another technology, uh, Cranium Chats that we have so that we could go ahead and with students also, during this time that we had to work remotely.”

            Towards the end of the year in some parts of the country the coronavirus plateaued. I asked Rose if the day-to-day changed in her department during that time, she replied “We were able to go back to the enrollment center in the fall semester, but only very limited staff. We had to rotate our schedules. The enrollment center is not going to be fully staffed, it’s still not fully staffed. We could only have limited people in the enrollment center. Of course, we still have to wear our masks. We have to social distance and not gather, we have to remember that. Of course, we have our facilities come in and clean our desks and clean the area, the lobby, where students are at. So, we were able to at least come back, maybe, once or twice, you know depending on everyone rotating their days. I was able to go once or twice a week.” In late November, the Centers for Disease Control recommended people not gather for the holidays. Right after Thanksgiving the coronavirus infection spiked. During that time Rose said, “During that time in the fall we were rotating our schedules, working remotely and working in the enrollment center on campus. But, unfortunately when COVID peaked during the holidays our GCC president let us know that, in December-I forgot what day, but December we were going fully remote. No one was supposed to be in the office. You couldn’t go back to the enrollment center until further notice. From December until now we’re still working remotely.”

            Although life at GCC might seem grim now, Rose had some positive last thoughts, “For fall semester 2021 we will have in person classes. We’ll have live online classes, hybrid classes, strictly online classes, and in person classes. We’re excited about that too. The staff is excited about coming back. Hopefully we’ll have a little bit of normalcy. If we still keep wearing our masks and social distance and follow the CDC guidelines. If we continue to do that then we’ll get through this.” 

These are uncertain times that seem to be constantly changing; it can be overwhelming. Students across the world have been thrown into a whirlwind and despite all the hardships the coronavirus has inflicted at Glendale Community College, the students and staff remain hopeful of the future.     

Full Interview:

What’s your name and role at GCC?

My name is Rose Cooke and I work for Global Education Services in the enrollment center at Glendale Community College. I’ve worked at Glendale Community College over 18 years. I’ve worked in different departments. I’ve worked in financial aide, the multicultural department and now Global Education Services.

Initially, how did the pandemic affect the population at GCC?

We were on spring break when this whole thing started. After spring break, they [administration] told the students and faculty not to come back. We were given another week of break because they were going to try and figure out what we were going to do because now we’re in a pandemic. The COVID-19 started and we were not allowed to back into the college in groups. That was trying times, during that time. I work for Global Educational Services, so our students, we mainly work with international students. During spring break a lot of our students go back to their countries, you know, for spring break to visit their families. During that time everything closed down. So, when our students tried to come back to the United States they were not allowed to. So, that made it very difficult for our faculty, for our staff and especially for our students-very frustrating for them-unable to come back. So, we had a shift from in person full time in college now to online or live online.

Your position in the enrollment center is a Student Service Specialist, how was that process for you between the students and staff when this happened?

Yes, unfortunately, we went back to the office the week after spring break. Then they told us we would have to gather our things because now we were going to be working remotely. So, students were coming in asking “What’s going on? How are we going to reach you?” We had a shift from being in the enrollment full time helping students in person, to now remotely. During that time there was a lot of unknown, uncertainty, how we’re going to work this? Uh, but, we did, we had to learn new ways, technology, on how to assist students remotely. We had to learn new things too. But, we were able to get through that and with a lot of assistance-also training from our CTLE department assisting us on how to use WebX, Zoom, Google Meets, so we can set up appointments with students.

Was student advisement online?

Yes, everything had to go online. We would go ahead and setup appointments, phone appointments, either a Google Meets or Zoom appointment. The college was able to buy another technology, uh, Cranium Chats that we have so that we could go ahead and with students also, during this time that we had to work remotely.

During the beginning of the fall semester, it seemed the coronavirus settled down, were some restrictions lifted?

We were able to go back to the enrollment center in the fall semester, but only very limited staff. We had to rotate our schedules. The enrollment center is not going to be fully staffed, it’s still not fully staffed. We could only have limited people in the enrollment center. Of course, we still have to wear our masks. We have to social distance and not gather, we have to remember that. Of course, we have our facilities come in and clean our desks and clean the area, the lobby, where students are at. So, we were able to at least come back, maybe, once or twice, you know depending on everyone rotating their days. I was able to go once or twice a week.

During the holiday season there was a peak in the virus, how did that affect operations?

During that time in the fall we were rotating our schedules, working remotely and working in the enrollment center on campus. But, unfortunately when COVID peaked during the holidays our GCC president let us know that, in December-I forgot what day, but December we were going fully remote. No one was supposed to be in the office. You couldn’t go back to the enrollment center until further notice. From December until now we’re still working remotely.

Currently, are you still working remotely?

Right now, we’re still remote. Hopefully if everything goes well, April 19 we’ll be opening the enrollment center, but only limited. We’re still rotating our schedules. We’re still wearing masks, we’re still social distancing, we’re still not supposed to gather. We do want to help students in person. It’s good news for a lot of our students because they do want to come in so that we can assist them face to face. Of course, we do have the mask requirements for the students. We have our plexiglass that was installed in all of our area, the lobby, the front counters and cubicles so we have all of that in place so that we can feel safe.

What’s the future look like for GCC and the coronavirus?

Now, it looks like-that-because we’ve never offered these live online classes before the pandemic and so now it looks like we’re going to keep those classes in place too. We’re also going to have in person classes, hybrid classes, strictly online classes, but also the live online classes. I think that helps our students a lot, there are students that work and have families to take care of. So, it’s a little bit more convenient for them to take the live online and they like that, so, we’re going to keep that. Before we didn’t have those classes. It was a more traditional school, a more in person school. But, I think because of this COVID virus pandemic, it changed a lot. The technology now, as we all can see that it’s evolving and we’re able to do more things online and able to assist. Now, we’ve learned too, we can assist students remotely also.

Did you mention that the next semester will be in person? For fall semester 2021 we will have in person classes. We’ll have live online classes, hybrid classes, strictly online classes, and in person classes. We’re excited about that too. The staff is excited about coming back. Hopefully we’ll have a little bit of normalcy. If we still keep wearing our masks and social distance and follow the CDC guidelines. If we continue to do that then we’ll get through this.

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