by Jade Francis

The capricious corners of an academic journey during a pandemic certainly demand partial guidance and hope. The student forum of roughly twenty-five staff members and students, which President John Cox had facilitated on March 4, has alleviated the weight of this future slightly. His opening consisted of complimenting the community’s ability to adapt to online learning on account of COVID-19. Other updates revolve around the 2021 commencement, financial aid, advising, the Wilkens Library, the Tutoring Center, and the Student Wellness Office. During this forum’s refreshments of information, four staff members also got a chance to update listeners on college news. At the end of general announcements, the floor was opened up to any questions that the audience had.

“As we look down the road to commencement in May,” said Cox, “that’s going to be virtual–similar to what we did in September. The issue that we have is as we look at where we are now in the pandemic, and the buildup of the herd immunity and the roll out of vaccinations, we don’t believe that we’re going to be in a solid enough position to be having a large gathering.” Another issue is that the Cape Cod Melody Tent will not be available for use when commencement rolls around. Faculty are investing time and effort to figure out ways that can engage graduates in the altered version of the upcoming commencement.

Cox has announced that Cape Cod Community College’s (4Cs) staff is hopeful about the steady return to campus in the fall that is starting to transpire. Safety precautions like masks, cleaning, and social distancing are still set to be enforced, but they hope to see more laboratories occur on campus. However, he has ensured students and staff that it will not appear like the college that we used to be a year and a half ago; it will take time to see an environment like that again.

Some students had received packages of compensation, due to the unemployment that the pandemic has imposed, the previous year. Cox had addressed the current concern around the Commonwealth of Massachusetts stating that the money needed to be reported on student’s income tax. “We have been diligently working–college board chair and myself–to encourage Congress to take another look at the law pertaining to the taxable nature of that unemployment compensation,” said Cox. “There’s actually been legislation proposed that would exempt most of those funds from taxes from last year but that law has not passed, that’s still a work in progress.”

Guest speaker Christine McCarey, the Dean of Enrollment Management and Advising, had brought attention to financial aid, scholarships, and emergency aid. McCarey continues to encourage students to apply for financial aid. If one can always reach out to the financial aid office (finaid@capecod.edu) with any questions or concerns that may arise. Financial aid has various forms according to one’s predicament, which includes Pell Grants, institution grants, and state grants. Students who receive grants do not need to pay that money back; student loans are also available.

Scholarship applications cannot be submitted after March 12, hence the strength McCarey’s encouragement. Given the presence of over 150 scholarships for students, McCarey has emphasized the importance of all students taking advantage of this available reservoir of money for one’s college expenses. “We have tens of thousands of dollars that have come in from the federal government and from the state government to offer emergency aid to our students,” said McCarey. Students can find the student emergency fund application by going to the student portal and selecting the box that says, “your wellness is our top concern.” There are two types of applications: an emergency fund application and 4C’s technology grant app. 4C’s technology grant app is a resource for students who are in need of technology for classes.

Guest speaker Arthur Esposito, the Director of Academic Advising, clarified that there is no specific ‘advising season’ and that students should feel free to contact their advisors anytime and for any reason. Esposito had demonstrated how students can get a hold of their academic advisor by going to Campus Web and finding the academic section. It is common that students will have two advisors. In the academic section of Campus Web, it shows the advisors’ names and to email the advisor, the student must click on the name. There is also a drop-in advising Zoom session that runs from 10a.m.-12p.m. and 2p.m.-4p.m. every day, as well as 5p.m.-7p.m. on Wednesdays. Additionally, students may email advisingcenter@capecod.edu.

Guest speaker Timothy Gerolami, the director of the Wilkens Library and Academic Support Centers, had informed listeners that the library is open to people for the accessibility of computers and printers, as well as a general place to study. Students must make an appointment by emailing refdesk@capecod.edu or calling 774-330-4480. Walk-ins are welcome if the capacity permits.

Gerolami also touched upon tutoring resources available such as the Tutoring Center, the Reading and Writing Resource Center, and Brainfuse. There are 25- and 55-minute appointments are offered for Zoom tutoring sessions. The Reading and Writing Resource Center is accessible through Zoom. Likewise, Brainfuse offers live tutors at all times. Students can get six cumulative hours of tutoring every month. Tutoring resource information is available on Moodle at the bottom of the dashboard.

Guest speaker Maura Weir, an Adjunct Faculty member and Senior Academic Counselor, has spoken about a new program that 4Cs offers for students to call at any time to receive assistance regarding one’s mental health. “You can use it in crisis. You can use it just to chat to someone. You can use it to make an appointment for a therapist,” said Weir. Now, the college offers a group session with a licensed therapist on Wednesday evenings to help with managing stress. Students also have access to a Connect Wellness Hub that has information on all areas of health for individuals who do not want to speak to someone but are still interested in bettering their overall wellness.

As all of us proceed through the maze of restraints, Cox feels that the format of 4C’s classes, moving forward, are bound to be both remote and hybrid for some time. “The short answer is,” said Cox, “as we roll out of the pandemic, we become a post pandemic society. We look for the remote education to be a main stay in what the community college is offering.” Despite the need for merely brief progress, a close return to the familiar is underway.