University students were and still are affected by COVID-19 in unique ways, from dealing with housing discrepancies, online classes, and, for some, income challenges. In an effort to understand how students are coping with the added stressor of this pandemic, three WCU professors and one student teamed up to conduct an in-depth study on the student body.
The amount of research that has already been done and continues to be done about COVID-19 is vast and somewhat undefinable as everyone from elementary students to data analysts search for patterns in this new normal. For this team, understanding patterns of stress and coping habits under the duress of a pandemic is crucial.
“We wanted to know more about how students were handling the pandemic and how they were seeking support. We wanted to learn more about student experiences to be able to come up with some innovative ways to be able to support students,” they said.
The team consists of Assistant Professors Brie Radis, Hadih Deedat, and Susan Wysor Nguema, as well as second-year master’s student Colleen Keeler. All have received, or, in the case of Keeler, are working towards degrees in social work as close to home as West Chester itself, or as far away as Ghana. It comes as no surprise that such a well-rounded group would take on this study.
“We teach at both campuses both in Philadelphia and on [the] main campus so we have experiences teaching a diverse group of students (traditional and nontraditional). Since we are all social workers, we are especially sensitive to the unique needs of students of various intersectional identities, such as students who are parents, BIPOC [Black, indigenous, and students of color] identified students, LGBTQIA+ identified students [and] working students,” they said.
Using a survey distributed to WCU students, the team intends to study the different responses that correspond with different identities. It is to be expected that variables such as race, gender, and sexuality will yield different responses; the question is why. By examining pre-existing research, the team should be able to come up with an answer or at least be one step closer to finding one.
“We will share the data with students and fellow faculty and staff so we can come up with ways to support students this fall and for the future during the pandemic or any crises. We hope to share our findings and suggestions with University leadership to create lasting change for students,” they said.
This means that though this particular study pertains to the pandemic, stress is prevalent in students during any year, therefore making this body of information impactful for many student generations to come. Having already been under way, the study has already begun to show patterns. As quickly as the survey responses come in, the data changes, making it difficult to form a definite claim until the final answers are recorded. However, the team has already begun the process of picking through and analyzing the data.
“Our sample size is small, but of those responses we’ve analyzed, we have found that undergraduate social work students seem to be coping better in the midst of the pandemic than they report coping with stress in a typical semester. We are eager to continue investigating our entire sample and perform some comparisons across majors, campuses, and levels of study,” they said.
Each student who takes the survey will be entered into a drawing for five $50 gift cards and can know that they have positively impacted their university.
Caroline Helms is a second-year English major, also minoring in Political Science and Journalism. CH923631@wcupa.edu