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Caring for our Bulldogs: MSU supporting on-campus students during coronavirus pandemic

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Nearly 540 in-state, out-of-state and international students are continuing to live on campus at Mississippi State during the global coronavirus pandemic. From housing and dining to healthcare and academics, MSU is working to ensure these students have the resources they need to be successful throughout this challenging time.

MSU Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt said she is “tremendously” grateful to the MSU staff and faculty for their time, energy and creativity as they work together to assist students and ensure the health and well-being of the MSU community.

“Students have been very appreciative of all that the university is doing to support them in this transition and through the emergency conditions we are operating under,” she said. “They are resilient and know this is a temporary situation.”

Dei Allard, executive director of MSU’s Department of Housing and Residence Life, said the on-campus resident population is approximately 535 students who are social distancing across 16 residence halls, as well as the College View Apartments student housing development. The department continues to accept student requests to actively live on campus based on need, such as a lack of internet services at their primary residence. Students not physically on campus may continue to store belongings in their residence hall rooms until May 10.

“Resident advisers, resident directors and community directors are living and working the area, and we have on-call phones active and in use if the staff is not visible in the area,” Allard said.

Basic services like lock-out assistance, laundry services, and residence hall desk operations/package pick-up are still available, and the main housing and residence life office in Dogwood Hall remains open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Allard said the department has doubled its cleaning of high touch areas and modified some of its cleaning practices as recommended by health care and facility service professionals. Additional sanitation stations have been added to the residence halls, and dedicated custodial staff members are continuing to handle trash collection and common area cleaning.

“Our staff has been working hard to protect and care for our students, themselves and their loved ones. The work and stress of the matter has not been easy,” Allard said. “Please let them know that you care for them and appreciate the work they continue to do during these difficult days. Thank you messages and cards are always appreciated.”

The Department of Housing and Residence Life has added a COVID-19 page to its website to provide students, families and the community with the latest information for students.

“We are working on strategies for community development in a social distancing world,” Allard said. “We will continue to monitor, review and revise our policies and practices as is best for residential community and staff safety.”

Hyatt said the Marketplace at Perry cafeteria is open daily for brunch/lunch and dinner. Starbucks and the POD convenience store in Colvard Student Union are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. The Marketplace at Perry also has opened a pop-up POD store, which shares the same hours of operation.

“Students can still use their block meals and Flex dollars, and all food service is takeout only using disposable takeout materials,” she said. “MSU Dining has standard procedures for how to provide food services for students who may be isolated.”

MSU Dean of Students Thomas Bourgeois said Bully’s Closet and Pantry is open Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 1-6 p.m. on the Starkville campus. The 120 Morgan Ave. location offers nutritious food, professional clothing, toiletries and other basic items free of charge to MSU students. Students only need to present their current MSU I.D. to access these resources.

“To ensure social distancing, we are offering prepackaged bags with a variety of food options and adding personal hygiene items as requested,” Bourgeois said.

Hyatt said the Longest Student Health Center is open, but all patients are asked to call ahead and will be screened before entering the building. If a person is suspected to have COVID-19, a protocol is in place with a provider to conduct testing, and the person is isolated in a single location in the clinic for testing.

If a student thinks he or she is ill with COVID-19, Hyatt said to first call 662-325-2055 to receive instructions from the provider on steps that need to be taken.

Director Lu Switzer said on Monday [March 30], MSU Student Counseling Services will begin offering telemental health support for students through Doxey.me, a video meeting platform. All sessions will be conducted via telemental health or via phone assessments until further notice. Workshops and support groups will be provided remotely in the coming weeks. Students can access these services by calling 662-325-2091 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to schedule an initial screening assessment. Switzer said SCS remains available for crisis walk-ins during normal business hours. Those in need of after-hours support are encouraged to call 662-325-2091 to speak with a professional on-call therapist.

For students in need of academic support, the university’s Learning Center this week started offering online tutoring and Supplemental Instruction. Hyatt said students with disabilities can reach out to the Disability Support Services office at 662-325-3335 with questions regarding their accommodations in the online learning environment.

“Online tutoring is available without an appointment. Students are free to join a tutoring session to get the help they need and leave the session when they want,” she said. “They are also welcome to go from session to session.”

To view the online tutoring schedule, visit www.tlc.msstate.edu/tutoring/online; Supplemental Instruction schedule, www.si.msstate.edu/schedule.

Bourgeois said his office is working directly with academic dean’s offices, advisers and faculty to help students navigate academic difficulties. Along with taking advantage of The Learning Center’s tutoring assistance, Bourgeois said students can email dos@msstate.edu if they need academic help or have any other questions.

Junior mechanical engineering major Philippe Schicker, an international student from Germany, said taking classes online for the first time has been an adjustment. He said faculty have been accommodating and responsive, using technology like Webex to share notes with students and scheduling online office hours to answer questions.

“Supplemental Instruction leaders have been really good about emailing us, scheduling meetings, letting us join their Webex sessions and getting us the materials they talked about. They’re in a student-teacher role and can see this situation from both sides. I think it’s been a big adjustment for them too, but they’ve been really, really helpful,” he said.

Schicker said he’s been using Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime to stay in touch with friends across the country and family back home. He appreciates the MSU administration’s response to this health crisis, especially its approach to student care.

“Just knowing that they are actively making sure that students like myself who can’t fly home are allowed to stay on campus for the remainder of the semester means a whole lot to me,” he said. “It’s really great that I’m going to a school that really puts the interest of the students at such a high priority.”             

For more on MSU’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, visit https://www.msstate.edu/coronavirus or follow on social media @msstate.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.