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There are two sides to every coin, and then there is also the edge. I have both managed to get closer to my new classmates, and yet I am distanced from the campus and the serendipitous running into people. On one side, I feel closer to people, as I am able to see everyone's faces and names together, and in close-up detail, which is a great way to get to know the new students. I love that. However, I am missing my connection with the Brandeis campus, and the wide-open spaces and all the places that I used to walk in solitude. Even though I rarely did see people on campus, I somehow am feeling FOMO from not seeing the posters of events. I am definitely missing the free food occasions. I stayed in Cambridge in the vague hope that there would be hybrid classes or some possibility of school-sponsored gatherings. Don't get me wrong, I am very much enjoying the remote experience. I don't have to get up early and don three winter coats or worry about weird weather and what to wear. But even this introvert requires human contact.

Vandita Malviya Wilson is an MPP Candidate, Class of 2022 at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

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I was married on campus beside the Berlin Chapel in 1973, long before I was hired as a professor on campus. I finally arrived as an employee in 1985 (first, an adjunct visiting lecturer and making it all the way to full professor with tenure in Classical Studies, Kevy and Hortense Kaiserman Endowed Chair in the Humanities and now Head of the Division of the Humanities). Both of my sons celebrated their bar mitzvahs in Berlin Chapel, and they also graduated from Brandeis (Aaron ’07 and Benjamin ’10), so I think it would be very hard for me to feel “disconnected.” I do, however, have some health issues that would compromise my safety right now in the pandemic, so I must stay at home for the time being. 

I miss office hours, coffees and lunches with students and colleagues, but this is life now. As Division Head I am connecting regularly with all Undergraduate Departmental Representatives in the Humanities, our lead UDR, Madeleine Cahn ’21 (majors in Classical Studies and Math), and Graduate Departmental Representatives to keep my finger on the pulse of campus life. I have found that students are feeling alone and worried, so I am doing my best to create and participate in activities designed to build community (movie nights, coffee hours, workshops, panels), even if only in Zoom for now. 

Prof. Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow is the Kevy and Hortense Kaiserman Endowed Chair in the Humanities, Professor of Classical Studies, and director of Graduate Studies for M.A. program in Ancient Greek and Roman Studies.

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As an anthropologist who treasures relationships with people, the shift to working fully online was depressing at first. Until a few weeks ago, I worked full time from my home office spending endless hours on Zoom. I enjoyed seeing people rather than just talking to them by phone and was impressed by all that we could accomplish in the virtual work world. But I missed engaging with friends, colleagues and students in person – the informal hallway chats, lunches together at the Faculty Club, greeting people as I walked across campus. 

I now work in my Brandeis office two days a week, which has been good for my spirits, even if my meetings are still on Zoom. I get to see some people – masked and at a distance of course – in person, usually waiting in line for our COVID-19 test. I am also able to use my standing desk (good for old bodies), greet students on campus, and just feel connected again to our community. I am proud of the plans that we developed which have allowed students, faculty and staff like me who want to be on campus to do so. I hope we can retain our commitment to social solidarity (and testing, masking, distancing and other protocols) through the end of the term. 

Dorothy Hodgson is the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and professor of Anthropology. 

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I felt very motivated to return to campus and teach in person as much as possible. Collaboration and practical, community-engaged work are cornerstones of the learning experience in the classes and workshops that I lead. We’ve all had to muddle through for so long without these kinds of experiences that the enthusiasm around them is especially palpable now. It feels like something of an adventure that my students and I are figuring out together as we go — we’re more excited than usual to be in the classroom (or under an outdoor tent) together, trying to get the most out of the opportunity to be present amongst one another while doing what we need to do in order to mitigate risks. We feel more bound together as a classroom community and are actively looking for ways to connect with the broader campus community as part of our coursework. My students are helping me out here, keeping me abreast of developments in student life so that I can try to connect their learning to their campus experience outside of the classroom. It helps that I also supervise a tightly-knit team of student staff at Sound and Image Media Studios in the Brandeis Library who are my partners in reaching out to students in other classes and clubs, and who are there to provide support for everyone’s creative endeavors both remotely and in-person.

Prof. Mark Dellelo is a lecturer in Journalism and manager of Sound and Image Media Studios.

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I am teaching two classes this term. Both play to a mix of face to face and remote participants, and thus pose significant pedagogical challenges. Having the presence of mind to effectively navigate a confusing array of technologies, remain attentive to students near and far, and not lose track of content I’m trying to deliver is easily one of the most difficult teaching tasks I’ve ever attempted. Turns out, it’s also really hard to breathe behind a mask while addressing a room full of people. Who knew? 

In terms of making meaningful connections, I miss the non-verbal cues I would normally receive from students in class. Directed by turns at my teaching efforts and course content, these range from smiles and laughter to anger and tears. I can still see micro-affirmations conveyed through slight head nods, but can’t so readily discern skeptical looks, quizzical expressions, or even smirks behind a mask or on Zoom. Taken together, these signs tell me whether I’m connecting with students, and they often form the basis of more meaningful and enduring relationships both in the classroom and beyond. I worry about the limited opportunities to establish ties with students this semester, and am working on ways to counteract those effects. 

Richard Schroeder is a professor of geography in the Department of Anthropology.