Diversity and Community Engagement

The University of Mississippi

COVID-19 Update

An Update from the Office of Community Engagement in the
Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi

3/26/2020 – We write to you today with important updates from the Office of Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi. We are excited to share the appointment of Dr. Anthony C. Siracusa as our inaugural Director of Community Engagement, but this excitement is tempered by trepidation amidst the global health crisis we currently face. For many of us, especially our students, the Covid-19 pandemic is the first global public health crisis we have navigated. The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) call for social distancing is among the most important things we can do right now to preserve our individual and public health, and following these guidelines in addition to the mandates from our Mayor, Aldermen, State, and Federal Authorities is the number one way we can ‘flatten the curve’ of the coronavirus’ spread.

During this difficult time, the health and safety of our most vulnerable populations are particularly at risk. Being a good citizen means, at this moment, staying at home. But there is more we can do right now to protect our most vulnerable populations, especially as we begin preparations for the challenges that will follow the end of the quarantine. In the recovery that will follow, we want to be especially mindful in ensuring that the most vulnerable people in our communities have the resources they need to recover. This will include providing support to the organizations and agencies who continue to serve the day to day needs of people in the Lafayette/Oxford/University (LOU) community.

Key Takeaways:

  • Being a good citizen means, at this moment, staying at home. But there is more we can do right now to protect our most vulnerable populations, especially as we begin preparations for the challenges that will follow the end of the quarantine.
  • If you are interested in safely helping our community partners through remote community engagement, please sign up on this list and we will be in touch shortly with opportunities. You can also contact us at engaged@olemiss.edu
  • The Office of Community Engagement (OCE) will host “on-line office hours” on Thursday afternoons from 1 – 2:30 p.m. until we can return to the office once we are not operating in mission-critical status. Review the weekly agenda here, and join the meeting here.
  • OCE Staff are available for one on one advising. Send a message to engaged@olemiss.edu if you’d like to set up a time to talk digitally with our staff.

How Can We Support the LOU Community?
Staff in the Office of Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi are currently calling each and every one of our more than 60 community partners to ask what needs they are facing now and what needs they may anticipate in the future. If you are interested in safely helping our community partners through remote community engagement, please sign up on this list and we will be in touch shortly with opportunities.

How Can We Connect with the Office of Community Engagement?
The call for quarantine and social distancing seem to run contrary to our basic human impulse to be in community – to be together in work, in leisure, in worship, and in so many other ways.  As classes at the University of Mississippi move on-line, the Office of Community Engagement will host “on-line office hours” on Thursday afternoons from 1 – 2:30 p.m. until further notice. You don’t need to sign up to attend these on-line office hours, but feel free to follow this link to let us know you plan to attend and share any questions you may have. You can join the weekly office hours here. We will provide any updates from 1 – 1:15 p.m., and then have open conversation and discussion for the remainder of the time.

How Can We Continue to Build Community During a Time of Social Isolation?
The unavoidable disruptions from the coronavirus have heightened stresses for UM students, instructors, and families, meaning that the creation of a mutually supportive and uplifting learning community is more critical now than ever before. In this moment, ensuring our personal and emotional well being is as important as ever. In addition to signing up above to help our nonprofits and community partners, you can review these resources developed by colleagues at colleges and universities around the country that provide guidance on safe ways to stay connected in meaningful ways to groups and organizations that still need our time, talent, and treasure. Many of these suggestions are geared at interacting in digital spaces, and the core commitments of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi – maintaining mutual respect, building inclusive environments, and practicing interpersonal responsibility – remain essential practices in these online interactions.You will also find some information about personal practices that you might use to maintain your mental and emotional health in a stressful time. Our colleagues in Wellness Education at UM have created a page with resources for maintaining wellness during this time.

The Good News
We will get through this together and we will be stronger on the other side – but how we respond during this time matters so very much. Please consider signing up to safely and remotely assist a community partner as we prioritize the health and well being of our most vulnerable populations, attend our weekly office hours to stay connected, or perhaps review the resources we shared above for maintaining individual and collective wellness during a period of social distancing. We want to encourage you to continue building new relationships and sustaining existing relationships by engaging with individuals and communities beyond the campus in safe ways.

The good news here is that we still have the ability to build relationships and make important contributions even amidst the critical need to maintain a safe physical distance from others. One of the good things that has come out of this season is neighbors helping neighbors and rediscovering community. We see people volunteering to meet needs, to care for the most vulnerable, sacrificing for others. You also see creative energy around the development of ideas and resources for parents to use with their children in the absence of school; creative ways to engage the arts; creative business models that have adapted to meet needs.

I hope we will continue to build and sustain important relationships and continue our community engaged work even as we take every precaution to protect each other. These relationships and this work is critical because it builds hope, whether in a zoom meeting with a friend or colleague or through a remote work product for an organization we care about. And this hope is the seedbed of the more just world we all seek, the world we must continue to strive for – especially amidst our current challenging circumstances.

We look forward to visiting in person with many of you once we are on the other side of this challenging time.  Until then, take care of yourselves and each other – and know that we here in Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi will do everything we can to support you.

Sincerely,

The Office of Community Engagement in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi

Anthony C. Siracusa, Director of the Office of Community Engagement

Erin Payseur-Oeth, Project Manager in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DCE)

Carissa Pauley, Graduate Assistant DCE

Cade Smith, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Community Engagement DCE