Virtual or Live, A Perpetually Open Door
Lynn Coyner’s face is one students know well. As BSN program manager, she’s a close advisor to undergraduate students throughout their schooling, and is beloved for her warmth, kindness, and perpetually open door. Coyner was a front-line decision-maker last spring, however, as COVID struck, forcing the cancellation of clinical rotations and fourth-year students’ practicum--"a heartbreak," she says, for them to lose.
Since then, she’s been doggedly determined to connect with students virtually—over Zoom, by email, phone, and text—and faithfully supports faculty in their online teaching. She even found time to share her memories of each member of the BSN Class of 2020 prior to graduation. All this from a cluttered corner of her dining room, where her family gathers nightly to dine.
ON KEEPING PRACTICUM
“Initially, when we were deciding whether students would have practicum, or not, I was an advocate for them to have it because I felt like they’d lost so much … about half the class was saying, ‘put us out in the workforce now,’ [while the other half] wanted to opt to stay home, and not travel. I spent a lot of time talking to them individually, getting their texts, surveying them, meeting with faculty … But as cases got worse, and everything heightened, our decision became clear.
“It was really emotional when we gathered on Zoom. When [BSN director and professor] Bethany [Coyne] and I told them, I was crying and she was, too. It was hard. I’m glad we did it the way we did, versus an email: they deserved to hear it from us, and maybe it helped them to know it was so hard for us.
“A few were tearful, but were so incredibly supportive, thanking us for telling them this way. Students had more than enough hours to graduate [and sit for the NCLEX] but we reassured them they were fine, that they were ready. They showed us a lot of gratitude and love, which is so typical of this phenomenal class. Practicum gives them that extra boost, that confidence … But, they’re all ready.”
ON WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
“[After that], we moved directly into planning how we’d support faculty and students: what it would look like. We’d meet over Zoom, maybe 30-40 students at a time, and check in with them, to ask: what’s working, and what’s not, course-wise? Were they struggling? Was the workload too much? We wanted to create a space for them to air concerns and be a sounding board, and take their concerns to the faculty as feedback.”
ON HOW VIRTUAL ADVISING IS ... DIFFERENT
“I’ve been in student services since I was 22 years old, and anybody who stays in it that long is energized by student interaction. Honestly, I miss them every day I can’t see them in person, and can’t be there in the sense I normally was. I do office hours, advising, and it’s just … different. One positive of the whole online piece is that when it’s one-to-one advising, there are no interruptions. No one’s knocking on my door, popping into my office. [Pre-pandemic], my door was always open.”
ON HER HOME OFFICE
“It’s a lot like what [professor] Tomeka [Dowling] says: it’s like Groundhog Day. You get up, do the same thing over and over. I’m trying to be as patient as I can be, especially with my two little girls at home all the time (daughter Lila is 10; her sister Sophie is 7). If they’re only in school two days a week this fall, I’ll have to rethink my office space. I’m in the dining room. It’s crowded and cluttered, and we eat dinner in here every night.”
WHAT SUMMER AND FALL ORIENTATION WILL LOOK LIKE
“For new students, we’ll still getting together virtually; I’m getting groups of four or so together and getting to know them a bit better. I was inspired by [UVA Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] Kevin McDonald at a recent staff meeting, who shared that President Ryan had asked him, when he interviewed, ‘What’s your story?’ I plan to ask my students the same thing.”
“We’re doing cohort orientations this year for third- and fourth-year students in person [though they’ll be physically distanced in the classroom]… I know we’ll wear masks, though we’re still figuring out the other details, and I definitely feel comfortable with how it’ll be.
“The first thing I’m going to do is walk around and just look at my students. I can’t wait to see them interacting … I tell people that I get a front row seat to these students’ journeys through nursing, where they become. They’re actually going to change the world; they’re going to save lives, and we get to be part of that development. You don’t get to do that with all that many careers.”