By Melody Joy Dailey, Sigma Chi Eta Chapter VP of Service
The reality of the pandemic first filled me with a healthy dose of fear and a lofty amount of questions. My primary questions being: how could I move forward in reaching my goals if the institute allotting me the opportunities, I need to craft a better life for myself was partially closed? Would anyone help me overcome the challenges set before me in meeting my educational objectives, would anyone care?
I took my questions to Dr. Mike Hobbs, the Vice-President of Student Affairs at Jefferson State. I was expecting my interview with Dr. Hobbs to be as stark, empty, and distanced as the Jefferson State school hallways are currently, however, I was pleasantly surprised.
At eleven thirty am on October 15,2020, before I prompted Dr. Hobbs with questions surrounding my primary concerns regarding the pandemic and the effect this tragedy would have on the school, I initiated the interview by asking Dr. Hobbs, how he came to his position of authority at Jefferson State. I was caught off guard when Dr. Hobbs divulged that he is a first-generation high school graduate from Ensley and the first in his family to attend college. A self-proclaimed “back of the classroom kid” Hobbs informed me that as a freshman at Jefferson State he was one semester away from dropping out and giving up on his education entirely until a student befriended him. Not long after that, Hobbs found himself involved in Jefferson State organizations, attending study groups on the weekends, and even engaging with faculty.
“I became, in a way, addicted to what academia had to offer. Once I reaped the benefits of the community at Jefferson State my eyes became open to the potential career opportunities continuing my education could provide and the life that would lead to. After I graduated from Jefferson State, I continued my education and pursued my PHD. While doing so I saw firsthand what college and the college experience could do for someone and the avenues it could open for my future. I knew when I graduated that I wanted to help others find that pathway.”
Dr. Hobbs' professional career began at UAB. “I started out at UAB in Admissions for five years. I came to Jefferson State in 1998. I started out as an Advisor and moved up to Director of Admissions, then to Dean of Enrollment and now Vice President for Student Affairs.”
While working at Jefferson State Dr. Hobbs has seen a lot of changes and handled many crises but none quite like what we are facing today. Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, Dr. Hobbs described a day in the work life of the Vice-President of student affairs as “a lot of listening to our students and working with the college administration to make sure that we are bringing all necessary resources and strategies that help support the student population . I supervise more than 15 departments that make up Student Affairs. Much of the day involved meeting with departmental directors to review best possible practices for our students to have success.” Post pandemic, Hobbs said that he and his faculty have shifted their priority to “dissecting how we can help our students succeed at home. This has challenged our staff to think creatively.”
Dr. Hobbs and his faculty’s efforts to craft solutions to the challenges this pandemic presented has not gone unnoticed. For those without access to computers "the campus is assigning loaner laptops, wireless nodes and allotting limited access to the computer labs.” For students that have the technology to engage in academic courses but are in living situations that are not conducive to meeting various educational goals “the campus has extended its Wi-Fi out into our parking lots for students to use as needed.” Additionally, for students facing financial struggles the school offers food supplementation through the Pioneer Pantry and housing assistance through a program titled Jefferson Cares.
Although Jefferson State offers many crucial resources, Hobbs notes that key aspect to getting through and overcoming these difficult times is to remember that “the most important thing a student can do is to stay in constant contact with faculty members, academic advisors and school peers. Community is key, especially today. Whether it be by having study sessions with fellow classmates through Zoom, joining school groups, attending online meetings, or just reaching out in respectable socially distanced ways to the various members of the Jefferson State community, do it. It is easy to disengage from your classes and school entirely when you feel like you go unnoticed; at least that was my experience, so reach out. Reach out to keep yourself accountable and to support your fellow classmates and Jefferson State community.”
Moving forward, Dr. Hobbs highlights that a silver lining from this experience is that the advisory board has learned various ways to be more efficient. “Once all members are allowed back on campus without restrictions, we will likely continue to pursue more hybrid methods of engaging with students. This format has shown, within the time span of the pandemic, to result in an increase in engagement in extracurricular activities and general involvement. We think that eliminating the need to have transportation to engage in outside classroom events has worked in the school and students favor. We intend to make the more previous format for the college experience more inclusive by incorporating this hybrid style into future curriculum structure.”
When pressed on the date Jefferson State will allow all students to come back without regulations, Dr. Hobbs responded “the return date is not set, however, we know that we will be making regulations in person campus attendance less strict in waves that will eventually progress to the unregulated in person classes being the standard again.”
Until that day it is important to remember Dr. Hobbs' primary sentiment. The pandemic has made the perusal of education undeniably more daunting. However, it is essential that students do not give up hope. Education is a pathway out of a plethora of negative life circumstances and is worth fighting for. So now in the face of adversity we as a student body need to continue to fight for our futures while we support each other in doing the same.
Before the impressive professional title, nice suits and accolades Dr. Hobbs was once a quiet and unsure young scholar walking the halls of Jefferson State. True, during his time as a student he did not have to combat a pandemic, however, he had challenges of his own. Challenges such as self-doubt, stress of finances, lack of time, in addition to the fear of not being able to manage raising two daughters and taking care of a significant other while pursuing his education. All valid fears.
All fears of which he overcame. Dr Hobbs attributes overcoming these obstacles by “staying focused on my goal, connected to my community and remembering my why.” As a student body I believe that we can all conclusively overcome the challenges we are currently facing by following Dr. Hobbs’ suit as we continue to move forward.
By Melody Joy Dailey, Sigma Chi Eta Zeta Chapter VP of Service
This was a reality for my brother in law. My brother in law went from feeling unfulfilled in his career of cleaning supplies sales to being ecstatic about it.
Not all have found themselves inconvenienced by this pandemic. If you are an individual who is finding themselves in a positive position during 2020 please consider helping those who are not as fortunate by donating to the Pioneer Pantry.
How did the Pioneer Pantry originate?
The Pioneer Pantry is a food bank started by Phi Theta Kappa on the Jefferson Campus of Jefferson State. Phi Theta Kappa is two-year college organization for academic excellence. Phi Theta Kappa was established in 1918. Since the organization’s establishment day, this committee has worked to serve various college student body populations by providing scholarship opportunities, social events as well as monetary assistance for those among the college community who are in financial need. One way in which Phi Theta Kappa has served Jefferson State is through the Pioneer Pantry.
What is the Pioneer Pantry?
The Pioneer Pantry is the name given for the Phi Theta Kappa initiated food bank. Phi Theta Kappa collects dry goods from the Jefferson State student body and donates said supplies back to the same community. Access to the Pioneer Pantry is not available year-round. When the Pioneer Pantry is available, it is announced on the Jefferson State official website. When available, students must submit an application to the chairs of Phi Theta Kappa. After such, applicants will be notified of when they can come and collect the available resources. “According to the USDA's latest Household Food Insecurity in the United States report, more than 35 million people in the United States struggled with hunger in 2019. In 2018, 14.3 million American households were food insecure with limited or uncertain access to enough food.”
Based on this statistic, paired with the fact that at the last open Pioneer Pantry all the available supplies was utilized by Jefferson State students, I think it is safe to assume that many who are going hungry don’t make that information public.
How can you donate to the Pioneer Pantry?
On each Jefferson State campus there are donation boxes for the Pioneer Pantry placed by the libraries, computer labs and school stores. If you are able and have a desire to donate, please place non-perishable goods in those donation vesicles. For any additional information contact Sigma Chi Eta Community Service Chair at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Adam Patterson, Phi Theta Kappa Beta Lambda Delta Chapter President
“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” – Abraham Lincoln
The Jefferson State Community College – Shelby Hoover Campus is proud to be the #1 PTK chapter in the world. With an incredible title like that hanging on our wall we have a major image to maintain through our hard work. In these days where we are all forced to bunker down in our homes, it is difficult to be part of an organized group who meets on a weekly basis. Especially if we all have to simultaneously adapt to working and studying from behind our computer screens (and some not able to work at all). With technologies like Skype and Zoom enabling long-distance face-to-face communication while COVID-19 stalks the streets, we reluctantly give up seeing our friends and close coworkers to be safe from disease.
The PTK Chapter Beta Lambda Delta has taken the approach of keeping as many channels of communication open that do not risk infection and transmission. These include:
Having our usual meetings every week at the same time we scheduled them on campus.
Connecting through GroupMe chat so we are all aware where each person is with what their tasks are.
Listening to all opinions and ideas that anyone may have.
Our latest endeavor resulted in us producing and performing a one-act play that depicts a family and many of their friends in turn-of-the-century 20th century America, debating and discussing the upcoming vote to allow women the right to take part in democratic elections. The characters include men who are both skeptical and welcoming of the idea for women to be included in voting, as well as women who share these concerns and thoughts. Our satirical piece’s mission aims to provoke thinking of how difficult the right to vote came for some, a lesson that needs to be learned in the days where we see politics of our nation on every website and news broadcast. We hope our artistic foray inspires many to see our democracy in a new light.
For our second undertaking, we are doing something of a repeat of last year’s Safe Zone Training where we train teachers and administrators to be a “safety advocate” that students can go and talk to about issues pertaining to whether or not they feel safe in their school. This training is especially important for when advocating for students in the LGBTQ community. In a state such as Alabama, where admittedly the record of acceptance isn’t the cleanest, we seek to encourage acceptance and give students who may have reasons to fear being safe a place to go and talk, because as scholars we believe that all thoughts are worth hearing.
I’m Adam Patterson, President of PTK Chapter Beta Lambda Delta, hoping you’re safe wherever you are.