Supporting Student Success During Social Distancing

Everyone is learning new ways to achieve success, including the faculty, staff, and students at Trinity Baptist College.   

One of the unique characteristics of TBC is the close-knit atmosphere of our campus. 

The size of our student body, combined with the fact that we have the overarching commonality of a Christian worldview, makes it possible for us to have a safe and supportive student community.

This common ground and family-like campus environment pave the way for the Student Life staff and the members of TBC’s student body leadership team to maintain close contact with students.

This week, VP of Student Affairs Dr. Jeremiah Stanley and other members of the Student Life team share what student life looks like in an online academic world.

Student Life Office

Staff members and volunteers serving TBC students on a day-to-day basis work hard to stay in close contact with students.  After Spring Break they had the heartbreaking task of aiding students pack up belongings and saying goodbye prematurely.  As the weeks progress, this same team remains in touch with students and continues to offer emotional support and mentorship.  

VP of Student Affairs Dr. Jeremiah Stanley says TBC is actively reaching out to each student.

“The Student Life team is currently calling through the entire list of undergraduate students. It may take us a month or more to get through the list, but we will keep going through the list all summer. Our goal is to call each student 3-4 times between now and August.”

The team is constantly evaluating what needs to be done and what is working well.  “We are meeting via Zoom or FaceTime every Monday at 10am and then having additional meetings as needed.  We also have a text group that stays active, all day, every day.”

Close-Knit While Distancing

“The primary challenge for Student Life has been maintaining connection,” Dr. Stanley observed.  “As a college that prides itself on our family atmosphere and tight-knit community, it is difficult to maintain that type of culture in a social-distancing environment.”

“Our greatest success is coming through our mentor groups which are still functioning on a virtual platform. Student leaders Jeshua Moore and Isabelle Tucker are meeting weekly via video chat with all of our student volunteer group leaders,” he continued.  “These group leaders are then meeting virtually and doing their best to stay in contact with their groups weekly.”

“One of our students, Nathaniel, lives in NYC and got COVID-19 along with his parents. Less than 24 hours after he was diagnosed, our students were already in contact with him. As a result, they were able to pray together and pass along updates to the Student Life team so that we could also pray and offer additional support.”

Chapels Continue

Chapel looks different these days. Dr. Stanley organizes and leads chapel sessions online and makes them available to every TBC student, including those granted acceptance for Fall 2020, each week.  These chapels often include other familiar faces such as Peter Van Kleeck (professor in TBC’s Bible department), and Dean of Men Vaughn Brown. 

“We are doing a weekly live chapel via Zoom. We take prayer requests, pray with the students and then share a brief devotional thought.

Right now we are going through the book of James, finishing up the material that was originally planned for the Monday chapel groups.”

The Monday chapel groups mentioned above were organized at the start of the semester. Faculty and staff led these small groups in offices and classrooms all over campus.  While the Monday groups cannot continue to meet, the leaders stay in touch with their group as much as possible.

Another way for students to keep in touch is through Rooted. This college student service has been re-formatted for an online audience.

Rooted videos create opportunity for students to remain connected and communicate with spiritual leaders that they know and trust.  You can watch the latest video on the Rooted Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/tbcrooted/

“Tommy Carr and I are recording a 15-20 minute devotional each week for Rooted/TBC students. Last week we focused on the importance of maintaining spiritual disciplines while on quarantine and gave some practical advice on how to do that. It has been well received.”

Student Leadership

Student body leaders are in close contact with their peers, helping to keep a sense of community and encouragement.

Dean of Women Toni Elkins helps oversee student leadership teams, and she reports that the teams remain active in spite of being physically separated. 

Toni says one of the main items on the agenda right now is one that will impact the 2020-21 school year.  “We are working to set up our leadership teams for next year.  This includes student body government, student mentors, the leadership planning committee, and new RA’s.”

“Current Student Body Officers are working on videos and planning to move forward with nominations for next year’s officers.  They do a lot of planning over the summer months, so we need to get next year’s team in place as soon as possible.  They come up with next year’s theme, activities, etc. We are communicating regularly to work through these details.” 

Student leaders are doing what they can to recognize as many previously scheduled events as possible. 

Toni explains, “For example, right now they are trying to decide the best way to announce the recipient of the Gibson Award (a yearly award named after Dr. Ed Gibson and is one of the highest honors that a TBC student can receive).  The officers want this to still happen and are looking for a way to somehow make it special.  We also joked about having our spring banquet through Zoom!  Audrey (Student Body VP) even redesigned our invitation!”

Staying Ahead of the Statistics

Student face more than just academic challenges as a result of COVID-19. Dr. Stanley is keenly aware of current studies which identify growing threats. While uncomfortable to talk about, these threats must be acknowledged when helping students achieve well-rounded success.

“Three specific areas are seeing a dramatic increase across the country right now. Alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and viewing of pornography,” says Dr. Stanley. “I worked with one of our counseling professors and TBC alum Jim Urban (also a licensed counselor and has a practice here in Jacksonville) to specifically address these dangers.”

In order to proactively combat these threats, Dr. Stanley and Jim Urban have collaborated to develop helpful material that aims to strengthen students against these pitfalls. Jim Urban has also made himself available to any students who may need help.

Anticipating the Fall Semester

Thanks to the creativity and determination of our Student Life and Student Leadership teams, there is positive progress even with the limitations of social distancing.  Students are being cared for on an individual basis, and leadership is constantly looking for more effective ways to accomplish their goals.

We look forward to the 2020 fall semester with hope and excitement! We are more than ready to resume the close-knit TBC experience we love so much.

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