Supporting your student’s emotional and physical well-being

One hundred Adirondack chairs have been spread throughout campus to encourage students to socialize outdoors.

As we get deeper into the semester, I know many of you are concerned about how social distancing and restrictions on gatherings are impacting your student’s emotional well-being.

Of course, it’s not business as usual, but I wanted to let you know that a number of activities and events, including Oktoberfest, as well as student organizations, have adjusted to the health guidelines and are providing your student with opportunities for socializing and making new friends.

Longwood has more than 175 student organizations ranging from sports clubs to academically focused clubs to community service organizations. Please encourage your student to participate—if not in one of the activities below then in something else that aligns with their interests.

STEP Puppies (Service-Dog Training and Education Program), one of Longwood’s 175+ student organizations, has become a welcome fixture on campus.

Oktoberfest Klown and Spirit Leader Dance
noon Saturday, Oct. 3, Stubbs Lawn

Oktoberfest Virtual Concert featuring Lee Brice
7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3
Students will receive an email link to the concert

Outdoor Club Lawn Games
4:30-5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 29, Stubbs Lawn
Cornhole, badminton, lawn bowling and more

Intro to Disc Golf
4-5:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1, 1503 Johnston Drive

Disc Golf League
noon Sundays, disc golf course, 1503 Johnston Drive

Stargazing with the Outdoor Club and Society of Physics Students
8-11 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1, Lancer Park Softball Field

Lancer Guard Conditioning and Tryouts
Conditioning: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8-10 p.m., Mac gym
Tryouts: 8-10 p.m. Oct. 15, Health and Fitness Center (based on routine learned in conditioning)
A dance and flag corps

Longwood String Ensemble
7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Longwood Landings #116
For violinists, violists, cellists and double bassists with at least one year of playing experience

Group Fitness Classes
Various times, Health and Fitness Center
Spin, yoga, boxing, pilates and more

The Fitness Center is open and offers group classes.
Counseling and Psychological Services

If your student shrugs off your suggestions about getting involved and really seems to be struggling, you can encourage them to get in touch with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

“We recognize that many students may be struggling with anxiety, grief, sadness, confusion, loneliness and other difficulties in the midst of navigating a global health pandemic, financial hardships, increased social disconnection, and continued racial injustice and unrest,” says Dr. Maureen Walls-McKay, director of CAPS. “Whatever struggles students may be experiencing, CAPS is here to help.”

CAPS offers individual counseling and group therapy, both in person and via Zoom. There’s even a Zoom support group for students who are in isolation or quarantine. If you’d like more information, you can reach CAPS at 434-395-2409.

Q&A with the University Health Center medical director
Dr. Rob Wade

Dr. Rob Wade and the staff of dedicated professionals affiliated with the University Health Center are working especially hard this semester to support students’ health and wellness. Dr. Wade took a few minutes recently to answer some questions about the Health Center, its procedures for supporting students through Covid-19 and how the semester is going so far. You can find the full Q&A here.

—Sabrina Brown

Activity serves up happiness on the rocks for students

Who knew there was a national Collect Rocks Day?

Patti Carey, that’s who.

That’s why earlier this week there were Longwood students hunting all over campus for the very special rocks created by Carey ’82 and some of her friends in the College of Business and Economics (CBE).

Over the past few weeks, the CBE faculty, staff and students painted more than 150 rocks with cheerful messages and pictures, and then set them out for students to find. Some of the colorful rocks promised the finders CBE swag. The “mayor’s rock” entitles the finder to a key to the town to be handed over by Farmville Mayor David Whitus ’83, who wanted to participate in the event.

As director of student engagement and special initiatives in CBE, Carey is always looking for ways to spread some sunshine for students.

Sarah Kuzniewski ’22 (left), Dorie Walters ’21 and Rachel Wells ’21, all business majors, were some of the students who looked for rocks this morning.

“Last year we were brainstorming things we could do, and I ran through a list of some of those wacky days of the year. I also was aware of the Kindness Rocks Project, where people paint rocks with inspirational messages and leave them for anyone to find. The two just seemed to go together,” Carey said, adding that this is the second year she’s spearheaded the event.

Dr. Dawn Schwartz and Dr. Melanie Marks, both CBE faculty, were among the volunteers who painted rocks this year.

“We just want to show some college spirit and go the extra mile to create a fun activity for students. There are many beautiful rocks, so I hope they end up on desks to remind the students to stay focused and give it their all,” said Marks. “I love the things Longwood does to show students that they are our focus. I think it is especially important this semester that students know we want them to have the best experience possible.”

Some lucky students will get to take home these rocks, painted by Dr. Melanie Marks.

It’s all about happiness, agreed Schwartz ’03, MBA ’13.

“I do this because I want to spread happiness among our students,” said Schwartz. “I did it last year for the same reason. However, this year I can see the toll Covid-19 has had on our students (and really all of us), and I wanted to make it extra special for them.”

Schwartz said she hopes the inspirational messages on her rocks would give hope, joy and “maybe the strength to persevere through whatever they are going through. I know they’re just rocks, but sometimes the smallest thing can be the sign someone needs to keep going.”

If senior Will Watson’s experience is any indication—mission accomplished.

Watson, who is graduating in December with a concentration in accounting, hit the campus at 7 the morning of the “hunt” with the goal of finding the mayor’s rock. A few hours later he had it hand, saying it took a little of the sting out of some of this semester’s challenges and disappointments.

“Today,” he said, flashing a smile and holding up the coveted rock, “I have joy.”

—Sabrina Brown

Longwood Continues Top-10 Ranking, Again Named A “Best Value” Among Virginia Publics

In today’s post, I’m very happy to be able to share with you the good news about Longwood that was released today by U.S. News & World Report in the magazine’s annual college rankings. Feel free to spread the word!

This is the fifth-straight year Longwood is ranked among the top 10 public universities in the South and the second year Longwood is named a “Best Value” among regional Southern universities—both indicative of Longwood’s steadily rising reputation. Since 2013, the university has climbed to No. 7 from No. 12 among public institutions in the Southern regional category. Among public and private regional universities, Longwood is ranked No. 16 overall.

New this year: Longwood is the top-ranked Virginia university on the list of Best Colleges for Veterans, a rapid rise due in large part to concerted efforts led by Dr. John Miller, associate professor of early American literature and member of the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Rankings can never fully capture the student experience of a university, nor can they capture its spirit, but a steady rise like we have seen is because of improving benchmarks that matter very much,” said President W. Taylor Reveley IV. “Those benchmarks include small class sizes that are the hallmark of our Civitae core curriculum and our strong academic reputation. Our true strength, however, is in our community of citizen leaders who innovate and strive each day to seek new ways to push forward.

“This year I’m especially proud to see our work with our veteran students recognized alongside our commitment to college affordability,” continued Reveley. “Both of these measures are top of my mind every day, and we know that we can make a real difference to students and families by holding tuition increases among the lowest in Virginia and providing opportunities to veterans who have served our country.”

Among the factors that have led to Longwood’s sustained top-10 ranking:
—A six-year graduation rate that exceeds predictions
—Fewer than 20 students in nearly 60 percent of classes
—Civitae core curriculum classes capped at 25 students

At the same time, Longwood continues to invest heavily in full-time, tenure-track faculty—offering students smaller classes taught by professors who are making their careers at the institution. Since 2012, Longwood’s ranks of tenured and tenure-track faculty have increased by more than 40 faculty members, amounting to growth of 25 percent. That comes as universities across the country have scaled back full-time faculty hiring, relying more on adjuncts, graduate assistants and part-time staff to teach classes.

The Best Value ranking system compares overall ranking with total cost, factoring in the amount of need-based aid and the average discount given. Longwood is behind only one other public university in Virginia on the regional list.

“For the past eight years we have worked extremely hard on college affordability,” said Louise Waller MBA ’10, Longwood’s vice president for administration and finance. “We’ve kept tuition increases to among the lowest levels in the state, and this coming year we will actually be lowering out-of-state tuition rates. We have ongoing conversations about how we can innovate to keep the sticker price as low as possible so more families aren’t priced out of higher education. I’m glad that work is recognized in these rankings, but more fulfilling is meeting students who benefit from our efforts.”

Meet Longwood’s New Dean of Students: A resource for parents as well as students

The path Jen Fraley took from being a chemistry major with her sights set on a medical degree to a dean of students working on a law degree is exactly what makes her such a good choice for her new role at Longwood.

“I wanted to help people, and I thought going into medicine was the way to do that,” said Fraley, who’s been in the Student Affairs division at Longwood for seven years and began her new responsibilities as dean of students this July.

The epiphany that changed her life happened during her senior year at Kenyon College in Ohio.

“I realized that a career in medicine wasn’t that Norman Rockwell vision I had in my head,” she said. She turned to her mentor—advice she often gives students today—who helped her realize that being a physician wasn’t the only way to help people.

That mentor just happened to be Cheryl Steele, then an associate dean at Kenyon and now dean of student engagement at Longwood. “I went to talk to Cheryl about my situation, and I’ll never forget when she said to me, ‘Jen, I get paid for what I do,’” Fraley recalled. “Until that moment, I hadn’t even thought about a career helping students in a university setting.”

From there, she never looked back. After finishing her chemistry degree, she went on to work in various areas of student affairs at three other universities and earned a master’s degree in student affairs in higher education. Fraley came to Longwood in 2013, serving the majority of the time since then as director of student conduct and integrity and Title IX coordinator.

These days much of her focus is on dealing with Covid-19 issues, but the regular business of the Dean of Students Office continues even in the face of a pandemic.

Fraley took some time out of her busy schedule—she’s also working on a law degree through the University of Dayton—to share how she sees the role of her office, how she and her staff can be a resource for parents and how they can best serve students.

As Longwood’s dean of students, what offices do you oversee?
Of course, the Dean of Students Office is one of my areas of responsibility. Also under my “umbrella” are the offices of Student Conduct and Integrity, Title IX, Disability Resources, and Residential and Commuter Life. This is a new structure for Longwood. All of these offices are working toward the same purpose, so having everyone together as a team makes sense. This structure presents opportunities to benefit students in some really powerful ways.

What is the role of the Dean of Students area?
I see it as seeking to instill self-advocacy in students and connect them with the proper and best resources for their unique situations and concerns. We’re looking to serve students by providing some of their basic needs so they can be successful academically.

Exactly what do you mean by instilling self-advocacy in students?
We want to help them develop the skills they need to fend for themselves, while still providing a safety net.

How can parents help you accomplish that goal?
The best advice I could give to parents is to check in with their students and make sure they know where to go for help. For example, if there’s an issue about their student’s scholarship, instead of the parent dealing with it, they can tell their student about the Office of Financial Aid and suggest they call there to ask for help in resolving the issue.

Can parents call the Dean of Students Office for help?
We’re happy to speak with parents. FERPA (Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act) limits some of the things we can discuss without a waiver from the student, but we’re always happy to give information that’s publicly available and to listen to concerns. Usually we can say, ‘This is what you’re describing to me, and these are the offices we’d suggest that you refer your student to.’

We can also help when there’s been a family emergency or a death in the family that impacts the student.

Parents also can call us and say, ‘I’ve never heard my student sound so down, and I’m concerned.’ We’ll send someone to check in on that student.

Would the Care Team be the group looking into concerns about a student?
Yes. The Care Team is a multidisciplinary group of faculty and staff run out of the Dean of Students Office who meet regularly to discuss concerns that have been expressed about students and to develop a plan for reaching out to those students.

What should a parent do if they believe their student is in an emergency situation?
If there’s an emergency with the safety and welfare of a student, parents should call LUPD (Longwood University Police Department) at 434-395-2091. This will activate a 24-hour administrative response, seven days a week/24 hours a day. Parents should be aware that our office isn’t monitoring email or phone messages for immediate, emergency concerns—and especially not in the evenings or on weekends. It’s really important that parents call LUPD if they believe their child is in an emergency situation no matter when that emergency occurs.

What are the 3 most important things parents can do to help their students be successful at Longwood?
—Help your student solve their own problems.
—Encourage your student to make connections with their faculty/professors. I come across a lot of students who don’t take advantage of office hours, which are designated times that students can connect with their faculty members. That connection or extra piece of help can really make a difference in the outcome of the class. Faculty are so willing to help—but I know they can be intimidating to students. Encourage your student to have the confidence to make those connections.
—Emphasize the importance of forging friendships and finding ways to get involved. They don’t want to overdo it, but your student should look for organizations or activities focused on things that are important to them and become involved with those on campus.

Finally, what’s your current take on the Covid-19 situation at Longwood?
Of course, it’s a day-by-day situation, but right now I am cautiously optimistic. I see very few students across campus who are not following the rules. By and large, our students are committed to being here, and they understand their actions have consequences beyond themselves.

We just need to stay the course and not relax our vigilance. There is a general sense at Longwood that students look out for each other. This situation is just really a broadening of that experience—of students’ recognizing their place in the community and how they can contribute to this effort. As long as they don’t get lax on that, I think we’ll make it. So far so good.

—Sabrina Brown













The Importance of Staying Vigilant

In light of developments at other universities that have been in the news recently, I thought you might appreciate a bit of good news Longwood’s Assistant Vice President for Communications Matthew McWilliams shared yesterday as well as an update on Covid-19 at Longwood and plans for Convocation next week.

In his email, McWilliams related that on Tuesday of this week, during a regular Covid-19 conference call for regional leaders and health officials, the Virginia Department of Health’s Piedmont Health District director, Dr. Robert Nash, asked that the university convey to our students his personal appreciation for the excellent public health habits he’s seen in practice these first weeks of the semester.

Our community appreciates your student’s efforts—please encourage them to keep it up. Poor decisions by just one or a few members of the community can have an enormous impact. Experiences at other universities show just how quickly and easily Covid-19 can spread.

We are fortunate that our smaller size and smaller classes make our circumstances different from large universities. Even so, everyone in the Longwood community must keep up their good habits and remain vigilant in order to have a successful semester.

Longwood’s Covid-19 dashboard

Longwood’s Covid-19 dashboard includes a daily tally of positive test results from the University Health Center that updates each day around 5 p.m. The dashboard also links to the official VDH site, which includes data on all reported cases by locality.

We’ve received some questions and feedback about possibly sharing additional information on the dashboard, in particular the number of self-reported positive cases we’ve heard about from students (for example, tests administered by providers other than the University Health Center). We have decided to focus on frequent (daily) updates of information we know for certain. This decision is based on our concerns about conveying information that may not be reliable or verifiable, or that could be misleading or potentially compromise student privacy. However, we are listening to this feedback, looking at what other institutions are doing and considering how we can responsibly share more.

“I can tell you that as of this writing, since most students began returning on Aug. 16, two students have notified the university of positive test results, in addition to the three confirmed at the UHC. One has now completed isolation and the other is isolating at home,” McWilliams said in the email.

testing and contact tracing

If your student has received a positive test result or is awaiting results from an off-campus provider, it is very important for them to inform the University Health Center at 434-395-2102. Our Quarantine Support Team will work with your student to ensure care and academic continuity, while at the same time protecting their privacy according to our practices and policies.

Communication and effective quarantining for those who may be contact-exposed are essential to limiting spread of the virus. VDH staff is leading all contact tracing and will let your student know if they are considered contact-exposed and need to go into quarantine. Students with questions can also contact the University Health Center.

Quarantine and Isolation

First of all, here’s the difference between quarantine and isolation: Quarantine is for those who are considered to have been contact-exposed to positive cases, either at Longwood or elsewhere, even if they have themselves tested negative. Isolation is for those who are themselves positive or presumed positive.

Some universities have expressed concerns about running short of space for students to quarantine or isolate in on-campus housing. Longwood’s housing situation and case numbers are very different. Almost all students who have needed to isolate or quarantine because of possible contact exposure have been able to do so in their own rooms, in their off-campus housing or at home.

On average, only about 1-2 students per day have needed to stay in our designated on-campus quarantine/isolation space in ARC Hall. We have ample capacity there, as well as in other locations if numbers increase and it is needed.

Convocation Plans

Lastly, we know Convocation is on the minds of many students and their parents. Longwood recognizes it is especially important this year to students to preserve rituals and traditions as best we can. It will be different this year—capping in particular may be more spread out in time and space than the traditional ceremony— but we very much hope to proceed next Thursday, Sept. 10, in some form, with appropriate precautions in place. There will be an email to campus within the next few days confirming plans.

—Sabrina Brown