“Far Beyond” signage in the Academic Mall. A new episode of Stony Brook University’s podcast “Beyond the Expected” premiered on Aug. 21. EMMA HARRIS/THE STATESMAN

On Friday, Aug. 21, a new episode of Stony Brook University’s innovative podcast “Beyond the Expected” premiered. The installment, which was recorded and first released via Facebook Livestream, focuses on the school’s plan to keep students and faculty unscathed amid the pandemic. 

The Livestream event description reads, “COVID-19 testing, social distancing, mask-wearing, hybrid learning scenarios, and more,” as some of the steps that the school will take to ensure a sense of safety for all. 

The plan to return to campus is advertised as a group effort. Those in charge of student affairs, academic success and health services have all coordinated together with intentions of bringing students and faculty back to campus. 

Each episode of “Beyond the Expected” features a line up of faculty who are well versed in the topic at hand. Past podcasts have presented audiences with guests, such as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Stony Brook University Hospital Carol Gomes, to Stony Brook University’s Assistant Vice President for Procurement Carmen Gonzalez. 

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This episode, titled “Coming Back Safe and Strong,” is no different. Its featured guests include: Marisa Bisiani, the Assistant Vice President for Student Health, Wellness and Prevention Services; Rick Gatteau, the Vice President of Student Affairs; Shelley Germana, the Associate Provost for Academic Success within Undergraduate Education; and Larry Zacarese, Interim Chief of Police.

The conversation began with each speaker detailing their intentions for students this Fall. Gatteau started by making note of a few challenges that the new model has presented forth: “Having so many students be in online classes this Fall has allowed us to think differently and creatively about how we engage our students.” Every person within the Stony Brook community is a part of that desired engagement — including those outside of the country. The challenge for Gatteau is ensuring that every person continues to feel part of the SBU community, no matter their location. 

The hard work does not stop at student engagement. Even while other campuses have closed down and removed students from school completely during the onset of the pandemic, Bisiani notes that the University has always had a student population on campus. The work done in that time has essentially prepared Bisiani for the upcoming semester. 

These circumstances have also prompted Germana to try using old counseling techniques in new ways. Germana describes the importance of outreach during times of strife for students. In order to ensure that the pandemic impeded no student’s progress, Germana found value in telephone check-ins. “What we found in this environment was that the phone calls actually made more of a difference than the emails and the texts,” she explained.  

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However, SBU has thought far beyond keeping students engaged, or on track for graduation. Even with all of the protocols in place, it is still possible for student or faculty members to get sick. During the podcast, Germana makes it clear that student health is a top priority. “We don’t want students to panic if they do become ill. We want them to take care of themselves, get the help that they need and communicate to the people that they need to, so they can still be successful in their classes when they’re well.” 

The most exciting update is that within the next week, a dashboard will become available for anyone to track all of the testing and surveillance that the University will conduct. This data includes positive tests as well as quarantine and isolation numbers among the student population. 

The episode is full of relevant information that is palatable for all. “Beyond the Expected” continues to produce intriguing content that leaves listeners feeling knowledgeable on an array of topics. The podcast is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Google Podcasts. Learn more about SBU’s plan to keep everyone safe and strong here

 

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