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Professors Adjust to Online Classes at Mississippi College

Communication professor Phyllis Seawright
Communication professor Phyllis Seawright

Phyllis W. Seawright directed student productions of “The Tempest” during the 2020 Shakespeare Festival at Mississippi College.

An MC communication professor, Seawright loved that assignment from February 27-March 1. But now she plays a new role teaching online classes as her alma mater copes with the COVID-19 health crisis.

Online classes started March 23 at MC with nearly 5,000 students. Professors like Seawright have no daily commutes to campus and teach courses from their homes.

Phyllis has company at her Brandon residence. Her son, Ryan, is also busy taking online classes at the Christian university.

“For me, working from home with the online classes is a lot like my time writing my thesis in my graduate carrel in the library at Baylor,” Seawright says. It is also like “writing my dissertation in my little office off the kitchen in our first home in Brandon.”

This Spring, the award-winning MC educator “commutes” to her computer across from her house in Rankin County. “So I have further to walk to the laundry room when I need to take a break.”

After 45 minutes at her keyboard, Seawright walks around for a few moments and gets back at it. She’s not complaining about the new normal at MC due to the Coronavirus.

“We’ve got food in the house and plenty of other popular items, and our families are still well,” Seawright said. “We are not in a hospital. God is teaching all of us a whole lot of things as we go through this process.”

Teachers with diverse academic disciplines across the Clinton campus as well as professors at MC Law School in Jackson are following similar online formats. It will stay that way through the end of the semester in late April.

As usual, MC Law School professor Matt Steffey continues to field frequent calls from the media regarding legal aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. What is unusual is he’s teaching daily online classes to students.

“I think the new normal at MC Law is going absolutely as well as could be hoped,” Steffey said. “I’ve been impressed by the way students have adapted and by the continuing good will and professionalism.”

During the tidal way of online classes for millions of college students across the USA now, Steffey is proud of what’s happening at MC Law. “Students have remained positive and cooperative in the face of ongoing uncertainty and challenges. I’m reminded what a pleasure and privilege it is to work with our law students.”

The COVID-19 outbreak is being felt in Mississippi. As of March 25, there are 377 Coronavirus cases in Mississippi and two deaths reported. Clinics statewide are conducting COVID-19 testing so cases will keep rising.

MC professors, the university’s Writing Center, and Counseling Center staff, among others, press on with online.

As an MC educator, “it’s presented me with a need to improvise how I teach, test and advise. Zoom is now a noun, adjective and adverb” as the commonly used online teaching platform these days, Steffey added.

When the Fall 2020 semester begins, Steffey plans to bring some of the new teaching tools with him, although conventional methods will again be the norm in classrooms. The health crisis that has gripped the world cannot last forever.

As March turns to April, MC students like Ryan Seawright, 22, a senior and studio art major, will keep plugging away with studies online at his Brandon home. “Things are definitely different, but I’m figuring things out.”