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Staying in Touch Remotely During Coronavirus Pandemic

Beth Stapleton, director of the McMillan Center for Education Abroad
Beth Stapleton, director of the McMillan Center for Education Abroad

New videos, Zoom meetings, and cell phone calls keep the Mississippi College family connected amid the world’s COVID-19 crisis.

School of Education dean Cindy Melton is among the MC faculty members and administrators recently featured in a series of uplifting videos designed to encourage students.

A Mississippi College graduate, Dr. Melton reminded students of an important message as anxiety levels spike upward nationwide this Spring. “Our plans change, but God doesn’t.”

With the USA reporting more than 609,000 coronavirus cases as of April 15, with over 26,000 deaths, the latest reports look grim. But MC leaders, from President Blake Thompson to professors and staff across the Clinton campus, regularly offer words of comfort.

While many people across the globe are scared and struggling, Beth Stapleton appeared on an MC-produced video. Her timely message encouraged Christians to be the “light in the world” to help others. “Like a lighthouse in the storm, we need to help guide, support, walk beside those who need the most help.”

That can occur in a variety of ways, says Stapleton, director of the McMillan Center for Education Abroad. Students can reach out with phone calls to comfort friends and neighbors. They can deliver groceries for the elderly, and offer assistance to the newly unemployed.

In the video distributed to the Mississippi College community, the Spanish and linguistics professor asks students to open their Bibles to Matthew 5:16. The verse says, “shine so that they can see your good works and praise the Father who is in Heaven.”

Other educators showcased in the new wave of videos include Steven Price, director of the university’s Writing Center. The revamped learning program in the Leland Speed Library is operating with student tutors offering online instruction. Their classmates needing academic help could be hundreds or thousands of miles away from the Baptist-affiliated university.

“The tutors continue to impress me with their commitment to each other and their fellow MC students,” says Price, an English professor. The MC Writing Center staff went to a complete online format March 23, and their tutoring sessions continue to grow nearly a month later.

Mississippi College accounting professor Billy Morehead has seen his online communications with students increase dramatically the past few weeks.

At the same time, his 20-mile commute from his Madison home to the Clinton campus has disappeared. It requires a 100-foot walk for Morehead to begin his online classes. His daily dress code is more relaxed, too, with Billy often wearing T-shirts and shorts. The Mississippian will come dressed in a nice shirt to record video lectures.

“I have recorded video lectures of all of my classes covering the chapter lectures and how to work the accounting problems in the text,” Morehead said. “These have taken hours to prepare for each chapter and each class. But students have expressed their appreciation and have given me positive feedback regarding how helpful the videos are.”

Still, Morehead misses the traditional School of Business classes in Self Hall and live face-to-face interactions with his students. He looks forward to returning to that format again on the Clinton campus.

Last week, professor Phyllis Seawright joined Communication Department colleagues appearing in a video distributed to Mississippi College students.

From Department Chair Cliff Fortenberry to his assistant Vicki Williams, and professors Reid Vance, Mignon Kucia and Merle Ziegler, all offered words of wisdom during this unprecedented pandemic. The message was that people will get through these tough times with God’s help.

In recent weeks, Seawright has shifted gears to teach online classes from her home in Brandon. The MC graduate always goes above and beyond, from teaching to directing student theatrical productions. “I’ve been sending encouraging notes and Bible verses to my students at the bottom of weekly outlines.”

The Mississippi College professor notes she often gets thanked by her students. Some of the undergraduates say they are praying for her.