How I’m coping with the pandemic … and how can the engagement team help?

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The first time I cried was after I read that commencements across the VCCS had been canceled.

The second, more intense sobbing happened as I overheard my daughter’s teacher reading excerpts of “The BFG” during their first classroom Zoom session.

Waves of emotion continue to crash over me during my days at home …. fear, grief, rage, anxiety, gratitude.


We will continue to cope with the upside-down world in our own ways.

One week into social distancing, and my husband’s major coping project is: Adopt a chihuahua puppy. (He’s chocolate brown, weighs 1.5 pounds, and we’ve named him Chewbacca, “Chewie” for short.)

My husband’s major coping project is: Adopt a chihuahua puppy.

My way of coping is to read like a maniac. I spent about 20 years in newsrooms before working at Virginia Western, and my journalism roots are showing (also, my hair roots are starting to show, but whatevs).

Specifically, I’m reading about how the pandemic is impacting higher education. I scan the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, and the AACC’s Community College Daily on a regular basis. Education futurist Bryan Alexander has been tracking the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and its higher ed implications for quite some time.

One of the best bits I’ve learned so far comes from Tressie McMillan Cottom, an associate professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University. I’ve been following her work since I learned about her book “Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges” in a blog post by the same Bryan Alexander mentioned above. As the outbreak started to disrupt colleges an universities, Dr. Cottom looked at how New Orleans-area schools carried on in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and she noted one of the most important lessons:

Students relied heavily on their relationships with faculty and staff to help feel safe … and to learn about about college resources.

You probably knew that already … you’re probably experiencing that already.

This is why it’s so important for everyone to review the resources listed on Virginia Western’s website:

I’m so impressed how quickly our colleagues at VWCC pulled this information together.


I also cope through comedy, and I’m so glad my family streamed “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” over the weekend. This is the sequel to the 1995 “Jumanji” of my childhood.

In the 2017 version, a motley crew of teenagers find themselves trapped in a video game version of “Jumanji” … and jungle danger and hilarity ensue.

But the lesson about teamwork really hit home. The players use their individual strengths to overcome challenges … but they can’t exit the game until they work together.

I still wake up in the morning sometimes, hoping the last couple of weeks have been one big nightmare. Am I out of this horrible Jumanji pandemic game???

But we’re here together … and we’ll need to work together … remotely, almost like video game avatars … to get through it.

How are you coping? What do you need, as far as communications or information? Are you able to learn from your colleagues? What might help you do that better?

The Campus Engagement Workgroup is here to help as much as we can. Our purpose is to enhance communication and knowledge sharing across VWCC.

Please send any questions or suggestions along. I’d be happy to get some conversations happening in this space.

My email is open: … and I’m always up for a Zoom session.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, March 2020

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About Stephanie

Stephanie SeagleStephanie Ogilvie Seagle has served as Grant Specialist at Virginia Western since 2016, but she prefers her honorary title: “Chief Joy Officer.” Stephanie spent most of her career at The Roanoke Times, a daily newspaper, where she served in various news and features roles including “Shoptimist” shopping columnist. She earned a bachelor’s degree in integrative studies at George Mason University and a master’s of arts in liberal studies at Hollins University. Stephanie is a mom to one human daughter and multiple chihuahuas … and is obsessed with reading nonfiction, Halloween, and crafting glow necklaces inspired by the Mill Mountain Star. Glow Roanoke!