Penn State is continuing to respond to the spread of coronavirus. Monitor our Coronavirus Information website for more updates.

Student Affairs Podcast — Episode 5: Weather Emergencies and Natural Disasters

You can now listen to Episode 5 of “Conversations with Student Affairs,” the podcast managed by the Student Affairs team at Penn State World Campus in collaboration with our many colleagues and partners across the University’s Student Affairs teams.

Title: Natural Disasters

Participating staff members: Denita Wright Watson, associate director of equity, inclusion, and advocacy at Penn State World Campus; Rebecca Marcum and Malinda Sawyer, World Campus academic advisers; and Joe Buffone, program manager at World Campus Program Planning and Management.

Summary: Your ability to participate in course activities or complete course work could be affected in the event of severe weather or a natural disaster. Our guests discuss steps you can take to develop a plan or identify a resource to help you feel supported and prepared in this situation. They also share strategies for communicating with the University when you are impacted by a natural disaster or weather-related disruption.

Three interesting or helpful takeaways from this episode:

Be proactive and think ahead to prepare for an emergency scenario that might impact your course work. In addition to all the routine emergency preparations in life, students must have a plan for what they will do if a natural disaster creates an academic challenge — if, for example, there’s an extended power outage or you need to evacuate in a hurry. “It’s a good idea to have your instructors’ emails saved on your phone and to have the Canvas app on your phone, so you can access that,” Denita says. “Also, if you know there’s a major storm forecasted for your area — or you are in an area that is prone to severe weather or other events at certain times of year — if you can work ahead and turn assignments in early, that will help.”

Keep instructors and your adviser informed as much — and as early — as possible. “Ultimately, grading falls under the purview of instructors, but reaching out in advance — or as soon as possible — is key.” Joe says, adding that you should alert your instructors as soon as you know there may be an issue. “It doesn’t have to be a long message. Just a quick message to let your instructor know that you are experiencing this and to ask what things can be done to help with your course work. That can start the conversation of what’s next once the disaster is over.”

Your adviser can also offer assistance, but first you must let them know you need help. “Because online learners may not always stay in one place or may travel away from their home location, we may not always know when they may be in the path of a natural disaster,” Rebecca says. “So it’s important to reach out. We do this job because we really love to help our students, but we can’t do that effectively if we don’t know that someone needs help.”

Your adviser is eager to support you, but you should also be your own advocate. “Often, when students reach out to their instructors on their own, professors are willing to work with them,” says Denita. “I always advise students to share as much about their situation as they are comfortable with, to help their instructor get a complete picture so they can understand exactly what the impact is (or will be) for the student.” If you do need help, though, World Campus has a support system that is available to you. Denita says, “Ideally students should reach out to instructors directly, but if they aren’t able to do that — say, because they have limited access to technology or the situation is very upsetting to them — they should have confidence that Care and Concern is glad to support them.”

Catch up on all episodes:

“Conversations with Student Affairs” Podcasts 

Recommended resources: