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SJMC professor emphasizes the “social” in social distancing, brings classmates together

“College is about the relationships you build as much as the knowledge you learn,” said Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication Chris Snider. This philosophy has shaped what the COVID-19 classroom looks like for Snider and his students.

In times of change and uncertainty, Snider leads with empathy. “I tried my best to just listen to students early on to determine how I should approach my classes,” he said. “I created a place where students could anonymously tell me what they were going through so I could design my classes around their needs.”

The result was an increased focus on relationships and the community aspect of Drake that students and faculty cultivate.

“We started a series on our School of Journalism and Mass Communication Instagram account called SJMC Besties, where students talk about how they found their best friend by being a part of this school,” Snider said. “I think that is something important for us to think about in an online environment—how we can ensure that our students still meet that person who will become a best friend for life.”

Other social projects have included a letter writing program with more than 50 alumni and creating a website to profile the school’s seniors. Snider’s design thinking class interviewed seniors about creating a proper sendoff from their Drake careers, with potential to see a few of them come to fruition.

“My goal for social media with our current students is to reiterate that they made the right choice when they came to Drake,” Snider said. “That goal has only amplified during these times.”

If anything, this semester has been a lesson in the importance of connection—whether in person or online. Snider has conducted Facebook Live interviews, participated in Zoom reunions and even hosted a live call-in show on Facebook.

“The response to our social media has been positive. There were rumors of students shedding a few tears,” Snider said. “We know it’s not a replacement for Street Painting or Senior Wine and Cheese, but it’s hopefully some small sense of normalcy in an uncertain time.”

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