Media Mentions

Public Health Madison & Dane County explains why there’s no mandatory mask policy

July 8, 2020   |   By Jamie Perez, FOX 47 Madison News

From Fox 47 Madison News

Many people are wondering why there isn’t a mandatory mask-wearing policy in Madison. Last week, Public Health director Janel Heinrich said, “While we know masks work to help reduce the spread of the virus, a mandatory masking policy may place an undue burden on some people. People may fear racial profiling or discrimination based on wearing–or not wearing–a face covering.”

A petition that now has about 5,000 signatures is circulating in Madison asking the city to require face masks and demands that a city-funded mask distribution program be implemented with it. But not everyone believes the answer is that simple.

Madeline Hafner is an expert on racial disparities at the University of Wisconsin — Madison. Hafner said racial discrimination would be an adverse consequence of a mandatory mask requirement and is a legitimate concern among communities of color, especially for black men.

“We live in a racialized society that doesn’t afford people of color the same protection in their masks,” Hafner said. “They could be wanting to do all the right things to protect other and protect themselves but they will bear the unfair burden of the repercussions of wearing a mask.”

Hafner said there is an implicit bias that our society has when we see a person of color in a mask. She said they’re often perceived as threats, and especially right now, that added stress is making many people of color fearful of how they could be perceived if wearing a mask was mandatory, even if everyone was required to wear one.

“It’s the impact of how we respond as white people to perceiving people of color in those masks that lay that stress on them. So I think for us, we need to keep doing our own work to make sure we are not laying an extra stressor or burden on people of color,” Hafner said.

The public health department also released a memo detailing additional reasons for not implementing a mandatory mask policy.

The memo states:

“Some health conditions may keep individuals from being able to wear a cloth face covering. These might include chronic conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, autism spectrum disorder, or COPD/emphysema; wearing a face covering may be challenging, dangerous, or stressful for individuals with disabilities.In addition to medical considerations, individuals may not feel safe wearing a mask for many reasons including emotional, behavioral, and trauma experiences.”

The memo also states that socioeconomic status also plays a role in the decision.

“Potential consequences of implementing mandatory masking may include loss of wages, if the employer does not consider reasons why masking may not be an option for that individual, limiting access to certain business spaces such as grocery access, which could lead to increased food insecurity, generally requiring individuals to choose between their safety or being able to access spaces that support their ability to access basic needs.”

The memo also states that there are issues that come with trying to enforce this rule.

“The enforcement of masking requirements have resulted in violence in other parts of the country, both between police and private citizens – this is most certainly not something that we want to see in Madison and Dane County. Using local law enforcement resources to enforce face covering requirements would detract from their ability to support other safety and public service roles.Furthermore, enforcement efforts that include fines have resulted in financially penalizing individuals in a climate when many are already financially stretched.”

The petition demanding a mandatory mask policy states, “The alternative is more lock downs, the failure of beloved local businesses, and serious illness and death. Not only does wearing a mask protect oneself, but it also protects others, especially our essential workers and those who do not have the luxury to work from home.”

Dr. Jeff Pothof at UW Health said even though mask wearing is not a requirement, “From the medical perspective, the jury has rendered the verdict. If we are out in public close to other people, we need to be wearing a mask at this point.”

Although Pothof urges the community to wear a mask as often as possible, he acknowledged that the public health department’s reasons for not implementing one were “legitimate concerns.”

“I don’t think we want to persecute people who are unable to get face masks with some sort of mandatory order. But I don’t think that should be confused with the lack of benefit from the medical side to mask wearing,” Pothof said. “That benefit is clear. I think if we have segments of our community that find it difficult to acquire a mask or get a mask, the effort should really be focused on what can we do then, as a larger community, to ensure that those individuals have access to a mask just like all the rest of us do.”

Public health officials said they are working to make masks more accessible.


Report: Wisconsin has student-to-teacher racial, ethnic gap

July 2, 2020   |   By Associated Press

From Fox 11 News:

MADISON (AP) -- A gap between the percentage of teachers of color and the percentage of students of color in Wisconsin grew over the last 10 years as student diversity increased, according to a report released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

The state's teacher workforce has remained overwhelmingly white, according to the study, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. During the last decade, the number of students of color in public schools increased by 28%, while the number of teachers of color increased by just 22.5%, the study found.

Anne Chapman, the Wisconsin Policy Forum researcher who authored the report, said that pattern holds true for rural areas, suburban districts and towns, as well as the state's larger cities.

The gap between the demographics of students and their teachers vary by district, as well as by race. Black students make up just over 9% of K-12 students, compared with about 2% of teachers. Both the population of Latino teachers and students over the past decade has doubled, but the gap between them widened each year -- with Latinos currently making up 12.3% of students, and 2% of teachers.

Chapman pointed to research that shows that having a more diverse teaching and administrative staff is good not just for Black and brown students, but also for white students.

"It is important for white children to see people of color as being knowledgeable and authoritative," said Gloria Ladson-Billings, a teacher educator who most recently was on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "The stuff we are seeing happening in our streets today is, I think, a direct result of young white people saying, 'I was never really taught to value these people's lives."'

Chapman said subsequent reports will dig deeper into the reasons for the persistent racial gap between student and teacher populations.


Life at home with kids during quarantine

June 30, 2020   |   By Joel Patenaude, Madison Magazine

From Madison Magazine:

Lorena Mancilla is amused by her 6-year-old nephew who walks around his home — where his family is quarantined due to COVID-19 — while holding a tablet and saying, “Shh, I’m on a call.”

The child is mimicking one of his parents, who are both working from home, says Mancilla, director of WIDA Early Years, the world-class Instructional Design and Assessment program promoting English-language education for multilingual children nationwide. WIDA is based in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

“It just cracks me up to see these behaviors from kids,” says Mancilla, who works remotely from her home in the Chicago area.

This spring, many parents suddenly found themselves laid off or working from home and caring for their children full time because schools and day care facilities had closed. As summer arrived, it was unclear if cooped-up families would feel relief from the easing of restrictions on public gatherings and the resumption of youth programming.

“When I had young children I relied on a lot of things that happened in the summer,” says Tricia Blanco, a Madison-based professional learning specialist with WIDA Early Years. “My kids went to camp, they were in swimming lessons, they had soccer. … All that may not be available this summer. We don’t know.”

Blanco says the state’s Safer at Home order challenged families with children of all ages. And the gradual lifting of those restrictions will shake up family routines again, she says.

The Madison School & Community Recreation, or MSCR, canceled all spring and summer programming, such as sports-specific youth camps and adult art classes. Instead MSCR has created virtual content for kids to do at home.

Cindy Kuhrasch, coordinator of the physical education teacher training in UW–Madison’s School of Kinesiology, made a series of videos demonstrating simple physical activities to do alone or with family members. She encouraged her college students to also make videos and post them to the UW–Madison PE Facebook page. Kuhrasch said some of the videos have been repurposed for the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, where she serves on the board of directors.

“As a parent, I think all we can do is make opportunities available and invite our kids to play with us,” Kuhrasch says.

Physical activity is important to maintain, she says, and not just for the fitness benefits. Staying active develops social and emotional skills, too. Of course, that’s difficult to achieve when self-isolation rules out going to a gym or participating in team sports.

“Kids aren’t unique. We all miss our friends. We all long for social interaction. I think we’re all struggling with anxiety over how long this will last,” Kuhrasch says.

Parents of children with autism or developmental disabilities have had additional challenges during the pandemic that include loss of access to school counselors and health care providers.

For these children “worries, fear, and frustration can be expressed as challenging behaviors,” says Sigan Hartley, associate professor of human development and family studies in the UW–Madison School of Human Ecology. “It can help to anticipate these challenges and to make sure the child has access to coping or calming activities and items.”

Parents, too, have had to learn coping strategies. “Although it is often hard to do, it is important for parents to invest in their own health and well-being,” Hartley says. “When parents have their own needs met, they are better able to focus on the needs of their children.”

She suggests taking a few moments for mindful breathing, keeping a gratitude journal “or writing a compassionate letter to yourself as if you were a friend who you were supporting through a bad day.”
Blanco and Mancilla of WIDA also urge parents to find ways to lessen the stress they’re under. “Whatever you can do to take care of yourself is definitely going to flow to how your children are reacting,” Blanco says.

Blanco has taken note of several positive community responses to the pandemic in her neighborhood near Tenney Park. “People are putting things in their windows, whether it’s rainbows or hearts or teddy bears. That’s for people out walking about to see,” she says.

“Another thing I’ve noticed,” she adds, “are people nodding or saying ‘hi’ knowing that we’re a little bit more isolated than we’ve been. So that’s been really nice to see as well.”

In her neighborhood, Mancilla says, little girls are drawing pictures with brightly colored chalk in their driveways for their friends to see when they’re out for walks with their families. “It’s the cutest thing,” Mancilla says. “They’ll draw the picture and their mom will sign it, ‘Love, Lexi and Nora.’”

Blanco expects such expressions of neighborly support to outlive the virus. That’s the hope, anyway.

“I think we’re in this for the long haul,” she says. Social distancing measures “may not have to be as stringent as they’ve been, but until there’s a vaccine this virus isn’t going away.”


A new brief from the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities and the University of Wisconsin

June 17, 2020   |   By Bianca Quilantan, Politico

From Politico, Bianca Qilantan

A new brief from the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities and the University of Wisconsin-Madison-led Aspire Alliance, “Leveraging Promising Practices: Improving the Recruitment, Hiring, and Retention of Diverse and Inclusive Faculty,” lays out a guide for institutions to create an institutional culture that promotes diversity and inclusion in STEM faculty.


U of I Joins Elite Network to Train Tomorrow’s STEM Educators

June 16, 2020   |   By University of Idaho Communications

From University of Idaho Communications

The University of Idaho joins some of the country’s biggest names in impactful research as it is welcomed into The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) Network, a dynamic academic network of top research universities dedicated to developing and expanding proven STEM teaching practices to educate diverse populations of students.

U of I joins the ranks of Michigan State University, Columbia, Cornell, Yale, Texas A&M and Johns Hopkins, among others.

Each member university develops its own local learning community around CIRTL’s pillars of teaching-as-research, learning communities and learning-through-diversity. The network shares resources, including professional development, program evaluation guides, research briefs and―highly relevant to this new COVID-19 era―online, cross-network courses, workshops and drop-in events.

“We have so many opportunities for student research, this will help further enhance that experience, helping us graduate the next generation of STEM teachers who are well-prepared with exceptional teaching tactics,” said U of I President Scott Green.

The five other new CIRTL members include: University of Arizona; University of Florida; University of Houston; University of Illinois-Chicago; and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada.

“We are excited to showcase our institution among the nation’s best in these CIRTL learning communities,” said Jerry McMurtry, dean of the College of Graduate Studies (COGS) at U of I. “The opportunities we can provide through this network build on our successes and will allow us to explore new areas.”

The effort at U of I is jointly sponsored by COGS and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL).

“Through CIRTL, we will collaboratively generate a culture of engaged teaching, learning and research in STEM disciplines and prepare future faculty to positively effect, indeed transform, undergraduate education here and around the world,” said Brian Smentkowski, CETL director.

The newest member universities bring an even greater diversity in the expertise that the network gives faculty. The new partner institutions bring expertise in teaching indigenous students, and in serving students in urban multicultural environments.

“Now, during this pandemic, having a strong virtual learning community of peers and an established program of online offerings across the CIRTL Network provides members with a way to collaborate and leverage shared resources to better serve our graduate students and postdocs,” said Kitch Barnicle, associate director of the CIRTL Network.

CIRTL, launched in 2003, has always been ahead of the curve in remote learning, said CIRTL Founder and Director Robert Mathieu.


UArizona Joins Network Dedicated to Improving STEM Graduate Education

June 9, 2020   |   By University Communications

From University of Arizona News

The University of Arizona this fall will join a network of institutions in the United States and Canada dedicated to improving how graduate student and postdoctoral scholars are prepared for future faculty positions in STEM fields.

The university's membership in the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning was announced last week. The center is based at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin – Madison's School of Education.

CIRTL's member institutions are charged with developing learning communities where graduate students in science, technology, engineering and math – future faculty members of these disciplines – can learn STEM teaching practices that serve diverse undergraduate students.

The University of Arizona's membership will provide it access to network resources such as professional development opportunities, program evaluation guides, and online courses, workshops and events.

As a new member of CIRTL, the university will provide opportunities for graduate students to work on teaching projects with faculty in their disciplines, said Gail Burd, UArizona senior vice provost for academic affairs, teaching and learning and the institutional leader for the university's CIRTL partnership. Graduate students will also be trained to teach and assess student writing in STEM courses and will have opportunities to attend workshops on inclusive excellence in teaching and learning.

They also will be encouraged to join one of the university's Faculty Learning Communities, which meet several times each semester to talk about issues around teaching and learning.

"The University of Arizona provides excellent research training for future faculty in a variety of STEM disciplines," said Burd, a Distinguished Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology. "Our goal for the CIRTL learning community is to apply our experience with faculty professional development in evidence-based teaching to scaffold graduate student and postdoctoral scholar development for excellence in teaching and learning."

Frans Tax, a Distinguished Outreach Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, said UArizona, with its diverse student body and statuses as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and an American Indian and Alaska Native-Serving Institution, is "an ideal setting for training in inclusive excellence in teaching and learning."

"The CIRTL community will introduce our future faculty, while they are still graduate students and postdocs, to the idea that there is a science to effective teaching," said Tax, who is co-leader of the university's CIRTL partnership.

The five other new members are the University of Florida, the University of Houston, the University of Idaho, the University of Illinois at Chicago and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. With the new additions, the network will include 43 institutions.

"Our newest member universities will bring an even greater diversity in the expertise that the network is giving our future faculty," said CIRTL Director Robert Mathieu, a University of Wisconsin – Madison astronomy professor. "Several of our new partner institutions emphasize teaching indigenous students, while others contribute valuable experience serving students in urban multicultural environments."


Another Casualty of the Coronavirus: Summer Internships

May 22, 2020   |   By David Yaffe-Bellany, The New York Times

From the New York Times:

When she found out in mid-March that she had landed an internship with an education nonprofit in Washington, Lydia Burns, a senior at the University of Louisville, called her mother to celebrate. The whole world was falling apart, but here, finally, was good news.

“Mom, guess what?” she said. “Things are amazing!”

The euphoria lasted all of a week. As she worked on a paper the next Tuesday, Ms. Burns got an email from the nonprofit: The internship was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. She burst into tears.

“I feel like I had such a strong plan,” she said. “I knew what I was going to do — I had been working for it all of college. Now I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

For millions of college students, internships can be a steppingstone to full-time work, a vital source of income and even a graduation requirement.

But like so much else, summer internships have been upended by the pandemic, with a wide range of major companies, including tech firms like Yelp and entertainment behemoths like the Walt Disney Company, canceling programs and rescinding offers.

Students who had locked down internships as early as September are now jobless. Others who had hoped to experience an office setting for the first time are instead looking for work at fast-food restaurants. Many low-income undergraduates, already saddled with student loans, are concerned that a jobless summer could put them at a disadvantage in future application cycles, making it harder to find full-time work after graduation.

Some companies are continuing to pay interns to work from home, sending corporate laptops in the mail and holding get-to-know-you sessions over Zoom. But students fear that remote internships will not afford the networking opportunities that can make spending a summer in an office so valuable, especially for interns who have few professional contacts.

“You pick up a lot of subtle clues about how to behave in that profession, how to communicate like an engineer, how to work in teams like a nurse,” said Matthew Hora, an education professor at the University of Wisconsin who has studied internships. “Students are going to be missing that.”

Cassandra Dopp, a junior at the University of South Carolina, felt the effects of the pandemic earlier than most American college students: She was studying abroad in Rome when the coronavirus swept Italy.

Ms. Dopp, a business major, returned home in March and was set to work for Geico this summer at the company’s headquarters in Fredericksburg, Va. But as she sat in her childhood bedroom last month, Ms. Dopp got a call from a human-relations official at the company, who informed her the internship was canceled.

Many of her friends had already gotten similar calls. But Ms. Dopp has always prided herself on keeping organized and planning for the future. Now, she has no idea how she’ll stay occupied after final exams, let alone what she’ll do in July or August.

“I’d never put myself in this position to not have a plan for my summer and my future,” she said. “It was a big letdown. It’s disappointing.”

In a statement, Geico said its summer program rotates interns through multiple departments to expose them to different facets of the company. “Unfortunately,” the company said, “this experience was not possible in our current remote working environment.”

Many of the cancellations stem from those kinds of logistical challenges, or from cost-cutting at companies that are reeling from the economic damage of the pandemic. In other cases, students were hired to work at sports venues and political conventions, or help organize events that have been canceled.

Keri Johnson, a journalism student at Ohio University, landed what she described as a “dream” internship writing marketing material for the Nelsonville Music Festival in Ohio. Then the festival was canceled, along with many other cultural events, like South by Southwest.

Ms. Johnson has to intern for at least 200 hours to earn her journalism degree in the fall. With the festival canceled, she’s concerned she will have to push back her graduation, making it harder to find a job and putting financial strain on her family.

“Summer is the time I get to work as much as possible because I’m not in class,” Ms. Johnson said. “It’s kind of scary thinking about the fact that I won’t be able to work in the summer as much as I normally would.”

The cancellations have cut across virtually all industries, from media to technology to finance. But predictably, the industries that have suffered the most during the pandemic — travel, retailing, hospitality — have had especially large numbers of cancellations.

Connor Machon, a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin, accepted an internship at American Airlines in late September, turning down several other offers. He got his first inkling that the program might be in jeopardy when a friend who was set to work at Southwest Airlines had an offer rescinded in March.

A few days later, he learned that his internship was also being cut. Over the next weeks, Mr. Machon kept busy applying for dozens of other positions and sending more than 100 networking emails. Ultimately, he secured an internship at a start-up in Austin, earning $15 an hour.

“At this point, I was really open to anything, as long as I was being paid,” he said.

Not all internships are canceled. A number of banks and technology firms have simply shortened their programs by a few weeks. Media organizations like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal gave some summer interns the option of deferring until the fall or next year.

Offering perhaps the sweetest arrangement is the New York law firm Cahill Gordon & Reindel, which announced in April that the incoming summer associates would not have to work but would still be paid and still receive full-time offers after their graduation in 2021.

Other companies have moved their internships entirely online. In early April, a recruiter at eBay, Cindy Loggins, presented a series of options to top executives, like shortening the program or holding it remotely.

Given all the uncertainty, a total cancellation was also a serious possibility. “You’d be silly not to consider that as an option,” Ms. Loggins said.

In the end, the company moved the internship online. But a remote program presents certain logistical difficulties, like combating “screen fatigue” and devising work schedules for interns who live in different time zones.

To address any problems, Ms. Loggins said, her team plans to conduct weekly check-ins with each of the interns, rather than the midpoint and end-of-program meetings eBay has held in the past. But some rites of passage will be impossible to replace.

“Perhaps I’m getting up to go somewhere and the intern says: ‘Hey, where are you going? Can we grab lunch?’” Ms. Loggins said. “That’s what we’re going to miss in this summer.”

Many students will also miss the chance to spend a couple of months in the real world, away from the cloistered environment of a college campus.

Irene Vázquez, a junior at Yale, is interning for a small publisher based in New York. Months ago, Ms. Vázquez had envisioned the summer as a test to “see if the whole East Coast tiny apartment thing was going to be viable down the road.” Instead, she’s going to spend the summer working remotely from her childhood home in Texas.

“I could be much worse off,” she said. “But it’s certainly not the experience I had planned.”


UW–Madison’s Jackson co-authors paper published in Journal of Diversity in Higher Education

May 22, 2020

From UW-Madison School of Education

UW-Madison’s Jerlando Jackson co-authored a recent article published in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education that’s titled, “Mixed-reality simulations to build capacity for advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the geosciences.”

Jackson is the School of Education’s Vilas Distinguished Professor of Higher Education and chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. He also is director and chief research scientist with Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory.

Co-authors on this paper include Jason Chen of the William & Mary School of Education and M. Shane Tutwiler of the University of Rhode Island.

The paper’s abstract explains how the researchers “report on data collected at three time points during a one-year intervention designed to teach a purposive sample of geoscience faculty members (n = 29) from 27 universities throughout the United States how to identify and address issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in their departments. For the intervention we used mixed-reality simulations to help participants practice specific skills to address common situations in geoscience departments. The intervention also included an intensive three-day workshop and three journal clubs.”

The authors add: “Using a Bayesian analytical approach we explored: (a) general trends in participants’ self- and collective efficacy for identifying and addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion over a one-year period; (b) relationships between self-efficacy and collective efficacy; and (c) demographic factors that explain variation in self- and collective efficacy.”

The researchers explain that the results indicate that “self- and collective efficacy rose sharply from preintervention to five months after beginning. Although both self- and collective efficacy retreated toward baseline at the one-year mark, only one-year self-efficacy was still credibly higher than preintervention. Also, preintervention self-efficacy predicted five-month collective efficacy. Efficacy beliefs varied as a function of race/ethnicity. Only collective efficacy varied as a function of academic rank. We discuss these findings in relation to social–cognitive theory and the literature regarding the use of digital learning environments to address diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The Journal of Diversity in Higher Education is a publication of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.


Researchers Release Free, At-Home Early Math Resources for Families

May 18, 2020

From UW-Madison School of Education

A team of early math education experts from across the country has pooled its expertise to develop a set of free, research-based learn-at-home materials geared toward children from birth to age 8.

The “At-Home Early Math Learning Kit for Families,” created by the DREME Network’s Family Math team, is especially valuable as many people are staying home due to ongoing public health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to give families ideas that are fun, easy to implement, require no special materials, and can be folded into daily life — rather than feel like an extra task.

The DREME, or Development and Research in Early Math Education, Network was created in 2014 to advance the field of early mathematics research and improve young children’s opportunities to develop math skills. It includes a dozen scholars from across the country, including UW–Madison’s Amy Claessens, an associate professor with the Department of Educational Policy Studies and the Gulbrandsen Distinguished Chair in Early Childhood Education.

DREME Network members and affiliates collaborate to conduct basic and applied research, and develop innovative tools that address high-priority early math topics and inform and motivate other researchers, educators, policymakers and the public.

The quick-start kit of free early math resources is available for download in both English and Spanish.

“As a member of the Family Math team, I worked with other Network members and our affiliates (students and post-docs) to help create these materials for families,” says Claessens, an expert in early childhood education, child development, and public policy. “We all play a part in reviewing the materials and making sure that they are appropriate for young children and their families.”

The DREME Network website explains that the “At-Home Early Math Learning Kit for Families” includes:

• Tips for Reading: If you’re reading books with your children, it offers tips for bringing math into storybook time.

• Recipes: If you’re in the kitchen preparing food, the kit offers two easy recipes for cookies and personal pizzas, allowing families to start math conversations while cooking.

• Math Snacks: If you have just a few extra minutes as you go about your day, the kit offers brief ideas for uncovering and talking about math in everyday moments, like cleaning up toys or getting ready for bed.

• Card Games: If you have a deck of playing cards and 10-15 minutes, the kit offers directions for four card games that are fun and allow children to practice skills like adding and comparing numbers.

“We focused on creating simple activities that do not require a lot of materials so that math could be incorporated into daily life easily,” says Claessens, and who is the associate director of UW-Madison’s Center for Research on Early Childhood Education (CRECE). “Parents are under a lot of pressure with young children home from school and childcare, and we wanted to make math an easy and fun part of their days.”

Claessens notes that the DREME Network’s Family Math team plans to release additional math kits in the coming weeks. For updates, visit the DREME Network website.


Summer internship canceled? Not at these companies embracing virtual versions

May 3, 2020   |   By Michael Braga

From USA Today by Michael Braga

There won’t be any college kids on Humana’s five main corporate campuses around the country this summer. COVID-19 has seen to that.

But that doesn’t mean executives and staff at the Louisville, Kentucky-based insurance giant won’t be interacting with interns as they have every year since 1998. They’ll just be doing it in a virtual environment instead of a physical one.

So far, 200 graduate and undergraduate students have signed up for a summer of online courses, long-distance social networking and remote teamwork. But the company is still looking for more. It has space for candidates who might be interested in learning about corporate strategy, marketing, health care delivery, analytics and operations.

 “We are very well experienced at working from home. We’ve done it before. We did it before COVID-19,” said Ty Richardson, who heads enterprise Talent Management for Humana. “We’re very confident we can provide a meaningful experience. We have a plan that can be clearly articulated to interns so they are well equipped to understand the tasks and outcomes they are responsible for at the end of the summer.”

[Ty Richardson heads enterprise Talent Management for Humana.]

While more than 200 companies, according to a search through Github and ismyinternshipcancelled.com, have given up on internships this summer in the face of a rapidly spreading pandemic, others in a range of industries are forging ahead with a virtual version of programs deemed crucial to their recruiting efforts and future growth.

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“Ten weeks is an ideal time for college students and companies to assess mutual compatibility,” said Jeffrey Moss, CEO and founder of Parker Dewey, a Chicago company focused on finding internships for college students. “The company is able to assess the student beyond what is captured on the resume, and the student has an opportunity to audition the company.”

[Jeffrey Moss is the CEO and founder of Parker Dewey.]

Tech titans Google, Twitter, IBM, Microsoft and SAP are all planning virtual internships this summer as are financial powerhouses Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase.

Insurance companies are also on board. AIG, Liberty Mutual and Northwestern Mutual all have shifted to virtual internships for 2020.

"Some companies had a little experience with remote work before this summer, but for the most part, there isn’t an established set of best practices," Joshua Kahn, assistant director of research and public policy at the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a nonprofit professional membership organization for college career services based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. "Most companies are just now experiencing how to do it."

Things have to be done a little bit differently in the virtual world, Kahn said. There has to be more of an emphasis on short-term projects and shorter, more frequent check-ins. Mentors might also need to play more significant roles.

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 “It’s going to be tough for some companies,” said Matthew Hora, director of the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions at the University of Wisconsin. “Converting to working remotely requires quite a bit of forethought as to how to design meaningful tasks and how to supervise them in a productive way.”

[Interns aren't expected to walk into Humana's offices this summer, but they will work – virtually.]

But plenty of companies are confident that they have the experience and skills to pull it off.

“Over the past few years, Liberty Mutual’s program already offered virtual internships to a handful of interns who worked from some of our smaller offices,” said Maura Quinn, Liberty Mutual’s manager of campus recruiting in an email. “We took that model and scaled it up this year for all of our interns.”

This summer, 600 Liberty Mutual interns – undergraduates, graduates, MBA, law students and Ph.D.s – will work remotely in the company’s finance, information technology (IT), claims, legal and sales departments.

“The curriculum will complement interns’ majors as well as their Liberty Mutual assignments and include a mix of professional development, insurance-related instruction, and career-pathing certificate courses,” Quinn said.

Developing emotional intelligence

[Humana's interns will be trained in virtual classrooms where students learn the basics of health care.]

Humana's internship program, which begins in May and runs until early August, will include training in virtual classrooms where students learn the basics of health care. Classes will also help students develop both their intellectual and emotional intelligence and their ability to work with others. There even will be a virtual volunteering component, where interns will partner with the Humana Foundation.

“It’s an opportunity for us to build a talent pipeline,” said Richardson, the company's enterprise talent manager. “We do expect some of our interns to become employees and we want to give them a running start at that.”

Microsoft’s summer internship will be no less ambitious.

“This year, more than 4,000 students had plans to join us – the largest and most diverse class in our history – taking on roles spanning all our functions,” wrote Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft’s chief people officer in a recent blog post. “And while we’re incredibly disappointed that we won’t be with them on our campuses, we’re committed to creating a meaningful and fun virtual internship experience for each one of them, and remain eager to absorb their energy and learn from them as we always do.”

Hogan added that her team will host “remote events that focus on building connections, fostering learning, and empowering interns to achieve their goals and uncover their passions. Participants in the program will connect with one another, build community within their teams, and engage with senior leaders across the company through a variety of virtual events.”

Focusing on micro internships

Moss, whose company pioneered the concept of micro internships – project-based internships in which college students can earn money and valuable skills over short periods of time, said there is a cost to pay when companies abandon internship programs, even just for a summer.

Some companies like airlines and destination resorts like Disney can’t help it. COVID-19 either decimated their businesses or there was no way for them to operate remotely, Moss said. The same is true for labs and manufacturing facilities.

In contrast, managers at financial services companies that have previously balked at remote work have recognized the opportunity to create positive experiences for their interns. They, along with so many other companies also see the risk associated with not responding.

“Those companies are recognizing the long-term implications of their decision to cancel internships and they’re not pretty,” Moss said. “Certain campuses may not look at them as fondly in the future.”

But it’s still not too late to walk back their decisions and provide a soft landing for students, Moss said. He said he’s working with a medical device company that’s changed its mind as is now offering interns a series of micro-projects, which is better than nothing.

That’s the way virtual internships should be organized anyway, he said. Instead of one large project, interns can get involved in a variety of well-defined and discreet tasks, often in different divisions of a company. Even though they might be assigned to marketing, they might see an opportunity in sales, which is a lot like what happens when students are onsite for the summer.  

Zachary Kahtava, who is graduating from the University of Kansas on May 15, is already an old pro when it comes to micro internships. He's done 12 of them with Parker Dewey since the summer of his sophomore year.

[Zachary Kahtava has done 12 micro internships with Parker Dewey.]

A business finance major with a concentration in data analytics, Kahtava has been able to partially fund his college education through short term internships where he's done everything from generating leads to analyzing date data.

"The really cool thing is that I don't get treated like a student," Kahtava said. "The companies are open to my opinions and thoughts. They want to know what I think they should do with the projects."

The downside to virtual internships

Kahtava said his most recent internship with a trucking company – building a database to capture capital and operating expenses and other data assignments  – got extended in February.

While the pandemic forced him to take his computer home, the most significant change was his ability to communicate with his bosses. Whereas he previously got to meet with them once a week, they were now so busy dealing with COVID-19 issues that they could only meet with him once a month

"We've been lucky not to have been hit too hard," Kahtava said. "But with everything being variable every day, it's harder for us to get together. Because we can't meet, it's harder to get insight from them. "

Summer interns are likely to have different issues.

Because interns are not onsite, it will be hard for them to develop soft skills, the 21st-century skills that you get from teamwork and oral communication, said Hora, director of Wisconsin's Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. 

"To really learn those, it requires immersion in the social environment," he said. "Nurses and mechanical engineers need to immersed in the hospital and on the oil rig to really understand the job, to really learn to problem solve on the fly."

[Joshua Kahn is an assistant director of research and public policy at the National Association of Colleges and Employers.]

It's the same when it comes to truly understanding the culture of a workplace, said Kahn, the assistant director of research and public policy at the National Association of Colleges and Employers. 

"One of the most important things for interns is the culture of the place and if they feel they can fit in with that culture," Kahn said. "You can’t get that feeling online."


Filling the Void for Students with Academic Projects

April 21, 2020   |   By NACE staff

From NACE:

Matthew Hora is hearing about employers canceling their internship programs with increased frequency and is offering some guidance and suggestions for navigating in the current landscape.

“Many organizations are in entrenchment and layoff mode, and are not bringing in students for internships this year,” says Hora, director of the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Cancellations are happening, but there is also a massive movement to online internships, so in those cases, it is less about cancellations and more about a migration to a different modality.”

What can be done to provide experiences for students for whom online internships aren’t available or viable?

Hora, who has written What To Do About Internships in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic?, recommends that faculty and academic departments work together to create projects or learning experiences that are as similarly robust and authentic as traditional internships.

“These different kinds of academic projects could hopefully mimic or adopt some principles of experiential learning,” Hora suggests.

Some ideas that he shares for these projects include:

  • Problem- or case-based learning projects that require students to conduct background research on a real-world problem, interview experts in the field, and prepare a report or paper that summarizes a solution or approach to the problem. Faculty and departments should try to work with employers to identify real-world, problem-based projects;
  • Service- or community-engaged learning during which students work directly with members of the community to conduct a project focused on meeting authentic real-world needs;
  • Short reflection papers that require students to reflect on their own progress throughout the experience, including the successful (or not) achievement of their learning goals, issues or challenges faced, and things to work on in the future;
  • A virtual meeting with students to periodically review their progress in the project.
  • Preparation of career-related materials, such as cover letters or resumes; and
  • Projects that focus on important competencies, such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. These can be embedded in projects mentioned above, e.g., problem-based learning, or can be emphasized in shorter activities, such as developing virtual presentations or creating datasets for an assignment.


What’s lost, gained with online internships

April 9, 2020   |   By Delece Smith-Barrow

From the Hechinger Report's Higher Education newsletter:

Higher education and summer internships usually go hand in hand, with the former a precursor to the latter. But not this summer.
 
Take Liz Brodie’s story as an example.
 
After a months-long application process, Brodie found out in March that she had been accepted as a Fulbright summer researcher. Brodie, a junior at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was supposed to live and work at the University of Calgary, analyzing the connection between adequate housing and food resources. The pay was to be $8,000. But then coronavirus swept the world, and her position was cancelled. She had to scramble to find something else to do this summer. Now, she plans to intern for free at the Washington Improv Theater in D.C.
 
“The virus definitely changed the outcome of my summer,” said Brodie, who is majoring in international relations and environmental studies.
 
Internships are being cancelled, shortened or moved online, causing another challenge for college students who have had to suddenly leave campus and learn remotely. With online internships, much is lost but there may also be some silver linings.
 
“A lot depends on who is structuring or designing the experience,” said Matthew Hora, director of the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions at the University of Wisconsin. “You can have an in-person internship that’s poorly structured and not very useful or effective or positive for the student. So it’s not as if one modality by default is better than the other.”
 
About 29 percent of employers are moving their internships online and 15 percent are reducing the number of interns they had initially planned to have, according to a survey published April 3 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. (NACE is regularly surveying employers about this issue and will release new results on April 10.) Nearly two dozen organizations that support students who study science, technology, engineering or math wrote an open letter to employers to urge them not to cancel their internships and instead find ways to virtually employ interns.
 
With remote internships, students will likely have fewer opportunities to network and learn the intricacies of different industries, Hora said. Unplanned, off-the-cuff networking experiences that come from chatting in the hallway with coworkers or going out to lunch with a supervisor can’t happen.
 
“How do engineers communicate? How do nurses work in teams? That’s the kind of thing you’re going to really get in an in-person experience,” he said.
 
For any internship to be a success, managers and interns must have strong communication, Hora said, and that’s even more important if they are working remotely from each other. Students should advocate for mentorship and meaningful work from their employer to make sure they have a good experience. Colleges and universities should work with employers before a student starts to make sure there is someone from the organization who can properly manage the internship.
 
These experiences may be challenging for all involved, but online internships may also offer opportunities for students to thrive.
 
Students who need to work to make ends meet often don’t have the time to be an intern, or they can’t afford the pay cut that comes with many internships.
 
“If they were going to do an internship, it would have to be in the middle of the night,” Hora said. “For better, for worse, they could do that with an online internship. They could fit it into their schedule.”
 
Some employers require online interns to complete projects, which can be done on a less strict schedule for when and where the work happens.
 
“Many of them are structured that way, where the student is given a project or a task and they can perform it on their own schedule,” Hora said.
 
Also, online internships may remove some of the grunt work that can come with college jobs.
 
“With online internships, I would hope we’re not going to see the equivalent of students pouring coffee and making photocopies,” he said.


WCER’s Gloria Ladson-Billings discusses different schools’ responses to COVID-19

March 30, 2020   |   By Jeffrey S. Solochek

From Tampa Bay Times

Christina Ottersbach watches with a degree of disbelief as Florida embarks on its version of school closures during the coronavirus pandemic.

A special education teacher in Hernando County, she has concerns about how she will help her students, all of whom have individualized plans that might or might not work remotely. Her inability to get a steady internet signal at her rural home — made even more spotty by her middle school sons’ needs to get online for classes — only compounds her skepticism.

Add to that her limited family support system, personal anxiety and relative lack of training in distance teaching, and, well, it’s pretty clear. The veteran educator struggles to fathom how Florida’s plan to hold required, graded online education with a closure order that expires April 15 makes sense — especially in light of what other states are doing.

Michigan, where Ottersbach has friends teaching, ordered all its schools closed for three weeks and stated any distance learning that takes place during that time would not count toward required instructional time. Virginia closed its schools for the remainder of the academic year, and gave districts the option of providing additional teaching as long as they guarantee equitable opportunities for all students.

“Florida doesn’t seem to be in touch with reality,” said Ottersbach, who like many, preferred to just call off the current school year and pick up again when the pandemic has cooled. “They act almost like it’s not happening.”

Leaders in the state Department of Education don’t see it that way at all.

Commissioner Richard Corcoran said his team never gave a thought to shutting down the system for the remaining weeks of class.

“We’re following the CDC guidelines. We’re going to reevaluate it every 15 days,” said Corcoran, a lawyer and former House speaker was nominated for commissioner just over a year ago by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

If Florida were to see a significant “flattening of the curve” of the virus’ spread, he said, it could make sense to reopen schools in time to finish the academic year in actual classrooms. The next review is scheduled for April 15.

He hinted that a return isn’t out of the question, stating that Singapore didn’t send its students home, its leaders deciding the action would do more harm than good. Some people need to be isolated, and everyone should protect themselves, he said, but the rest of the population should be able to “go about living your life.”

Corcoran has agreed to call off all state testing for the year, along with all of the attached accountability measures. That way, he said, if and when in-person classes resume, teachers and students can spend their time on curriculum rather than worrying about assessments.

“They’ll be learning every day. That’s a great thing," he said, quickly adding that test-based accountability will return in normal times.

The state also has put out the word that the school year could be extended through June to get all the curriculum covered, though Corcoran had nothing but positives for the educators who ramped up a distance learning system that he deemed a “great solution to the predicament that we’ve found ourselves in.”

As for the Michigan model of shutting down school and not counting any of the work that students do until classes resume, that was a complete non-starter for the man making the call for Florida’s schools.

“That’s not who we are as Americans,” Corcoran said, suggesting such a move would sell students short and undervalue teachers. “What Michigan has done is throw up the white flag in surrender as no state should.”

Like Florida, Michigan closed schools for several weeks, and sought a federal waiver to call off required annual tests.

But unlike Florida, Michigan has a Democrat as governor. Its actions have taken a different tone than those who have looked for ways to stem the virus’ spread with something less than a full-blown shutdown.

Shortly after classrooms shut down, the Michigan Department of Education issued a memo that encouraged distance learning, but didn’t require it as Florida has. And it stated that the lessons would be for enrichment.

“There is no mechanism to earn instructional time during a period of mandated school closure," the department stated. “However, schools can and are encouraged to offer supplemental learning opportunities to students using distance learning methods as they see fit."

A spokesman for the department said officials there are “staying within the memos” rather than making additional comments. He noted that the situation remains fluid, and the state is changing its approach as needed.

The memos coming out of the Michigan agency stress the importance of access for everyone before any transition to full online instruction. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did say she would take steps to ensure seniors graduate on time, and no child is held back because of the situation.

“We do not know what the future will hold, but we are absolutely committed to ensuring the needs of our students, parents, and families are met as we navigate these uncharted waters,” Whitmer said in a statement.

Virginia, which also has a Democratic governor but in a more “purple” state, went a different direction.

It closed all schools for the remainder of the academic year — an action similar to Kansas and Alabama — and then gave its districts options for how to provide students “with equitable opportunities and instruction covering required course content ... without disrupting their academic progress.”

That includes while classrooms are closed, over the summer or into the next school year.

Like Florida, Virginia waived some graduation requirements for high school seniors who were on track to a diploma. It canceled its spring exams, as well.

And in a move between Florida and Michigan, Virginia has encouraged individual districts — which the state calls divisions — to provide students with opportunities to keep learning.

“We are advising school divisions not to grade that work ... unless they are able to do that in a way that is equitable for all students,” Virginia Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle said. “It has to include students with disabilities and English language learners. ... We want school divisions to keep students engaged, but we also want them to be mindful of their responsibility to serve all students.”

Virginia, as Florida, has a wide variety of communities from the small rural to the densely urban. So the state has tried not to prescribe a single approach for any one of them.

But one thing has become clear, Pyle said. Regardless of location, relative wealth, size or types of students served, none of the divisions appear able to provide the full equitable access that’s desired.

Three states, three approaches. Is any one of them more right than the other?

University of Wisconsin education professor Gloria Ladson-Billings, president of the National Academy of Education, is a strong advocate for accessibility and equity in education. She can speak at length about the challenges that poorer communities face just in annual summer learning loss, not to mention the disparities inherent between those families with technology and home stability vs. those without.

Her take on the entire situation: Who knows?

“I can see the arguments on both sides,” Ladson-Billings said.

Florida spent years investing in classroom technology, for instance, and might have enough equipment to bridge the divide by providing materials to families. Michigan might not have a similar ability. Both might change their efforts as they learn more, just as Philadelphia city schools did by at first declining to do any online distance instruction and then switching gears amid a community uproar, she said.

“We all know this is not the same as instruction in a classroom. I don’t think anybody is trying to make it that,” Ladson-Billings said. “What people are trying to do is ensure there are not learning losses.”

And truth be told, she said, no one really knows what will work in this new dynamic.

“That’s the most honest thing we can say,” she said. “We have never had anything like this before.”

She expressed hope that, as schools go about their business, they don’t lose track of the stress that isolation can cause, which could lead to potential child abuse.

“Some of our kids are going to be in some very difficult situations,” she said, as they no longer have the safe haven that school has provided up to now.


Working At Home With A Toddler Will Be Chaotic. Here Are Some Tips To Help.

March 27, 2020   |   By Elizabeth Dohms-Harter

From: Wisconsin Public Radio, By Elizabeth Dohms-Harter

Younger children have attention spans of 10 to 15 minutes when they're working on tasks, said assistant research professor GG Weisenfeld of the National Institute for Early Education Research at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education.

 

That probably comes as no surprise to parents with a seemingly impossible double-duty task of working from home and taking care of their little ones. In the new-world realities brought on by COVID-19, the disease spread from the new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, early childhood specialist Lorena Mancilla urges parents and guardians to be kind to themselves while figuring out what works.

"Children need regulated, healthy parents more than anything else during this period of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders," she said. "Life happens. Schedules may not work. It’s okay. Do what you can to keep your children safe."

Weisenfeld said parents inherently are teachers. She said your behaviors set examples for your children who easily learn by doing ordinary things such as sharing a book, having a conversation or playing with bubbles in the kitchen sink.

"Take this opportunity to create and provide high-quality educational experiences at home for your children," she said.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison educator and family engagement researcher, Mancilla and her team of early years specialists at WIDA, and Weisenfeld offered the following tips for guardians, whether they're on the verge of burnout or looking for ways to spice up learning at home.

Create A Schedule

No, your toddlers aren't going to follow this without your guidance, and yes, you should still create one. Schedules are important because they help with consistency, and that's important for young children, the WIDA (World-class Instructional Design and Assessment) team said.

Some tips include building a schedule that keeps your child on similar meal and nap routines that they have at their child care facility. Also build in hands-on and child-led activities, making sure there are plenty of sensory activities for them such as making sill putty, edible glitter finger paint or digging for (spaghetti noodle) worms. Mancilla said this gives children a sense of agency.

Guardians can work with their children to make a visual chart of daily activities and responsibilities. It's important to do this with your child and ask them to check items off as they're completed. One example is to create a paper chain, with each link representing a daily activity. When the activity is done, the child can tear off the link. 

The same method can be used to reward a child with something they want after they remove all links that represent completion of certain activities or demonstration of certain behaviors.

Each morning review the day's plan with your child and use a visual cue to help you, for example a kid-friendly schedule that you keep posted on the refrigerator. Focus on anything special or different.

Gather Resources

The WIDA team recommends gathering resources that kids can use during unstructured activity time, for example playing in a bin of sand, uncooked rice or water. It's easier to do this on the porch or a hard surface for easier cleanup. Make sure to provide plenty of scoops and containers.

Gather drawing and coloring utensils and other items around your house that would be safe for kids, such as measuring cups, plastic bowls or other items you might see in their child care centers.

"You would be surprised at how engaged toddlers can be as they play with materials that have a variety of textures," Mancilla said.

Get Outside

Heeding social distancing measures, it's crucial to get your kids outside for play, the WIDA team said. While parks with playground equipment might be out of the question, you can still go for walks, play in your own yard or explore the neighborhood.

In Madison, someone designed a scavenger hunt at a local park. Country-wide, neighbors and teachers are putting rainbows, teddy bears and other items in windows that children can count as they walk past.

Create A Play Space

Along with your kids, create a separate spot in your home where they can play, but make sure that it's within your view. This might be a great opportunity to have kids build a fort using pillows and blankets.

They can fill this space with their favorite toys or materials. 

Another fun activity is to take some of your children's toys and sort them into different boxes, bags or bins. Then, each day, bring out a new batch. At the end of the day and with the child's help, put those items away in preparation for a new box the next day.

Be Interactive

Children learn by interacting with other people, so be willing to participate in interactive games, songs and reading time. These connections will be helpful to children whose normal routines have been disrupted.

Children can get this kind of connection from each other in a household or from a guardian. 

Weisenfeld said that another way to build connections is through video chats. They can use this time to sing a song together or share "dress-up" outfits. This could also be a time to have children connect virtually with family members who aren't present in the home. 

She said it's OK during this time to relax some house rules that are normally in place, but she said children tend to find consistency reassuring. If you do change rules, communicate that to your kids and keep those rules consistent.


Tips for families working and learning from home

March 23, 2020   |   By NBC15 News

From NBC15.com

For families with young children, University of Wisconsin-Madison educator and family engagement researcher Lorena Mancilla offers advice on how to create spaces and establish routines for learning and working effectively from home.

UW-Madison said in a press release Friday, with 40 U.S. states now closing public schools to slow the spread of COVID-19, parents have had little or no time to plan for keeping their children home 24/7. Suddenly, and in some cases overnight, families are figuring out how to live, learn and work - together and separately - all under one roof.

Many parents who haven't heard from their children's schools about alternatives to classroom instruction may be wondering if they also need to take on the role of an at-home substitute teacher.

Mancilla offers these tips for working and learning from home:

Set up separate spots in the home, as space permits, for children to learn and parents to work.
Keep the family's regular weekday schedule for waking up, bedtime and meals.
Gather resources for children to engage with, such as toys, games, books, online videos and drawing materials.
Schedule frequent breaks for kids and parents to move around, play and exercise.
Expect the unexpected.

Mancilla suggests starting slowly and setting daily goals. For example, select a one-hour learning activity for day one, followed by a two-hour activity on day two, and so on.

CLICK HERE for more suggestions and resource links.