magazine-category: Featured Story

Bulldogs Together … Ready and Strong

statue with mask over face

Gardner-Webb Answered the Call to Serve During the Pandemic

As nations around the world began responding to the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, Gardner-Webb University made the decision to follow the recommended prevention measures to help stem the spread. Students were asked to stay home for the rest of the spring semester, and all face-to-face classes transitioned to online
delivery on March 18, 2020. The campus remained open and accessible to those who needed to return for various reasons.

What followed over the next several months was Gardner-Webb doing what it does best: Serving God and humanity. From the faculty, staff and students on campus to alumni across the country and the local community, these individuals accepted the challenges of COVID-19 and persevered.

In this edition of Gardner-Webb, The Magazine, we will introduce you to some of those people who used their talents to help others through the crisis.

cafeteria worker wearing protective mask

On-Campus Support

For the nearly 200 students who stayed on campus for the spring semester after the initial transition to exclusive online learning, the GWU staff made sure they followed physical-distancing protocols. “The cafeteria staff has been nothing but a blessing,” noted student Bailey Reep. She applied to finish the semester on campus because of poor internet connectivity in her hometown of Cherryville, N.C.

“I have technology restrictions where I live,” Reep said. “When I reached out to Gardner-Webb about this issue, they were proactive in making sure that I was allowed back on campus with all the correct materials and safety measures possible. My professors quickly posted the course material and words of encouragement to all of us students. I cannot thank Gardner- Webb enough for all they have done, as well as Dr. Downs (GWU President) and his staff.”

Director of Housing and Resident Education John Johnson processed Reep’s request in less than 24 hours. Other students staying on campus during the immediate aftermath of stay-at-home orders in March also had technology needs, and some asked to stay because they were student-athletes, international students, or they had internships or transportation limitations. “We are members of a community whose desire is to provide our students with a positive University experience,” Johnson affirmed. “This dedication is all the more important during these uncertain times.”

Several professors integrated Zoom, a cloud-based platform for video and audio conferencing. “We worked hard to stay connected,” said Mischia Taylor, Godbold Business School dean and instructor of marketing. “Our number one focus was to make sure our students were all okay and to let them know we were here to support them through this crisis. I texted with students to check in on them, especially my seniors who were having a hard time with commencement changing and struggling to think about a career when most organizations have suspended hiring.”

Taylor said when conducting a class using Zoom, the first thing she did was to catch up with what was going on with her students. “I have students who live in other countries, so they gave us updates as to what was going on in their world,” she related.

Others offered support in various ways, including:

Brian Arnold, director of student activities, campus recreation and new student orientation, posted fitness workouts people could do at home each day.

Suzanne Glasscock, general manager of Sodexo Dining Services, adapted the University Dining Hall to conform to social distancing and state-mandated food service protocols. She continued to provide healthy options for students for in-house and takeout services. She also worked with the Student Development offices to prepare and provide meals for isolated or quarantined students.

GWU Chief of Police Barry Johnson and the University Police officers secured campus buildings and served the students who remained on campus through the end of the spring semester.

University police officers with Dr. Downs
GWU Police Officers have worked to provide support and resources throughout the pandemic.

The GWU Housekeeping Team (Johnnie Bostic, Venise Brintley, Lisa Carr, Suzanne Cline, Wanda Dawkins, Willie Hall, Andrew Harrill, Karen Haynes, Lisa Henson, Teresa Jett, Kimberly Ledbetter, Mitchell Leslie, Connie Meza DeSoto, Trudy Miller, Jim Richards, Sherrill Shepherd, Wanda Vickers and Sherry Wright) worked tirelessly to maintain the cleanliness of the campus and to make ready the residential spaces for returning students.

Jeff Hartman, professor of exercise science, provided resources offering ideas to maintain wellness during the time of increased stress, isolation, and sedentary pursuits.

Jenny Humphries, international student services director, worked tirelessly to help international students return home if they wanted to do so.

Barry Lane, director of environmental and occupational safety, has continued to provide COVID-19 monitoring, contact tracing and health-protocol support and guidance for students, faculty and staff. Lane has worked directly with local, state and national health services to keep Gardner-Webb at the forefront of transparent interactions between agencies and university operations and reporting.

Dr. Hebert Palomino, School of Divinity associate professor of pastoral care and counseling, released a series of videos in Spanish on caring for people in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Meredith Rowe, assistant professor of biology, who simulated lab experiences for her students in unique ways.

David Wacaster, director of facilities and maintenance, stayed informed about local, state, and federal directives to institute policies and make necessary changes around campus for the health and safety of everyone.

Cindy Wallace, director of The Counseling Center, and her team continued to offer encouragement and provide support to students through in-person visits and phone calls.

Physician Assistant Faculty Serve Patients with Telemedicine

As the number of COVID-19 cases spread across North Carolina, many hospitals and offices requested additional health care workers. Two faculty members from the GWU Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Program, Dr. Mark Reiber and Jamie Y. Camp, used telehealth options to help meet the needs.

Reiber, medical director for the PA Studies program, is an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) who divides his time between his practice’s locations in Gastonia and Shelby, N.C. His offices started utilizing telemedicine to better protect patients. “My experience with the visits has been very positive,” Reiber related. “Patients are very appreciative to speak directly with a doctor, and they want to maintain social distancing. Everyone has been very understanding of the strain on the hospitals and patient about waiting for non-urgent services. I have dealt with allergy issues, sore throats, cough, and a variety of follow up visits after previously performed studies.”

Camp, assistant professor in the PA program, also conducted telehealth visits with patients in a family medicine practice. He helped patients with typical problems and chronic disease management, but he also had many who were concerned about the pandemic and its associated respiratory symptoms. “They had many concerns on when to seek—and when not to seek—medical attention for those respiratory symptoms,” Camp said. “If symptoms were moderate to severe and (a cause) needed to be determined, the patients either came to our facility for testing/evaluation or went to the emergency department where diagnostics and treatment options were more accessible.”

Nursing Students on the Front Lines of the Pandemic

Several of Gardner-Webb’s nursing students provided care to patients during the coronavirus pandemic, including Jason Wesley DeFreitas and Lou Hipps.

As a clinical supervisor at Atrium Health-Lincoln, DeFreitas, ’21, helped his colleagues and patients manage the challenges. A student in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, he was one of three supervisors on a 30-bed medical-surgical unit.

His responsibilities involved managing 80 health care teammates, including registered nurses and health care technicians. “We care for a diverse population of patients, ranging from pediatrics to geriatric,” DeFreitas related. “I served as charge nurse some days, attended facility leadership meetings other days, and acted as a fill-in unit educator.”

DeFreitas kept staff members calm regarding the daily reported cases of COVID-19 in the county and facility. He relayed the latest information on COVID-19 and what Atrium Health was doing systemwide to educate teammates and combat the virus. “Being a leader requires keeping your team informed with the right information so that panic and rumors don’t swell within the unit,” he noted. “Many patients and their families had to alter their lives in radical ways because of COVID-19. Staying home more often, making decisions when and where to go out if home supplies are needed, and when will they return to work, are factors related to the health status of themselves and those around them.”

He added, “I feel that the nursing profession is built for moments like this in our history. We have been the most trusted profession for many years now, and it’s time we showed people, our country, and the world why. I feel honored to be in a profession that helps others. Our therapeutic nursing ways truly help people lead and live better lives.”

Hipps, a student in the RN to BSN program, served patients as a Humana telephonic care manager for the Medicare/Medicaid population. “I connect members with resources to improve their health,” Hipps explained. “I work with the most vulnerable population, trying to keep them informed and healthy at home. We added a proactive COVID survey to establish risk. Patients are happy to have the telephonic and/or telemedicine appointments available with their doctors to keep from getting exposed. Each of my patients has at least one chronic condition.”

Her job is even more important during the pandemic, because she helps members attempt healthier behaviors despite the economic and social conditions that influence their health status. For example, if her patients don’t have transportation, they can’t go to the doctor or pharmacy. If they don’t have money for food or medicine, their chronic condition is poorly managed. “Navigating insurance and the health care system is difficult and many people give up,” Hipps said. “Patients are concerned about not having enough food, they are behind on their bills, many have mental health challenges, and really need assistance navigating the health system. Many of my patients need help with transportation and were socially isolated before the virus.”

Educator Navigates COVID-19 Challenge

Chad Holloman in front of a school bus
Chad Holloman, Johnston County (N.C.) Public Schools, director of transportation services

The GWU School of Education has alumni located across the state serving at all levels, from superintendents to classroom teachers. When public schools closed in North Carolina on March 14, 2020, Gardner-Webb alumnus, Chad Holloman (‘15), emerged as a leader.

Amid the crisis, Holloman accepted a new administrative role. An assistant principal in the Johnston County (N.C.) Public Schools, he was promoted to director of transportation services and responsible for the day-to-day operations and maintenance of a fleet with over 300 buses.

With more than 37,000 students staying at home, Holloman needed to provide meaningful and relevant telework for the department’s employees. For the system’s driver-only employees, these materials consisted of reviewing bus safety, bus driving skills, as well as conflict management, ethics, drug and alcohol training, managing student behavior, and working with colleagues and parents.

Despite the challenges, Holloman experienced many inspiring moments. “From using our fleet of buses to provide school nutrition meals to over 18 satellite stops to seeing communities and departments come together to meet the needs of employees and students, the bright spots have been rewarding,” Holloman asserted.

Katie H. Barnes, ’12, Accepts Challenges with ‘Patience, Grace, and Flexibility’

Gardner-Webb University 2012 alumna Katherine “Katie” Harte Barnes has been a teacher for nearly a decade, and is currently at Pinnacle Classical Academy in Shelby, N.C. Pinnacle is a tuition-free public charter school serving more than 1,000 kindergarten through 12th-grade students.

“I am constantly reminding myself that no one, ever, has gone through this before in this setting, so none of us are expected to be perfect, know the right answers or know them right away,” Barnes observed. “I’m also reminding myself that it’s OK.”

Barnes adapted to the online instruction transition and developed physical distancing standards of instruction for face-to-face involvement as well. Flexibility is the key for a successful teaching and learning environment Barnes observed, but there were challenges that hit her hard when instructing exclusively online began. “In the classroom setting, I feed off of my students’ personalities, their questions and conversations, their intrigue, etc.,” she asserted. “All of this was stripped away during distance education, because there was no more real-time teaching that my students thrive off of so well.”

Barnes uses Google interactive sessions for students and parents. “The parents needed some encouragement and feedback on how to help their child be successful with distance education,” she related. “(Initially) I kept the learning objectives simple and doable for my students and their parents, making sure that the content I was assigning did not take hours per day to complete. I recorded video lessons to introduce new content. I held class Google Hangout (Meet) sessions several times a week, and the goal of these sessions was not to teach a lesson or to discuss content, but to simply be together, talk, and share what each other had been up to that day. We were used to being together eight hours a day, five days a week, and that outlet of socialization and emotional support was taken out of their learning realm.”

Barnes offered an inspirational message to her fellow educators. “No matter what grade you teach, how many subjects and students you teach, or how many years you have been teaching, you have to be all in for those students,” she stated. “They need you to be there for them academically, spiritually and emotionally. Teaching is a hard job on a good day, and giving 100 percent of yourself can sometimes feel like an insurmountable challenge. When the days get hard, remind yourself that this career takes a courageous person—and that courageous person is you. Your students are looking for and expecting your best each and every day. Show up, stand tall, and make a difference!”

Bulldogs Together: Ready and Strong

The Gardner-Webb family continues to adapt, lead and serve God and humanity during this uncertain time. Throughout the pages of this issue, you will find additional stories of students, faculty, staff and alumni who answer the call to step up and take on these challenges face-forward.

Previous Article

Gardner-Webb Students Stand Together as One

Next Article

Getting to Know Bo

Other Articles In This Issue

  • Article

    Gardner-Webb Students Stand Together as One

    More than 300 Gather to Begin Tough Conversations About Racial Injustice and Inequality Holding signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” “My life matters,” “Act justly, Love mercy, Walk humbly (Micah […]

    two students arm in arm in solidarity
  • Article

    Gardner-Webb Paces Big South With Four 2020 Christenberry Award Winners

    Allison Chandler, Jennifer Jackson, Courtney Kanetzke and Brian Stepanek Achieve Honors Gardner-Webb University once again led the way as the Big South Conference announced a record 12 student-athletes as recipients […]

    Christenberry award winners
  • Article

    By God’s Grace

    Clayton King, ’95, Has Shared Life-Changing Power of Jesus with People All Over the World On New Year’s Eve in 2019, Gardner-Webb University alumnus, Clayton King, and his wife, Sharie, […]

    Clayton King on stage with another pastor