FSB, Miami students work to help improve campus COVID protocols

Upham Hall with the sun shining through the cupola

It was a fellow summer intern who gave senior finance major Marc Davis an idea about how to help Miami University deal with the COVD-19 pandemic. “He was selected by his school to be on a team of six students consultants that were responsible for trying to spread the school’s rapid COVID test around the state,” he recalled. “I thought that's so cool -- a good professional experience for him to be able to talk about and have it on a resume, but also doing very meaningful work.”

Davis said he and some friends reached out to marketing professor Jan Taylor, who helped Davis put together a group of 13 consultants for his team, a mix of Farmer students and students from other parts of Miami. When fall classes at Miami began, Davis reached out to Kirk Bogard, FSB’s Associate Vice President for Development and External Relations. Bogard then introduced Davis to Miami’s dean of students, Kimberly Moore, and others within the Division of Student Life.

“Myself and a few others met with them and asked, ‘What are the biggest problems facing your job? What frustrates you? What don't you have answers for? What do you wish the university was doing better?’” Davis said.

Davis said the group split into three teams that would focus on three topics:

  • How to make COVID communications engaging to students so they would take necessary actions.
  • How to make COVID housing protocols a more favorable experience for students.
  • How to make the logistics of quarantine and isolation a smoother experience for students and the university.

“It's very interesting to think about these issues from the administrators’ perspective, because as students, all you ever hear about is students complaining about this rule or that restriction, but you don't really think about it from that administrator who is trying to keep everyone safe, is trying to give everyone the best experience, but also trying to figure out how to make sure that we don't have huge COVID outbreaks on campus,” senior finance major Grant Stierwalt said. “I really enjoyed getting to talk to them and hearing about how they think through these issues. I think it helps you put things in a new perspective and it's helped us a lot in how we sort of attack the issues.”

Over the course of the fall, the students worked together and with the university to find ways to make improvements before the start of the spring semester. “You have to not only get to that solution, but you have to go all the way through to implementation and think about if the school really takes our idea and they say, ‘Yes, we are doing that idea, we're going to pay for it,” Davis noted. “We have to think about how much is it going to cost? Who's working on it? How are we going to do it? Where's it going to sit in the university?”

Even after the fall semester ended, Davis and the student teams continued to seek solutions right up until they made their final presentations in mid-December. “The teams were very excited to present their findings and all three teams had in-depth deliverables that ranged between 40 and 60 slides. Their findings ranged from big-picture strategic initiatives to specific process changes to implement for next semester,” Davis said. “I was thrilled with the amount of value the teams were able to create in their short time on the projects!”

“I was really, really impressed with the communications feedback. I think that team did a really, really good job. There were some solid takeaways all the way around,” associate vice president for health and wellness Steve Large said. “As administrators, we think we know how we're doing, but it's so important and helpful to have real-time student voices giving us that kind of feedback.”

“The items that they named as needing to be addressed, many of them were well underway from my team, from our own work that we did. But their work reinforced that we were on the right track. It confirmed that we were in tune with the needs of our students and what we could do better,” associate vice president and dean of students Kimberly Moore remarked. “There's great value in confirmation that we are on the same page with our students.”

“I think the students will see the output of their work come to fruition. Where we go from here is implementation of what we can do now. For the things that have higher barriers, how do we remove those barriers and possibly implement them down the road?” Moore said.

“They presented to us after finals week. So they clearly showed a level of commitment to this process. To present to us really during their break, to be spending that kind of time, that was impressive to me and showed that they really took this seriously,” Large pointed out.

Stierwalt said that a big takeaway for him in this project has been understanding the importance of perspective. “Whether it's our politicians, our administrators, our professors, I think it’s very easy to say that, ‘they're doing this, but they should be doing that.’ But I think when you're on the other side, when you have the power, but also the responsibility to the people you’re serving or leading, it looks a lot different,” he explained. “I think that I've taken away that there's so much more to an issue than it might initially seem. It's really important to have all the information before you can pass judgment, before you can say without a doubt that someone is or isn't doing an effective job.”

“I think that we benefit the school with our potential solutions to their problems and the students, working with the most realistic and probably toughest problem that they'll face at Miami, are getting to work with real university data, all of which makes this a great experience for them,” Davis said.