OUE hosts outdoor office hours on Tech Green

Tech Green provides a COVID-19-friendly enviornment to hold office hours for students to connect with professors and faculty members in-person. // Photo by Garrett Shoemaker Student Publications

The Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE) will continue hosting its Outdoor Office Hour program on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11a.m. to 12 p.m. throughout the remainder of November. Each week at Tech Green, a faculty, staff, or administration member will be available to chat with any student in a safe and socially-distanced environment. Snacks and refreshments will also be provided to those interested.

The Outdoor Office Hour program started on the first Friday in October in an effort to create safe, in-person interactions for students.

Linda Green, Director of Tutoring and Academic Support for OUE, along with Chris Reaves, Center for Academic Enrichment Director, Cory Hopkins, Communications Program Manager for OUE and Crystal Fowlers, Academic Coordinator for OUE, coordinated their efforts to plan the program.

In a recent interview with the Technique, Green stated, “To me, the reason why I really wanted to create this is [that] I heard the amount of isolation and frustration that some students were really feeling this semester and wanted to try to create an opportunity for students who felt comfortable to get to have a reason to…leave their dorm room or leave their apartment and come to campus and sit down and chat with someone.”

About half of Outdoor Office Hour “hosts” are from various departments in the OUE including Tutoring and Academic Support and Undergraduate Research. Other “hosts” come from all areas of campus such as the admissions office, the Career Center, and the Scheller College of Business. On Friday, Nov. 6, Director of Undergraduate Admissions Rick Clark will be hosting the Outdoor Office Hour and will be available to chat with all students interested.

Since the office hours are held in person, attendees must wear masks and use hand sanitizer as precautions to limit the spread of COVID as recommended by the CDC.

OUE first advertised the weekly event on social media platforms and through various campus organizations, such as Student Government Association (SGA) and GT1000 classes. After a few weeks of programming, the majority of student knowledge and engagement with the project has resulted from communications spread by word of mouth.

Green explained, “In the first couple of weeks…maybe less than a dozen students happen to pass by or stop and pick up food.” However, now, “there are days where there might be 15-20 students over the course of the hour that pop by and say hello.”

The Outdoor Office Hour program furthers an effort by members of the Tech community to create in-person connections within a small group for students suffering from a lack of social interactions this semester. Green, for example, also helped to create reflection prompts for Resident Assistants (RA) to use with their residents to discuss various topics related to the virtual Tech Transformative Narratives series.

This project, like the Outdoor Office Hour program, tries to avoid risky situations that might lead to a COVID outbreak on campus and still provide an outlet for students to get to know other students or leaders in the Tech community.

The balance between physical and social health is delicate. As plans are made for spring, Green and other Tech community members have to continue navigating this tension.

“We’ve had a lot more conversations of trying to build more events for next semester,” explains Green.

According to Green the Outdoor Office Hour will likely continue to be an option for students seeking interaction with Tech professors and staff members in the spring.