The Manhattan-based private college offers a curriculum that merges real-world experience with academic study. When its campus — and the city — had to temporarily close due to the coronavirus pandemic, LIM College had to think and act fast.
Here, Lisa Springer, LIM College Provost; Michael Richards, dean of student affairs, and Nina Fiddian-Green, assistant vice president of career and internship services, talk to WWD about its strategy to successfully pivot and support its students throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
WWD: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected higher education at large?
Lisa Springer: Every institution of higher education has been affected by the need to move all their teaching and learning to being remote. We at LIM College were able to make the transition relatively seamlessly and quickly in part because we already had a robust online program as part of a wide array of on-ground, online, and the combination of both formats of classes as part of our curriculum. A core value at LIM is keeping students at the center of everything that we do. The faculty, embracing this tenet, were extremely open to this shift knowing, as they did, that it was through moving to remote learning that we would be able to support our students and their continued academic achievement.
In fact, even before the coronavirus had sufficiently spread in the New York Metropolitan area to require the lockdown, we had already asked our faculty to prepare their courses for the online format. So, when shelter in place was mandated by the government, we had already begun our preparations. Our classes were not delayed or interrupted. On-ground components of classes such as guest speakers, student competitions, panel discussions, attendance at industry summits are presented via video conferences. The shift has required an enormous amount of work from all the faculty and staff throughout our college. We are very proud of the continued high quality of education we have been able to deliver to our students.
WWD: What changes have been made to keep up with the curriculum?
L.S.: We have not made changes to the curriculum based on the pandemic. Our curriculum remains the same. The means by which we deliver our education has changed. Now all our courses are delivered remotely, through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions. All classes for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester and summer sessions have been moved to an online/remote format. Students have the option to take spring 2020 classes under the Pass/Fail grading system.
Initially, it was not easy, but our students have been very flexible. Class attendance has been steady, both compared with attendance rates in the first half of the semester and with attendance rates last year. Students are engaged when they are in class. Our students have done a terrific job of transitioning to online/remote learning and finding new and creative ways to engage with each other and LIM. Many students have expressed appreciation that they have been able to continue their education remotely. In addition, the Office of Student Affairs is developing opportunities for social engagement with numerous virtual student life events.
Through the end of June, on the ground campus events are either canceled, postponed or conducted virtually. LIM’s commencement ceremony has been postponed. Spring 2020 internships and co-ops have been suspended or migrated to a remote experience.
WWD: Are there any virtual services being offered to students that are targeted to health and wellness?
Michael Richards: Our Office of Student Affairs has worked diligently to ensure online services targeted at student health and well-being are being offered. This includes ongoing access to mental health counseling, as well as emotional support group sessions where students can discuss the impact the pandemic has had on them. We’ve also been offering yoga, meditation and online workout sessions.
WWD: How does the coronavirus pandemic impact LIM College resuming on schedule in the fall?
Nina Fiddian-Green: We realize we are in a fluid situation and cannot know exactly what specific circumstances we will be facing in a few months, but we are planning, and encourage our students to plan, as if we will be back on campus for fall 2020. As long as it is safe to do so, and as long as government guidelines make this possible, that is our deepest hope.
These uncertain times raise more questions every day. But our guiding principle throughout this entire time has been to simply share information about what we do know. So, we are building strategic and action plans in preparation for whatever the future holds in store. A Fall Semester Continuity Group is currently analyzing and building out a number of models that will adapt to whatever the federal, state and local government restrictions may or may not be in the months ahead.
WWD: How are fashion business students completing their required internships in the locked-down New York City fashion and retail industry?
N.F.-G.: The rapid spread of COVID-19 halted internships in the business of fashion not just in New York City, but also around the world. At LIM, internships and senior co-ops for the current semester were either migrated to an online experience or suspended.
In response to this, we also swiftly created a five-week internship and Senior Co-op course supplement for students whose internships were impacted by the pandemic.
This internship replacement learning experience offers a meaningful way for students to complete their internship and Senior Co-op requirements for the semester and it takes the place of the remaining hours a student would otherwise be doing at their internship or Co-op site.
Below is an outline of that program:
- Week 0: Easing into a new normal: The focus of this week is simply getting settled, organized and setting up for a successful few weeks.
- Week 1: Share Your Story of Resilience: The focus of this week is on finding connections and building resilience during adversity.
- Week 2: How to Find a Job in 2020: This week will focus on how to find a job in a time of social distancing.
- Week 3: This week will focus on how to embrace your authentic self and express who you are in video job interviews, including how to dress for video success.
- Week 4: Narrate Your College to Career Story: This week will focus on how to narrate a concise and compelling major-to-career story.
- Week 5: This week will focus on how to empower yourself and others to shine and thrive.
WWD: What advice do you have for students anticipating graduating this spring who are entering a less-than-ideal job market?
N.F.-G.: Supporting student career success is our top priority. This has always been true and is even more so now. As our senior class transitions from college to career during the pandemic, the entire world is changing, and we need to help them become ready for new kinds of jobs and challenges.
The transition from college to career is, even in the best of times, one that includes feelings of both possibility and trepidation. Now, as the job market has taken what feels like an extended intermission, for many of our students the excitement about landing a full-time job has turned into concern. Some seniors may wonder if they should even look for a job. Transitioning to the working world is daunting enough. Trying to navigate a job search while the world is on pause is even harder.
Yet, while the trend in new job postings may have slowed, and many fashion businesses move to manufacturing masks and personal protective equipment, there are still companies hiring as shoppers stock up.
To help our current seniors navigate this new world, LIM’s Career and Internship Services team has created a new program, starting in May, just for the Class of 2020. The LIM2020 program aims to support our seniors in their transition to working life. It’s a virtual program that will include weekly group mentoring, career coaching, and networking to help our seniors launch their careers. (It even includes a hashtag #hiretheclassof2020.)
Here’s some additional advice I’d offer to any college senior embarking on a job search:
- Be flexible and open to new possibilities.
- Continue networking and building connections. Get comfortable connecting and interviewing on video — and be presentable.
- Seek out career development workshops and gain new skills.
- Be purposeful and work towards your goals by taking one small step each day.
Throughout the summer and beyond, students will have the opportunity to build career connections with peers, alumni, and industry leaders. The LIM2020 program will also include career development workshops, resume feedback, mentoring, and virtual mock interviewing. Students will also be able to work individually with a career coach to set personal and professional goals, continue to build and evolve their career brand, and more.
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