Bucs Calling Bucs provides unique way to say hello to every ETSU student

Published 12:00 pm Monday, June 22, 2020

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JOHNSON CITY — Calling each East Tennessee State University student is an ambitious goal, but Bucs Calling Bucs is close to that achievement.
The initiative, spearheaded by the Division of Student Life and Enrollment, began in mid-April after the university’s COVID-19 response had shifted all classes online. The goal of the program is simply to provide a friendly voice during a difficult time to check in and say hello. More than 100 volunteers from across campus — including faculty, staff and senior leadership — have made calls.
Scott Jeffress, who serves as director of the Roan Scholarship Leadership Program, is coordinating the effort.
“Obviously, this spring was a difficult time for everybody, so we just wanted to have a brief conversation, listen to students and just affirm we are here for you, we care about you and ask what can we do to help you,” Jeffress said.
“There are people across campus reaching out to students for a variety of reasons, and we didn’t want to intrude on any of that. Given that most of those conversations are often very specific, with this it was just simply a way to check in and say hello.”
More than 12,000 students have been called, with a goal to get to the rest of enrolled students by the July 4th holiday.
Volunteer callers receive a list of students to contact, as well as basic talking points, a sample script and a referral list for campus resources. Issues identified during those conversations are referred, as appropriate, to the university’s CARE team or other offices on campus for follow-up.
“Reports that we have heard from students is that they really appreciate that ETSU would do something like this, taking time to reach out, just to call with no greater complicated purpose than just to say hi and that we’re here for you,” Jeffress said.
He said it’s also been a chance to offer a personal thank you to students, as many of them are serving on the front lines of the pandemic — from health care workers and community volunteers to grocery and food service employees.
Volunteers making the calls also praised the initiative.
Cheri Clavier, director of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment, said she has had many meaningful conversations, and it gave her a chance to connect to students that she doesn’t always get.
“It was the highlight of my work day,” Clavier said. “I don’t get a lot of contact in my administrative job, so as soon as I heard about it, I said, ‘How do I sign up?’ It was great to talk with so many different types of students.”
She said it was an opportunity to make personal connections — from students talking about wedding plans to the excitement of graduation. It also was the chance to connect various students to needed assistance. She said she was able to connect a few students with Bucky’s Food Pantry, a campus service that provides help to students and staff facing food insecurity.
“Just being able to connect students to the right place was fantastic,” she said. “It was really nice to talk with students to help them find an office they needed. It was an amazing feeling. The time just flew.”
Dean of Students Michelle Byrd shared Clavier’s sentiments.
“We wanted to make sure we were doing all we could to support students,” Byrd said. “We felt like the best possible way to make contact was to call them. I think we were able to help a lot of students. Many were just thankful and appreciative.”
As the initiative nears its conclusion, Jeffress expressed gratitude.
“Thank you to all the volunteer callers who devoted a lot of time and energy to this effort,” he said. “There were lots of volunteers from all across campus who made calls. I think that speaks to who we are at ETSU.”

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