Queens’ new accounting professor is one of 7 faculty who haven’t met colleagues or students in person

As a new professor in the Queens McColl School of Business, Dr. Kristin Roland is experiencing first-hand a common new challenge in business. How does she navigate a new job when all of her interactions — with peers, students and superiors — occur online?

Dr. Roland arrived at Queens this year after teaching accounting at Elon University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Starting a new job during a COVID-19 pandemic presents multiple challenges, she said in a recent interview. Her job application was conducted completely online. She has never met any of her colleagues in person. Her lectures and discussions with students are all virtual. Dr. Roland’s experience is shared by six other new Queens faculty members this year.

But she said the situation poses an opportunity to build a deeper bond between teacher and student.

“There is a certain level of comfort and familiarity that comes with interacting with students in their personal spaces,” Roland said. “I have seen and heard students’ parents and roommates … I think my students have even heard my dogs bark more than once.” A stronger relationship helps a student’s academic success, she said.

The pandemic drastically changed academic processes. Students attend classes through video chats and turn in their assignments online. Teachers modified lesson plans to adhere to the new structure of the classroom. They also have to take into account challenges with engagement in a virtual setting.

Dr. Roland is trying many tactics to create engagement in a virtual teaching environment.

“I’ll normally walk around the classroom a lot, interact with individual students or groups on a more personal level,” said Dr. Roland. To substitute for this, Dr. Roland now tries to be more available for the students outside of class because she wants them to know she’s there for them. She cannot just walk into her office whenever to talk. 

She also combats this problem by emailing students to check on their learning experience or to congratulate them on something they did well.

Thousands of people throughout the world are experiencing the situation faced by Dr. Roland and the other six new faculty members. Harvard Business Review recently published an article about managing the challenge. Tactics include scheduling brief virtual check-ins with colleagues, establishing a mentoring team and asking for help.

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