Shepherd University proactively dealing with COVID-19 anxiety on campus

West Virginia

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. (WDVM) — The coronavirus has overtaken our lives in practically every way and that includes getting a college education. Students and faculty at Shepherd University here in the eastern panhandle are being proactive about dealing with it.

Adelaine Heartsong, a Shepherd University student says “people are worried. People are stressed. Lots of people aren’t seeing their families for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year just because of that fear.”

Professor Heidi Dobish sees firsthand how, for some freshmen for example, there is considerable anxiety being away from parents. She is working with ‘peer coaches” as a support system.

“Students can get stronger and not feel helpless and support one another,” says Dobish, who teaches psychology.

Shepherd is not unique in addressing COVID on the college campus landscape. But it sees itself as a leader when it comes to helping students cope with what is, for many students, a traumatic experience.

“COVID is definitely taking an emotional toll on students, faculty, the community. We do know that overdose deaths are increasing not only in West Virginia but across the country,” says Kelly Watsonhuffer, an associate professor of nursing.

One lecturer at the university sees Shepherd as a trendsetter in addressing COVID coping skills. According to Professor John Unger, who is adjunct faculty, “Shepherd is really being innovative and cutting edge and this pandemic has moved this institution in not only responding to it and surviving the pandemic but also thriving, having those students build those resiliency skills.”

The Shepherd University initiative is seen as a model for other colleges and universiites in West Virginia and beyond.

The Shepherd faculty is building the “peer coach” program into its Nursing and Psycholgy curriculum.

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