‘Salve Cares’ initiative puts university’s mercy mission into motion

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NEWPORT — Two weeks, 63 staff and faculty, 2,638 phone calls. Through “Salve Cares,” an initiative coordinated by Salve Regina University’s Office of Mission Integration, volunteers reached out to each and every undergraduate student to offer personal support during an unprecedented time. 

From April 13 through April 24, faculty and staff callers were successful in directly connecting with nearly 1,200 students, and left voice messages or sent follow-up emails for those unable to be reached. The outreach, an expression of Salve’s mercy, helped identify students needing additional resources and gathered feedback on their experiences remote learning and living as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Salve students were very receptive to receiving a personal call and many expressed gratitude for the ways in which the institution has communicated with students through the pandemic. While, for many, the transition to remote learning was initially challenging, most students settled into the new routine with online classes and reported that they were doing well.

“The time seems to be meshing together and the days go by so fast,” said Sarah Engel ’23. “It is lovely of the Salve community to reach out to all of us students. All of my professors have been really understanding so that has made it way easier to adjust. Salve is definitely a really special school in that regard.”

Many students shared the ways in which their own family had been directly impacted by COVID-19 through illnesses, job loss, isolation (such as not being able to visit grandparents in care facilities), or serving as front-line workers. Some also noted the responsibilities they were carrying now in addition to their studies, including household shopping, cooking, caring for younger siblings, supporting siblings’ remote learning, care for grandparents and remote job duties.

Seniors, in particular, expressed their heartbreak over the loss of Senior Week, Commencement, thesis presentations and their final months on campus.

The impact of the outreach was reciprocal, with feedback from volunteer callers indicating that connecting with students enhanced their own work-from-home experience. “It was so rewarding,” said Dawn Emsellem-Wichowski, director of library services. “I spoke to students who had a few issues and when I reached out to other offices, everyone was so helpful. Another reinforcement of why I am proud to be at Salve. It was truly a balm.” 

Though many students noted that they were enjoying additional time with pets and family, nearly all expressed how much they missed Newport, friends, roommates and the Salve community and look forward to being back on campus once again.

In the second phase of the Salve Cares outreach, students received a care package, including seeds, laptop stickers and a Catherine McAuley bookmark, as a reminder that they are missed on campus and that the Salve Regina community is thinking of them. The packages went out in early May, timed for delivery to students as they began wrapping up the semester’s coursework and studying for finals.

“Our Salve Cares outreach was a meaningful way to enact our mercy mission at this time — reaching out to share our care and concern for our students and their families, and responding to the little and big needs of our community,” said Theresa Ladrigan-Whelpley, vice president for mission integration.