Serving Students From a Distance

April 11, 2020

By The Division of Student Success’ Media & Communications Team 

ocean-view-324x324.jpgAlthough students have been advised to attend Spring quarter remotely,
many UC Santa Cruz services are still available on-campus and online.

Students have experienced dramatic and uncertain change within the last month here at UC Santa Cruz. With the unexpected shift to an entirely remote learning environment, students, staff, and faculty have found themselves adapting to a new digital world as they practice physical distancing in compliance with COVID-19 guidance

Advisors adapt and persist in helping students achieve success

All college advising has now transitioned online with the advisors using Zoom for their student appointments. Eduardo Huerta Soto, a College Nine and John R. Lewis College academic advisor, highlights the importance of connection in the interactions they now have with students. It’s about getting to know each of them, one of the favorite parts of my job, Soto noted.

Yet with all things being online, it is harder to form that relationship as the connection is less personal without certain aspects of regular interaction, they added. Some students do not use Zoom but rather call in or simply have their camera turned off during an appointment. In addition, with the lack of daily interaction, it is also more challenging for advisors to collaborate with other departments. A simple call has now turned into numerous emails that seem to take longer to get answered, notes Huerta Soto. 


Being online can impact students differently. For students who have been at UC Santa Cruz for a while, they may be more comfortable and familiar with how the various offices and services work, making it easier for them to meet with advisors remotely.

On the other hand, for first-years who have not spent a lot of time on campus, the lack of an in-person connection, perhaps no or poor quality WiFi, or even no access to technology beyond a Smartphone, they may find it more difficult and, thus, are less likely to reach out and seek help. 

The academic advising team understands how challenging the situation is and they are empathetic. They are doing the best they can and are still available by email or remote appointment. In addition, peer advisors can help with simple tasks like filling out forms and navigating Slug Success, the advising appointment portal. 

In a recent interview, Huerta Soto provided some key tips:

(1) Students need to plan in advance and be better prepared because of these new online changes. In the past, students could attend drop-in hours or take action on a deadline the day before, now that is not possible. Advisors working remotely are swamped with emails, so these kinds of tasks can now take up to 2-3 days to get reviewed. Therefore, Huerta Soto advises students not to wait until the last minute. “Seek help and complete that task well in advance,” they advise. 

(2) Huerta Soto encourages students to try to stay involved with campus activities, their peers, clubs, or student organizations. For those who are living alone, Huerta Soto suggests, it can get lonely, so try to maintain communications with friends and peers virtually.

.jpg(3) Another thing that Huerta Soto recommends is giving each other encouragement and patience as we learn these new modes of instruction. Huerta Soto notes that all of us are now figuring out how to teach and learn remotely. Instructors are rapidly having to learn how to use Zoom, revise syllabi, create new instructional materials, and conduct lectures for asynchronous (recorded) or synchronous (online) learning. Resources for instructors have been created by the Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning at

Students are also having to learn about online instruction, time management for a new reality, study practices at home, and use of Zoom. For students who want to master the art of online classes, join Sammy at

Counseling is only one call away

Maintaining mental and physical health is now more important than ever. We are now spending a majority of our time at home, isolated. Loneliness, stress, and depression are expected with a crisis of this scope and magnitude as well as the disruption to our everyday lives.

As a result, student health services have also transitioned to an online environment. Dedicated staff remain focused on supporting student mental health and well-being. The Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) staff, for example, is conducting remote appointments. Though it typically took up to two weeks to see a CAPS counselor as demand has been high, in the past few weeks, demand has waned and waiting times have tapered off. Getting an appointment is much easier now.

Engaging in CAPS services is important, notes Student Health Outreach and Promotion (SHOP) director Meg Kobe. Kobe often encourages students to get the wellness support they need by reaching out for help. This is a sign of strength, Kobe notes. Links to online resources, including Therapy Assistance Online (TAO), WellTrak, and more are available on the CAPS COVID-19 website.


Feeding slugs in need

Dealing with financial, housing, and food insecurity while in isolation is especially challenging. As many students transition to remote learning, they are facing challenges such as leaving campus, moving back home (or being houseless), losing jobs, or the increased need to care for loved ones.

The campus’ Slug Support and Basic Needs programs continue to be operational. For those in Santa Cruz for Spring quarter, UC Santa Cruz’s Food Access & Basic Needs Team provides information about accessing the food pantry.  In fact, the new Basic Needs staff member and UC Santa Cruz alumni, Brooks Schmitt, has launched an organic meal kit program and partnered with Recreation to offer, "Slugs In the Kitchen," online cooking classes, with yummy recipes taught online like Morning Munchies, Not your Mama's Lasagne, Sushi and Tempura Night. More information about this effort can be found on Facebook at UC Santa Cruz Food for All

A community coming together for its students

As a result of COVID-19 and the shelter at home California state and campus directive, students were confronted --in a matter of just a few weeks-- with additional challenges. These included loss of income, lack of technology to access remote classes, and increased food and housing insecurity. Seeing the spike in need, the campus launched the COVID-19 Slug Support Campaign


Funds donated to this campaign will provide assistance with basic needs, and financial, housing, and food insecurity as well as access to a newly created laptop and internet modem lending program, Slug Tech. 

This is a pivotal time, notes Gwynn Benner, Assistant Vice Provost for the Division of Student Success. We recognized early on that students who were transitioning to remote learning wouldn’t necessarily have the educational tools they needed to make a smooth transition. We are so grateful to all who have contributed to the inception of this important program. Dell and MacBook Air laptops as well as donated NETGEAR modems are being sent to students at their residence or, for those living on campus, picked up. “Ensuring graduate and undergraduate students can function online is key to our student success mission,” Benner added.

As of April 11, 416 generous donors, including the Jacques M. Littlefield Foundation, have contributed more than $110,000 to support this campaign. Learn more about Slug Support and, for those wanting to contribute, make a donation online, here.

Physical distancing does not mean social distancing

Just because there is a mandated order for physical distancing, it does not mean that UC Santa Cruz’s many student organizations will stop interacting. In fact, staff and interns at SOMeCA (SOAR/Student Media/Cultural Arts & Diversity) are rapidly adjusting, learning, and getting creative in doing their work.

One-on-one meetings between advisors and club leadership continue via Zoom. Staff meetings also have transitioned to Zoom. A video (right) from the SOMeCA advising team seeks to reassure their student organizers, saying, "we are here, we are motivated, and we are ready to go!" 

someca-video-screenshot-324x400jpgThe heartwarming video addresses the change and uncertainty of this quarter. In the video, Franciso Galvan, associate director for SOMeCA, sums up the setting for Spring 2020: “Grab that snack, get that bomb lighting, and settle in, we have a good Spring quarter ahead, and a lot of work to do."

You can also see SOMECA's self-care advice and group pictures on Instagram

Katherine Canales, associate director for Student Organization Advising & Resources (SOAR), emphasized that now more than ever marketing is very important if you want to keep members of your club engaged. For example, if there is an online event, Canales suggest posting it with even more time in advance. Add a tag, they suggest. “If you want people to attend: Tag the right people. Tag the speakers. Tag other clubs,” offers Canales, as this will ensure your event gets more traction on social media.

Following this advice, over Spring break many clubs took advantage of social media to reach out and connect with their members. Bayanihan at UC Santa Cruz, for example, hosted a game night online through a Discord server in an effort to keep people connected and in good spirits! Sigma Lambda Gamma has been posting interactive trivia questions on Instagram to help people learn more facts about their premier organization. The Muslim Student Association (MSA) recited verses of the Quran together with their members via Zoom! 


These online interactions over Spring break set a precedent for Spring quarter. The MSA hosted a Muslim Mental Health Workshop the first Tuesday after break focused on how to “Navigating COVID-19” spiritually and mentally. 

"With Zoom’s unlimited capacity (students now have a Zoom Pro account allowing them unlimited access and up to 300 participants at a time), there is no reason not to connect," notes Mayeena Ulkarim, a student media and communications intern with the Division of Student Success. 

The Resource Centers are also repurposing their programming, hosting a number of events online.

“Nuestras Raíces: The Art of Community Empowerment”, was held April 8 via Zoom and Instagram live! This event focused on social justice, civil rights, and engaging dialogue across campus about Latinx issues.

On a personal note from us

COVID-19 has precipitated changes at UC Santa Cruz and around the world. This global pandemic has up-ended all of our lives, but it has also brought us together. With adversity often comes learning and strength. We can all use this as an opportunity to be in community, to be more resilient, to be together. Let’s reach out in this time of physical distancing to encourage one another, share our stories, build and grow. Let’s act with care and compassion. Let’s recognize these are difficult times and we are in this together. We endorse the recent statement offered up by the campus Resource Centers.

Go Slugs!

Matthew Alvarez (Computer Engineering, Oakes, '21)
Christina Yu (Cognitive Sciences, John R. Lewis College, '20)
Michael Sim (Computer Science: Computer Game Design, Crown College, '21)
Mayeena Ulkarim (Legal Studies, Merrill College, '21)

See Also