A Few Adjustments

By Thomas Lavenir

On June 11th, I sat down with Dr. Yu Bao to ask her several questions. You see, if you were to conduct a search for her name on JMU’s website, you might be surprised to find that she has two titles: Assistant Assessment Specialist and Assistant Professor of Graduate Psychology. I had to find out why, and also wanted to learn more about her perspective as a new international faculty member at JMU.

isss-yu1.pngShe was sitting in her dining room, which she had transformed into her office space when JMU’s new COVID-19 measures were applied, and I was comfortably sitting on my living room sofa. Dr. Bao was wearing a large smile on her face: she had finally received her work visa. This was cause for a celebration in and of itself, but this visa is also an extra level of safety and control for her considering the existing tension between the US and China. This also meant that she could renew her driver’s license as it was about to expire. What a relief and good news!

Dr. Bao, a native of China, joined JMU in the fall of 2019. She pursued her education in China until she obtained her master’s degree in Statistics from Beijing Normal University, then earned her Ph.D. in Quantitative Methodology from The University of Georgia. At JMU, she splits her tenure track position between the Graduate Psychology department, where she teaches two classes a year, and overseeing the Program Assessment Support Services (PASS) in the Center for Assessment and Research Studies (CARS). Her role within CARS is to serve as a consultant for departmental assessment efforts at JMU. Many departments need her and her team of three students to assist them in developing surveys for their classes and evaluating their professors’ teaching methodologies. This explanation shed more light on her many responsibilities at JMU, but one question which kept lingering in my mind was: “How does she introduce herself? How does she know which title to use when presenting herself?”

She was quick to answer: “I’m faculty.” It is a lot easier and less confusing than having to say her two position titles.

As a faculty member relatively new to JMU, I had to find out how her adjustment was taking place. She was quick at describing a very positive picture of the community. She is very appreciative of all the assistance that she has received thus far.

Dr. Bao has been impressed with how hard our faculty and staff work to provide care and assistance to the students and how friendly they were towards her: “They are always ready to help me, even individuals outside of my department.”

The biggest adjustment for her, like for most faculty, has been to restructure her class in light of the many changes brought about by COVID-19. Dr. Bao only taught one seminar class for her eight PhD students during the Spring 2020 semester. Not only would she have to prepare for teaching online, but she also had to take into consideration the very large number of students registered for her class.

While President Alger did announce that classes would take place in classrooms, JMU must abide by the COVID-19 regulations which currently stipulate that indoor spaces can only be used at 50% capacity. As larger classrooms are in high demand, the likelihood of finding a space large enough to accommodate 82 individuals three times a week is unlikely. She and the faculty in her department have held many long conversations to plan for the semester; finding the right format is challenging! Her class consists of a combination of lectures, labs, and teaching a statistics software.

“How much of the class should be delivered in-person and the rest online…especially the lab section?” is one of the many questions that she has had to find answers to. Fortunately for Dr. Bao, she will be able to work hand in hand with a teaching assistant (TA): “The TA will help me create some class material including some ‘How to…’ videos.”

Students will be able to watch them ahead of time and free up some time to put into practice what they have learned. The hope is that this new method will help students learn and strengthen their knowledge.

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Published: Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Last Updated: Friday, March 19, 2021

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