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Masters in Emergency Management Student Recaps His Day During COVID-19

Masters in Emergency Management student Paul Witry walks us through a day in his life during the program's transition to remote learning.

Written by Philip Baker
Student desk workstation

Emergency management student Paul Witry walks us through a day in his life during this time of remote learning—from his first cup of coffee in the morning to how he tries to disconnect in the evening.

About Paul Witry

Emergency Management Consultant
Chicago, IL
CrossFit training

How has it been transitioning to remote study and remote classes?

The transition from classroom to remote learning has been an interesting process for me as a student in the Master of Science in Threat and Response Management (MScTRM). Many of my classmates and I have been directly involved in the COVID-19 pandemic, either as first responders or emergency managers. This has allowed all of us to view the process of remote learning through a different lens as we each face different challenges.

For me, the transition was not as difficult. During my undergraduate studies, I took part in remote learning courses between my university and others via Zoom, so the platform and communication method was not foreign to me and easy to integrate into my work. The ability of our program to transition to a virtual platform demonstrates adaptability on the part of our students and our instructors. The most difficult aspect for me has been adjusting to not seeing my classmates in person. Since our cohort only met once a month, we were already limited in the time we spent together. Therefore, we have been working to coordinate more outside of class time to ensure we maintain our relationships.

What does your workstation look like?

My workstation features a number of important items to help me during my class time:

  • A cup of black coffee to keep me going
  • Multiple monitors (this way I can use one screen for Zoom and the other for notes and materials)
  • A notebook and a pen to take notes
  • Headphones or speakers to listen to music during non-synchronous class session work

How do you spend your day?

For the emergency management program, our classes are only a few days out of the month. During the COVID-19 crisis, I have made the best effort to take a few days off for our Zoom sessions. The days that I am able to take entirely for class, I normally start my morning with a cup of coffee and a healthy breakfast (fresh fruit, eggs, or a protein smoothie) while I refresh myself on our materials for the coming days. I’ll listen to some music and touch base with my other classmates, our readings, or other assignments before our first class starts.

After the first class has concluded I will take time to do a workout and clear my head, disconnecting slightly to absorb the materials from our first session. Then I will go back and review my notes to clarify anything and write down questions I have for that class for tomorrow. Our second session on Thursday runs later into the evening, so I will make dinner beforehand. After that second class I will normally completely disconnect from academic work and relax, listening to music or preparing materials for my job.

gym equipment laying on the floor.

How do you relax when class is over?

  • I am an avid CrossFit athlete, so doing workouts at home has required a little ingenuity on my part. Exercise is always an excellent destress tool for me.
  • I have always enjoyed playing video games with friends, so this has been a way for me to maintain social relationships even during our stay-at-home orders.
  • Music is also a great tool for creating a mental space outside of academic and work life. I enjoy discovering new artists.

Do you have any tips you would like to share about doing graduate work remotely?

  • Take time to disconnect from school and work life, even for an hour. It will help you to recharge and focus yourself moving forward. 
  • Get outside—whether it be for a workout, a walk with your dog, or just to enjoy some fresh air. Work and school both demand a high amount of technology usage and indoor work, so taking some time off screens if possible is integral.
  • Set up group video calls with friends or classmates you have not seen in person. This is a time when we all need to maintain our friendships and professional relationships.

The Graham School is no longer accepting applications to the Master of Science in Threat and Response Management program in Autumn 2024. The University will take this opportunity to consider future programming in the field.

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