TCOM 486 Feature Writing student article on: Leighann Chaffee

Written by Haley Miller

Preparing a course to be offered online takes months of planning and development. However, this past spring the campus was shut down due to COVID-19 and classes needed to be moved online as soon as possible, leaving faculty and staff scrambling to find a way to support students while also being able to maintain a quality educational experience. Students in Professor Chris Demaske’s TCOM 486 Feature Writing class interviewed some of those faculty and staff to see how the transition went for them and what they learned through the entire process.

Married to a microbiologist and having had a recent trip to Asia under her belt, psychology Professor Leighann Chaffee follows coronavirus news closely.

“At my house, there is a significant amount of reading and discussing the news, plus the new research articles coming out,” she said.

So, when the University of Washington decided to suspend in-person classes at the beginning of March, Chaffee knew better than to expect that things would go back to normal by the spring.

“I was skeptical — again, my microbiologist keeping me in the loop,” she said.  

While some professors were scared and scrambling when the university announced classes would be held remotely for the spring quarter, Chaffee felt fine. She has taught a multitude of online courses in the past, including Psychology 101 and Sport Psychology. As a psychology professional with a focus on behavioral neuroscience, she examines self-regulated learning in college students. Though, she admits, remote learning has made teaching these skills a bit difficult.

“I do think they [online courses] are different now, as compared to before,” Chaffee said. “In earlier online courses, students chose that option. Now, we are all required to have remote instruction even if we do better in the classroom. While I try to incorporate self-regulated learning in my classes, I’m finding this more difficult online. But I feel even more motivated to find opportunities to encourage these practices for my students, so hopefully they are not tired of hearing about it.” 

Continuing to look through her behavioral neuroscience lens, Chaffee is worried about who will be superfluously affected during this pandemic.

“Specifically, it is the uneven impacts that worry me,” she said. “Disproportionate health impacts on those from communities with limited financial resources and access to health care. Disproportionate impact on low-wage jobs, such as restaurant industry workers, 60% of all jobs lost in March came from this industry. A disproportionate impact on essential workers that are women of color. I hope we can find a way to support everyone in the coming months, but I am worried.”

Clearly, Chaffee is informed on the layers of this pandemic. Though, this level of involvement with news coverage may not be the best thing for everyone. Keeping closely in tune with COVID-19 updates can feel draining and garner a feeling of hopelessness. 

Though, Chaffee seems to be keeping her spirits up the best she can.

Chaffee has been spending extra time with her husband and dog, something that she is very grateful for. She is also feeling positive about lowering her carbon footprint by not commuting or traveling and making the right choices for public health by staying home.

She mentions that work has kept her quite busy now that everything is online.

“I hoped to have more time for writing, but I have been surprised to find that the rest of my job is actually more demanding than normal at present,” she said.

While happy to be home with her little family and for the good of public health, there are things about normal life that Chaffee is missing.

“I miss my students, family and friends,” she said. “We have weekly Zoom calls with family members and friends, and I have weekly Zoom classes that I record for those that cannot attend live. But Zoom is chaos and a poor substitute for real life. I know things will look different on the other side, and that we have to be patient, but I am looking forward to the day we can feel safe and connected again.”