There is a lot to process for Cal State Long Beach students living through the coronavirus pandemic, the first of its kind during their lifetime.
But they now can reflect upon and document their experiences through photographs and narratives as part of “Students Respond to the COVID-19 Crisis: A Photovoice Project.”
Longtime research partners Dr. Brian Trimble, assistant professor in the School of Art, and Dr. Beth Manke, interim dean for Student Success, launched the project in May after worrying students wouldn’t have a voice while learning away from campus. They hope their project will serve as a window into students’ needs during this crisis and in other crises moving forward.
“We were charting new territory on campus figuring out how to do things,” Manke said. “We realized how hard it was to do when we were all isolated working from home, and particularly difficult to involve students in decision-making.”
The project will continue through the Fall 2020 semester. CSULB faculty are allowing summer school students to participate as well through class assignments or extra credit, Manke said.
“We’re finding that students see this as a creative outlet to express how they’re feeling and to communicate those feelings to other people,” Trimble said.
In the fall, the team will code the submissions to find themes, topics and ideas. Then, they will calculate how common the themes are to determine what issues are most widely shared among the students. The information gathered will be shared with faculty and administration in hopes of better serving CSULB students in the future.
“When you look at the submissions, you see that COVID-19 doesn’t affect everyone the same way. It highlights issues of privilege, access and even discrimination,” Manke said.
My photo represents being home all the time and just being on the computer utilizing distractions to combat stress. It’s like living as a dog where you truly do nothing all day but eat, sleep, and a walk here and there. His eyes reflect how tired and done he is with being observed 24/7.
I thought this semester I would start working, save up to move out of my dad's house, work on building friendships and connecting better. That plan didn't derail entirely because of this, a lot of my own faults are at play. But it's harder. I feel more alone, even at home with my partner and dad. I'm anxious about the schoolwork I didn't do while I cried and laid in bed instead, the friendships I haven't kept in touch with, and what the future will look like. I feel apart from everything even while we go through this together.
This photo is meant to bring out the feelings of isolation I'm sure we're all feeling during these times, as well as showing a feeling that seems longing for the day we can all go out and explore the world again. The dog in the photo, Ansel, has been my best friend for a little over a year now and even though this quarantine has robbed many of us of experiences we can't get back, it has at least given me time to be with him.
The outside has become terrifying. They say "we're in this together" but are we really? Every time I go to get groceries, I feel like people stare at me and judge the things that I consider “essential.” I feel so lost. I don’t know who to trust anymore; it’s hard to tell the difference between facts and fables. The numbers keep changing, the people keep praying, but does that change anything? Are we just over exaggerating an illness that could be less lethal than the common flu? Or is this virus really as bad as people make it out to be? This time is so uncertain it’s unsettling.
When we first started talking about COVID-19 earlier this year, I didn’t know how my life was going to be affected. In a matter of weeks, CSULB halted in-person classes and I had lost my job. As the world was changing, so was I. Quarantine has allowed me to dig deep internally, discover new qualities about myself, and helped me clear out negative things that were taking up space in my life. I’ve begun to propagate plants, decided to be more sustainable, took procrastination out of my vocabulary, and in my free time, I enjoy growing in the shadows.
This piece includes people that represent a larger community that has shown me nothing but love and support in these tough times. My soulmate is truly someone who I see spending the rest of my days with due to the beautiful friendship we have developed with one another. My parents have given me all that I have and not just materialistically but spiritually and emotionally. My Abuela who is my vine that guides me back to my roots and family. The quote that motivates me to continue to strive and reach my radical goals and ambitions in life.