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A Professor’s Open Letter

Students Returning to University: Your Mental Health Is The Most Important Learning Outcome.

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You look upon me as if you know me, but in your presence I am caged in your knowledge of me and my existence (being) remains completely absent in your presence.

Dear University Students:

The first step toward academic success is nurturing and caring for yourself and your mental health.  Your intellectual passion and success depends on emotional well-being, and your sense of self-worth.

Thus, regardless of the discipline you choose, the realization to know you matter the most is the secret to your achievements.    From this, all knowledge and learning will flow. 

The first lesson in my own sociology classes is for students to know that a solid self-foundation creates the pathway for success.  Respecting and acknowledging who you are based on your race, culture, gender identity, age, class, and ability is paramount.

In the shadow of the pandemic, it’s natural that students feel uncertain about their academic path.    The post-secondary years can be life-changing and rewarding, and as professors, we help to create the future.

The current global circumstances have heightened the natural pressures that student’s feel, and being aware and sensitive to this is critical to their engagement and learning. As a professor, I respect this responsibility and commitment. 

My ability to provide empathy and understanding is the pillar of a student’s success, for it nurtures their emotional health alongside mastery of any subject matter. 

Many are first year students, others are returning to and continuing online classes brought on by the pandemic.  Prior to this new reality, students have been accustomed to walking across university campuses everywhere, and my own beautiful, bustling University of Windsor campus, immersed in intellectual energy, talking with friends, professors and being social.

Ensuring everyone is healthy and safe is always the priority; and we must continue to interact, teach and learn by depending on the various means of technology that is available.   And, while technology is a wonderful tool, it can be unpredictable and moody.  The artificiality can intensify isolation and student’s feelings of frustration.

The lack of personal connection is inevitable.  Interactions nurture mental health, so we must be cognizant and understanding for how on-line teaching and learning will influence student’s engagement and motivation. For some, it is a struggle to even access the internet to complete course requirements.

University life is a beautiful path to nurturing our future leaders, artists, scientists, and entrepreneurs. And while dedication and discipline to academic work is important, university life is far more than academic achievement. 

Therefore, I want you to know that as you return or begin the university phase of your life, it will be as rewarding and exciting as you’ve imagined. And you will learn about the subjects you are passionate about, while others peak your curiosity.  You will do all of this and more.

We’ve all experienced technological frustration, no exceptions.  Tech-savviness is great, when it works.  There are always glitches.  I get that.  Don’t allow the tensions of learning remotely distract your dedication.

I will be here along with amazing professors to encourage you to fan the haze of self-doubt and reassure you of your self-worth. So the only request I have, as you enter my online lecture hall is that you bring a willful understanding that your emotional and mental health precedes your ability to achieve your intellectual goals.

The extent of your self-worth is limitless, but it requires emotional inspiration, yours.

Ultimately, we are all responsible for nurturing each other’s sense of belonging. This continues as you learn online.  Students motivate professors to be the best educators that they can be.  My promise to you is that I will help you to appreciate the wonderful being that you are, through the lens of my discipline, sociology. 

The first lesson teaches a simple, yet complex equation for academic success; your mental health develops your self-worth and a strong sense of self is the common denominator for academic and life success. 

Professor Persaud’s Equation: 

Self-worth + Mental health + Academic knowledge = Life success

See you soon in the “virtual classroom.”

Renu


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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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