The Pandemic Professors

Have you gone through the Netflix catalog, tried every Tik Tok dance, or read through your favorite book series? If you’re looking for connections outside your home or city, take a listen to the Pandemic Professors. 

The Pandemic Professors is hosted by Dr. West Bowers, an associate professor in Radford University’s School of Communication, and Dr. Stirling Barfield, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology. 

The podcast is all about how people have been adjusting to life under lockdown and finding connection through social distancing. The first episode was on maintaining a schedule while at home. It can be easy to get distracted since everyone has to do their work online. One of Dr. Barfield’s students gave tips on how she stays motivated now that she and other college students have transferred to “Zoom University”. 

Some of her tips involved getting ready for the morning and doing her work at the table and away from her bed to avoid feeling unmotivated. 

Bowers has incorporated this as well. “I shower and get ready in the morning as if I’m going to work, even though that work is all going to be done here at my house.” 

Barfield reorganized her guest room and changed it into her office, emphasizing the importance of creating a workspace. 

In the second episode, the Pandemic Professors discussed how enjoying comfort food has also changed now that ordering take out is the only option and additionally supports local businesses. Their website also has a resource page for listeners to use that include; Coping and Self-Care During COVID-19, Mental Health Services, Helplines, and more for the Radford Community. “It’s just to let people know that the community is still here and businesses are still open and active,” said Dr. Bowers. 

The idea of the podcast was created on the first weekend of Spring Break when everyone realized that isolation was going to last longer than planned. They both had the idea of it being an “easy way to connect with people” since the rest of the semester was transitioned online. “Podcasts are simpler to put together and get them out quickly, and they’re informal in nature which lends itself to a more personal connection, ” said Dr. Bowers. 

The episodes are recorded over Zoom, including their interviews and calls to stay under the orders of Governor Northam. The distance fueled their motivation to stay connected with their students as well, in ways other homework assignments. “My number one thought initially was, my students. I was feeling disconnected from my students,” said Dr. Barfield. 

It’s easy for people to feel worried and alone during this self-isolation, but they’re hoping that this podcast will bring people closer together and calm their nerves.“Yes, that’s part of the reason behind this podcast, is we’re wanting to provide a connection for people,” said Dr. Bowers. The commonality in these episodes is connection. 

“Resilience is one of the great things of the Radford community and this sense of the community coming closer. The big component of resilience is what we do as a community to come together, to find flexibility, and to thrive. It’s our ability to adapt in these moments of adversity.” Dr. Barfield said. 

She also expressed that this quarantine will bring post-traumatic growth; the idea that things can only happen as a result of trauma. Further explaining that in moments like this, where everything seemed to change at once, it gave people the opportunity for the community; turning the negative into a positive. “Using our podcast is a way to represent this connection, to highlight stories of hope and stories of growth. That has only happened from this transition and change that we’ve had.”

Everyone is eager for physical connection, but that may not last long. Dr. Barfield expressed how she was a Hurricane Andrew survivor when she lived in Florida. Homes, schools, and churches were destroyed and people wanted ways to connect again and were eager for it. However, once everything was back to normal, everyone went back into their bubble. 

“We will never be back to where we were before and yet we will have a tendency to want to return to what is comfortable. So I think that’s the reality; as human nature we tend to go back to what feels comfortable. Some of us will have changed in many ways and some of us will have not. ” 

Podcast listeners can also share a motivational voicemails, jokes, and notes of encouragement. This time the Pandemic Professors have their own to share. “We’ll get through this,” said Dr. Bowers. “If you feel forgotten, if you feel alone and isolated please know that Dr. Barfield remembers you and that somebody out there is thinking about you, even if I don’t know you, I bet I know the feelings that you are experiencing’ and I want you to know that you are not alone and that you can count on connection,” said Dr. Barfield 

Check out The Pandemic Professors at pandemicprofessors.wordpress.com or on Apple Podcasts where they are recording 6 feet apart, into Lysol’d microphones.