The impact of COVID-19 has been felt beyond the classroom, calling for campuses across the country to step in and fill in the gap for students experiencing hardships during unprecedented times.
Lives of Mississippi University Women students were also significantly disrupted, and faculty, staff, alumni and friends quickly came together to help students overcome these difficult setbacks through the university’s Student Emergency Fund.
Andrea Stevens, executive director of development and alumni, said, “The COVID-19 crisis created emergencies at every level for so many students. We knew the need was great and immediately began a fundraising drive for the Student Emergency Fund. The response from our alumni and friends was tremendous.”
Administered out of the Office of Academic Affairs, the 12-person committee found itself dealing with student emergencies ranging from housing to medical needs to transportation.
Stevens' office was responsible for issuing the checks and distributing them to the students.
“The stories were so disturbing ranging from loss of a campus job or other job to relatives diagnosed with COVID-19, no food money, no money for prescription medication for life threatening illnesses. Many of the students were not able to seek help from their parents because their parents had lost their jobs, too. The Student Emergency Fund made it possible to meet those needs,” she said.
Dr. Erin Kempker said, “I think that the work of the Student Emergency Fund changed dramatically with COVID-19. For one, the rate of applications increased significantly. It became clear that many students struggled to handle the financial crisis and pandemic.” Kempker serves on the Student Emergency Fund committee and chairs the Department of History, Political Science, and Geography.
Additionally, she explained that the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity (FSEOG) funding, through the U.S. Department of Education, really helped students and the committee was able to reserve Student Emergency funds for those students’ needs that could not be met by FSEOG money.
Amanda Clay Powers, Student Emergency Fund committee co-chair and dean of library services, added, “We eliminated our cap of $250 and accepted re-applications during the semester. We met daily and considered each application individually.”
According to Powers, application to the Student Emergency Fund triggered a review of their eligibility for FSEOG funding. The Student Emergency Fund gave $29,855.92 to 81 students, and 55 students received $32,738 in FSEOG funds.
Stevens said, “Every day, students came by our office to pick up checks, and, without fail, every student repeatedly thanked us for the financial assistance. Several of the students had tears in their eyes as they thanked me. We are very grateful for the generosity of our alumni and donors who contributed to the Student Emergency Fund.
“These students were afraid of the unknown, and being able to give them assistance allowed them to concentrate on finishing their classes for the spring semester,” added Stevens. The MUW Foundation has been involved with the Student Emergency Fund since its establishment in spring 2019.
Powers said any student who has a financial emergency related to their essential needs is eligible to apply for an award.
Individuals who are interested in making a gift may do so online to the MUW Foundation, designating the Student Emergency Fund.
If you would like to donate to the Student Emergency Fund, please visit muw.edu/emergencyaid/donate.