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Students Demonstrate Resilience and Cooperation During Unusual Fall Semester

Rob Boyle, professor and Assistant Dean at SLU’s Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business, discusses student resilience and flexibility during the unprecedented fall 2020 semester. 

Students at work at the Chaifetz School of Business

The Chaifetz School is a popular study location for students across SLU's campus. This semester, however, students have been asked to limit their use of the building as a precautionary health measure.

2020 has been a year of hurdles, the most notable of which is the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenging and uncertain nature of the year, Saint Louis University students have taken it in stride.

Dr. Rob Boyle, assistant professor of management and assistant dean of the Chaifetz School of Business, says his students have been “remarkable” throughout this unusual time. 

Boyle acknowledges an element of grief that accompanies this year: Even though most of SLU’s students are back on campus this fall, their experience differs vastly from what the typical American college student has come to expect from a semester at school. 

“This semester represents an enormous change,” Boyle says, “but the students have been absolute champions.” The upper class students in particular are thrilled to be back on campus, according to Boyle. While online learning is an increasingly necessary tool, it comes with its share of challenges, and many students have found they are more motivated by traditional classroom learning. 

Boyle’s students, for their part, “very much appreciate” being back in the classroom.

“The students have been extremely engaged, both in person and online,” Boyle says. “My first-year students have been absolutely open and game. I’ve taken some time to acknowledge that this is different, and, frankly, an unfortunate circumstance for them as they transition to life at college. But they’re showing up to class, they’re engaged. I think they’re doing great.”

Boyle also notes that the Dean’s Student Advisory Board (DSAB), which he advises, has done incredible work to pivot to meet the challenges presented by this uncertain semester. DSAB is made up of students who represent the Chaifetz School’s organizations and departments, and is advised by the business school’s deans. 

“Informally, DSAB works to provide guidance to our clubs and organizations,” says Boyle. The students were unable to hold a club fair in-person earlier this semester, so DSAB has worked to create an ongoing, virtual club fair, which students can peruse throughout the year. Small tweaks like this one help maintain a level of normalcy and keep students engaged and active in SLU’s business organizations. 

In addition to assisting their fellow students in adaptation to a more virtual life, DSAB continues to discuss the Chaifetz School’s mission-based Jesuit identity at monthly meetings. Over the summer, the organization began discussions on racial injustice in St. Louis, and they hope to continue that conversation as the school year progresses. 

Boyle notes that discussing the topic of racial inequality is especially challenging via Zoom—the issue is very emotionally charged—but he commends the students for their compassion and dedication to enacting positive change at SLU, particularly during a time that has been challenging for everyone, and looks forward to DSAB’s future dialogue on the subject. Boyle believes that the students' dedication to issues of justice and racial equity will bring further conversation and positive action in the spring semester. 

But for the time being, for his students’ compassion, engagement and cooperation in this difficult time, Boyle gives his students “a solid A.”