Dear Students,

Tanzina Vega, a journalist with National Public Radio, recently tweeted, “Lots of people - including me - are hitting what I’m calling the pandemic wall this week. The burnout from working nonstop, no break from news, childcare and isolation is hard.”

The tweet went viral.

Karen Attiah tweeted, “… I've hit the pandemic wall. Don't know if it makes sense to push through, climb it, dig under it, or just stare at it for a long time.”

Bill Potter responded, “I’m opting for just leaning against it... letting moment[um] propel me forward until I can do... something.”

A year of isolation, Zoom fatigue, continuous racist hatred and violence, economic pain and uncertainty, political upheaval – all while living in a deadly global pandemic – it’s quite a wall.

A colleague called me recently asking for advice on finding a good psychiatrist. “I don’t need self-care,” she said. “I need help.” Indeed.

Don’t we all?

What helps?

For me –
Going for a walk outside and really looking at the world around me, especially in Fort Tryon Park because it’s still a winter wonderland.
Watching All American with my sons, a show that pretends to be about football but is really about relationships à la Friday Night Lights.
Meeting 1:1 on Zoom with students to have advising and how-are-you chats.
Poring over the mountain of articles and books in my apartment on DEIA.
Letting myself sit on my couch and stare out the window for a long time without self-criticism.
Making my bed every day.
Eating a proper dinner (i.e., not cereal) every day.
Talking with the TC Next Director, Ashley Pinakiewicz, about the new employer relationships she is cultivating for our students.
Attending an OHDCC alumni mixer and hearing our alumni talk about their impressive jobs, positive spirit, and enthusiasm for all things S-OP.
Fiddling on the Canvas sites for both my courses, checking that there is lots to read, watch, and listen to and that all the links are correct.
Talking on the phone (not texting and not Zoom) with my closest girlfriends.
Playing silly board games with my kids and laughing until my stomach hurts.
Marveling at our S-OP community here.

I know this list is idiosyncratic to me, but it helped even just to type it out. Please feel free to share what is helping you climb the pandemic wall these days. We can create a resource hub for getting to the other side.

I read an article about people who live in extreme isolation for months or years as part of their jobs (e.g., astronauts, researchers in Antarctica). They offered suggestions on how to manage.

David Knoff noted, “It feels like we have just endured the toughest game of life we could have ever imagined, and then the game has been sent into overtime,” he said. “The goal now is for everyone to look inside themselves to dig out the motivation and resilience to make sure that as a team we make the most of the next few months and return safely to our friends and families... Not every day can be sunshine and penguins. You will have bad days/weeks/months, and the highs and lows will oscillate faster and higher as the months roll on, but stay focused on the positive and have a goal in sight.”

If you need help, academic advising, a career conversation, a discussion about what you’re learning in class, have a question about research, want a check-in chat, a referral for mental health care, or all of the above, please do not hesitate to reach out to any S-OP staff or faculty member. We are here for you. We have climbed this wall together for nearly a year and we are not stopping now. Wishing you and all of us many more days of sunshine and penguins. Hang in there.

Sarah Brazaitis, PhD
MA Program Director 


Current Student Profile

Dr. Shari Bowen is a student in the Social-Organizational Psychology MA program and is part of the group of Army officers that comprise the Eisenhower Leadership Development Program (ELDP). She is the co-founder of House of Clay International Ministries LLC, where she spreads Christian education throughout the United States and the Caribbean.

As a logistics officer for the Army, Shari has led a plethora of teams and has been directly involved in organizational change efforts. Her experience includes leader development, organizational change, and cultural transformation within Army organizations and church communities. Moreover, as a mother of six and wife of Randolph, a wounded veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Shari has firsthand experience managing complex group dynamics.

Upon completion of the MA program, Shari will teach leadership in the Behavioral Sciences and Leadership Department at West Point. In this role, she will have the opportunity to coach and mentor cadets, thus influencing the next generation of Army leaders. She has always had a passion for nurturing and developing young minds.

Shari anticipates becoming a professor in organizational leadership following her Army career. She and her family enjoy riding motorcycles, singing, and helping people.

Feel free to reach out via LinkedIn or email.

Recommended Readings

Read here about how Expectful's CEO, Nathalie Walton, used her own harrowing experience to raise millions for a new start-up. (Recommendation courtesy of alum, Rhapsodi Pierre-Jacques.) 

In my Group Dynamics course we have been talking about the utility of a team charter for high team performance, especially in these virtual times. Here is an article that gives a quick summary of why team charters are useful and how to get your team to make one.