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Widener Students Give Back to the University amid COVID-19 Pandemic

By Benjamin Beggs ‘20 Communication Studies
Professor Catherine Safran holds a gift basket
Widener students showed their appreciation for Assistant Professor of Biology Catherine Safran by sending her an end-of-semester gift basket.

Widener University students are known for serving their communities and have found countless ways to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But, the students have also found unique ways to show their appreciation and support for Widener faculty and staff. While most students could not remain on campus, they still felt called to help the university that they see as their second home.

Sign says "Stay Safe" with protective masks
Senior Jialin Li and her family donated 2,300 protective masks to the university.

In the spring, during a time when personal protective equipment was challenging to secure, senior international marketing student Jialin Li and her family donated 2,300 protective masks to the university.

The generous act helped protect Widener’s campus safety officers and other facilities staff, who have continued to work through the pandemic. Executive Director of Campus Safety Anthony Pluretti was deeply appreciative.

“Thank you, not just for donating such a valuable item to the institution, but for recognizing that campus safety’s need is greater than some, and for protecting us so that we can continue to protect others,” Pluretti said.

Li was prompted to donate after her family and friends in China experienced great adversity with COVID-19. She didn’t want the Widener community to endure the same challenges.

 “Widener has provided so much for me as an international student, so I am glad to help the school in any way that I can,” Li said. “We are all Widener, and there is no greater time to remember that.”

Students participate in Zoom class for biology
Assistant Professor Catherine Safran's biology 230 course remained close as classes moved online.

Similarly, Widener students have found ways to show their appreciation for faculty, who flexibly shifted their courses to online formats mid-semester and continued to provide unparalleled mentorship and guidance.

Students in Assistant Professor Catherine Safran’s biology 230 course, which is offered to non-science majors, remained engaged and close-knit even as class meetings shifted to Zoom. Safran and the students gave each other daily tips on how to feel better, and used top scientific journal articles and virtual labs to lead robust discussions about how diseases spread, flattening the curve, vaccinations, and the end of coronavirus lockdowns.

“Everybody came to class with a big smile, remained engaged, and wanted to learn despite the dramatic circumstances,” Safran said of the 17 students.

The students ended the semester by sending an Edible Arrangement basket to their professor.

“When I received the gift, it was very rewarding and emotional,” Safran said. “I wanted to immediately connect with all my students again.”

To say ‘thank you’ back to her students, Safran’s daughter recorded a video message and posted it on TikTok.

The ‘thank you’ video took off, and has, so far, garnered over 300,000 views, 57,500 likes, and 53 comments from the Widener community, including incoming first-year students and alumni.

Even from afar, the Widener community continued to find ways to connect and give back to each other.

@andreasafran

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♬ original sound - andreasafran

Director of Communications Mary Allen and Assistant Director of Communications Jessica Reyes contributed to this story.

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