Twice a week, Elizabeth Dorrsom fires up her laptop and opens Zoom. In just a few minutes, she’ll connect with a small group of like-minded graduate students. Two years ago, Dorrsom, a political science graduate student in the College of Arts and Science, started an accountability group to ensure that she and others met their long-term writing goals. Although you could often find them gathered at Ellis Library, the group has now gone virtual like so many others in an effort to stay connected yet slow the spread of COVID-19.
Nearly ten graduate students set aside time each week to write and discuss concerns they have with their papers. For Dorrsom, the remote calls provide a sense of relief as, one-by-one, her colleagues appear on the screen. Every meeting begins with a check-in, and not just on their writing goals. These individuals have forged a close-knit bond over the past couple of years, a friendship that extends beyond their home offices and Zoom’s virtual backgrounds. Now, more than ever, the weekly calls are a sort of lifeline for the group’s members who long to return to a sense of “normal” and the campus they call home.
The group, originally designed for more pragmatic purposes, has transformed into a much-needed outlet for members who are learning how to cope with social distancing, and for some, isolation. During their first Zoom conference, one colleague confided it was the first time they had talked to anyone since a stay-at-home order had been issued for the county that encompasses the Mizzou campus. “We encouraged this individual to engage in safe outdoor recreation,” said Dorrsom, “We also offered to hang out via Zoom outside of the writing group as needed.”
Finding time to meet has been somewhat challenging. Although the group met once a week on campus, Dorrsom began offering the meetings more often via Zoom in order to accommodate everyone. This dedicated time has proved invaluable for the group as they continue to provide feedback and advice to one another. Dorrsom recently helped a member move forward with his survey experiment proposal. “He hopes to conduct his survey this semester,” she explained. “I helped connect him with various grants to help fund his project.” Even though miles and even an ocean separate them, members continue to reach their writing goals, thanks in large part to the group that has their back every step of the way.
Dorrsom looks forward to the day when she and her colleagues are back on campus for their weekly meetings. In the meantime, she’ll keep the group on track, online. With Dorrsom at the helm, these Tigers are writing their own success stories