“Dear COVID” project helps community voice pandemic thoughts


Jesse Barber

Students share their COVID-19 experience through a display on Sanford Mall. Small pieces of cloth voice student reflections.

Abi Pepin, Reporter

App State students, faculty and community members can anticipate seeing fabric displaying experiences throughout the pandemic on Sanford Mall in the next few weeks.

Students in associate professor Greg McClure’s Education as a Practice of Freedom seminar have spent the semester discussing their experiences in education in conjunction with democracy and empowerment. 

Using the discussions from class, a group of seven students decided on telling community members’ experience with COVID-19 through their project, Dear Covid.

Mikayla Stahlbusch, a junior classmate, said her group wanted to focus on ways to engage community members in something meaningful.

“When Dr. McClure suggested something that addressed the virus, we immediately took to the idea,” Stahlbusch said. 

The group has collection boxes with scraps of fabric around campus; contact tables on Mondays and Wednesdays on Sanford Mall and in Plemmons Student Union; and contact tables every day at the Health Sciences building and in the library.

“Students can write just a word or phrase about what COVID-19 has meant to them and then we’ll display them across Sanford Mall to help people express themselves,” Garrett Hoyt, a sophomore classmate, said.

The App State community voices their pandemic thoughts through “Dear COVID.” One sheet reads, “Sucks being made to have shot.”

Hallie Wolfe, a junior in the class, said the class discussions are unique.

“It’s kind of unconventional,” Wolfe said. “Instead of having the traditional professor and student roles, we all work together to collaborate and run the class.”

Stahlbusch said she enjoys the ownership the class promotes, adding McClure ensures his students understand their voices and perspectives are just as valuable as his.

“I feel as if I truly have a say in my education and the topics we pursue and explore,” Stahlbusch said. “I also like that the class fosters an intimate and safe community with fellow students, as I don’t often find it this comfortable to be myself in college classes.”

Wolfe said she feels like there is more reporting and statistics rather than hearing about people’s experiences with COVID-19.

Hoyt said he was doubtful at first about how big the turnout would be, but the group’s goal is to provide people with an outlet to process and express their feelings. 

“After seeing a lot of the responses we’ve already gotten it’s really touching just to see everyone’s story,” Hoyt said. “It’s anonymous but just to build a connection to something we’ve all been through has been rewarding.”

Stahlbusch said she hopes that participation in the project will be a “release and a relief” for the community.

“Our primary goals for this project are to foster a sense of true community, to give space to voices that have been silent and to issue a rally cry in the face of the virus that has taken so much from us,” Stahlbusch said.

The group has a portion of the project on display on Sanford Mall and will continue adding responses in the coming weeks.

Stahlbusch said she hopes people will take time to read other people’s responses and gain a better understanding for each other.