Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) is no stranger to danger. It was less than three years ago that the North Bay Fires ravaged the beauty of Sonoma County. Many, including myself, lost homes to the devastating wind-whipped flames that burned out of control. The glaring difference between COVID-19 and the fires is that, during the fires, friends, neighbors, and colleagues came together to support each other in evacuation centers and homes located in safe areas. However, now, due to strict social distancing orders currently in place, we are supporting each other remotely. SRJC’s dedicated students, faculty, staff, and administrators are working together tirelessly to uphold our tradition of academic excellence by supporting the educational goals of our students while glued to our computers.
We care about our international students who are so far away from family and home during this challenging time. Since SRJC has moved to remote instruction and services at least through May 23, we have added additional support systems for our international student population. The COVID-19 information is changing rapidly, therefore international students are receiving updated messages directly from SRJC’s International Student Program on an on-going basis via websites, direct messaging, and social media. The International Student Club is holding weekly meetings where students share ideas, watch movies, play games, laugh, and just relax and have fun in a safe, caring online community. Our International Student Advisors and Academic Counselors are reachable by email, chat rooms, individual online appointments, and, in some cases, by phone. With the guidance of the same supportive instructors that were teaching in-person, most international students have adapted well to this new classroom environment. Students are making individual choices regarding whether to stay in California for the remainder of the spring 2020 term or return home to participate in online classes and activities.
It is part of SRJC’s mission to remove barriers and provide high-quality affordable higher education for ALL students. As a result, SRJC has temporarily suspended some student regulations during the pandemic. Students will be able to withdraw from SRJC and receive a full refund of their enrollment fees. Outstanding balances with the college will not block students from registering for Summer/Fall 2020 classes. The SRJC Foundation has established the SRJC Crisis Response Fund to help students pay rent and bills, provide food, and support their families. The fund will allow for immediate access and flexibility to support a variety of basic needs. SRJC employees, including international student workers, have been asked to work from home. Whether or not they have the ability to work from home, they will be paid for their regularly scheduled hours. International students at SRJC are required to purchase health insurance and the carrier has agreed to waive all fees associated with diagnostic testing for COVID-19. The virus is treated as any other illness covered under the plan.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) are also temporarily allowing exceptions. International students are permitted to complete all course requirements online for the duration of this public health emergency. If a spring 2020 class cannot be offered online, and was therefore cancelled, students do not need to enroll in another class to maintain their full-time status.
I marveled as the resilient people and scenic landscape of Sonoma County rebounded after the fires, and I look forward to watching the emergence of life once again as students begin to return to the beautiful ivy-covered brick buildings, the towering oak trees, the flower gardens, the meandering paths, and manicured lawns on the Santa Rosa Junior College campus. They will still be able to choose from more than 100 majors, and they will once again be inspired by our faculty and impressed by our state-of-the art facilities. International students will continue to transfer to top-ranked universities across the U.S. to complete bachelor degrees and many will transfer to prestigious University of California (UC) campuses, just as they have in the past. With the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east, and several lakes and rivers nearby, students will once again enjoy hiking, sailing, skiing, surfing, rafting, kayaking, cycling, and trips to San Francisco in their spare time.
SRJC has existed for more than 100 years. Know that we will still be here providing exceptional educational services for many years to come. The SRJC community wants the smiling faces of international students here, in person, and eager to learn. SRJC STRONG!!