Atlanta Technical College: Creating a Sense of Community with a Simple Click
ATC’s Family Connection Virtual Townhall Educates, Engages Students and Staff
By Atlanta Technical College
For many organizations, the practice of social distancing has redefined the idea of community and connectivity among colleagues and peers. Even with the creative hybrid learning environment at Atlanta Technical College (ATC), many students and faculty members are embarking on a reimagined school/work experience and learning to balance their new daily reality. Technology has helped ATC blaze a path that has ushered in a renewed sense of culture through virtual conversations focused on social, mental, political and health-related topics that draws hundreds of students and staff to log in and take part in the new “community” each month.
ATC’s Family Connection is a series of virtual town hall meetings that have created a new sense of unity among students, faculty and staff as college leaders and local experts discuss important topics and share valuable resources. Initially created to address the regional and national protests in response to police brutality, ATC first launched the virtual meeting series in June of this year. “This year has been a whirlwind of unforeseen challenges due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and global movements around police brutality that have emotionally impacted many of our team members and students,” said ATC President Dr. Victoria Seals. “Our goal with the Family Connection series is to shift our current challenges into opportunities to create a safe space for the ATC Family to find help, share their concerns, learn more about important topics, and engage with their peers.”
Over the last four months, college members have connected around such topics as mental health awareness, domestic violence, COVID-19, and voter suppression. Although ATC has launched a hybrid learning schedule that allows students to periodically come on campus to take technical courses, many students have decreased daily face-to-face interactions with their peers. “We want to be deliberate about creating a culture and community that fosters learning and growth for all,” said Dr. Seals. “I believe the virtual environment has actually helped draw more people into the larger conversations and has enabled our greater Atlanta community to engage our students and staff in a dynamic way.”
With October being recognized as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, ATC joined forces with Partnership Against Domestic Violence to bring the topic to the forefront by inviting leaders to advocate to share their stories, resources, and warning signs. “Now more than ever, we wanted to be intentional about creating a pathway for success. You never know what people are dealing with or experiencing, so our goal is to find ways to connect with our village even though we have to commune in a different way,” said Dr. Sonya McCoy-Wilson, dean of arts and sciences, who served as the moderator for the domestic violence town hall.
As Georgia continues to break records for absentee and early voting, ATC is also preparing their student body to be more engaged and informed voters. Joel Alvarado, who served as a panelist during the Oct. 15 Family Connection virtual town hall and has worked in community development and advocacy, said that community and technical colleges are the “starting point” for creating awareness and spreading information to others. “The best way to contribute to democracy is through voting,” Alvarado said.
“The evolution of organizational culture will be studied during and after this pandemic,” said Dorna Werdelin, associate vice president of communications, marketing & public relations. “What I believe will be revealed at ATC is that in the midst of a crisis, we were able to demonstrate the very best of the culture and community that we have established here. This is an environment that cares for our students, staff and faculty in words and actions.”