New Work-life Balance for Mercer Students 

Mercer students that held down jobs faced changing realities as students and workers. As workplaces across the state closed down, or moved to only essential workers, some students had to find a new way to live without work, or to change their work and academic life to fit this new normal.

“So for this semester I had classes Tuesday and Thursday, so I would work Monday, Wednesday, Wednesday nights and then I would work Sunday mornings.  I just had to make sure that my hours didn’t conflict with any of my classes or studying because for some of my classes you would need to meet outside of class time,” Kirsten Williams, a freshman at Mercer said. 

Williams worked through the month of March in the children’s ministry at Martha Bowman United Methodist, caring for children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years with the children’s ministry. 

Williams said, “Everything came out about  Mercer being closed and then, well, we were open that Monday, so parents could find a place for the kids. And then we cleaned the entire children’s ministry. We were even scrubbing the walls,” Williams said.

 Williams had enough in savings to last a while without work but hoped she could still count on summer employment at her church’s summer camp. 

“So we got an email from our big big boss, Pastor David, and he said that we’d be running camp as usual, hopefully. But if we don’t, they will  cut out the first four weeks of camp and just have it  beyond full capacity for the last four. Or, if we had to be shut down all summer, we will do weekend camps throughout all next year to still give the kids a camp experience” Williams said.

In terms of her school life, Williams is having more difficulty adjusting to a closed classroom than a closed office. 

“It’s definitely different, because I don’t have a set schedule for anything except for one of my classes, which only meets online once a week for like three hours. Other than that, I can do anything I want to, which is really weird; it’s very unstructured, and I don’t like it,” Williams said. 

Williams said that while this unstructured style proves more difficult for her motivation, she is hopeful that the changed format of classes, with discussions now being done through online posts instead of speaking in class and extra assignments, will ultimately help her grades. 

Taylor Cole, a Mercer student who is continuing to work at a local law firm while moving to online classes. Picture courtesy of Cole.

Taylor Cole, a senior Mercer student and a legal clerk, said online school has worked out better for her.

“Before I would have Monday and  Wednesday classes, and it would be difficult because I would go to the office and get started on something in the morning and due to the environment that I worked in, it would be really difficult to stop working on it and put it down. So I would go into class and just still be thinking about work, or sometimes I would skip class because I had to get things done in the office,” Cole  said. 

Cole mostly works from home now. She occasionally goes to her office to check the mail and is the only person cleared to meet with clients face-to-face.

She said, “I went to Illinois when this first started and self-quarantined for about two weeks when I got back. Now I feel like I’ve already been exposed to it and that it has either not affected me or it kind of won’t do. So I don’t feel worried about going into the office. 

Cole has not been tested for coronavirus and with the majority of the staff working from home, Cole has the office to herself to do both her office and school work. She can handle the balance now but is concerned about her future.

“I am terrified to be graduating into a recession. The economic impact that COVID-19 has had, and the total molasses that has been our government in dealing with all of this is terrifying because, you know, I’m gonna be facing reduced rates of income when a full student loan payments, which is intimidating” Cole said. 

Cole planned to attend law school in the fall, either at Mercer University’s law school or in Charleston.  

“It worries me a little bit about starting law school and doing it on time. I mean, as long as I go; I’ll stay in my house as long as I need to to make sure that this thing is over and done with,” Cole said.