Graduate student, CJ Hacker ’20 (M.S.O.T.), had to quickly surrender her planned timeline for the future in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CJ has completed the academic portion of the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program but is unable to practice her new profession until she has completed her final 12-week fieldwork requirement. Experiences and learning opportunities such as fieldwork, clinicals and rotations have been put on hold as medical facilities are working tirelessly to treat pandemic patients and do not wish to put additional people at risk.
“In graduate school, many of my classmates and I are all financially dependent on either family members or substantial student loans, so we are anxious to work,” said CJ. “I am learning to be patient as I wait to complete my fieldwork and transition to practice.”
While CJ has been wrapping up her time at Carolina, her husband has been working for the airline industry in Georgia — supporting two rents with an income that has recently been altered considerably given the circumstances. With their future employment plans in limbo, the couple moved in with family members, placing everything they own in storage in the interim.
“With everything happening at once, with my degree completion postponed and my husband’s job insecurity, we had to be really nimble really quickly,” said CJ. “We’re in a holding pattern right now.”
Noting the precarious situations of students similar to CJ, the occupational therapy program within the UNC School of Medicine advertised the recently developed Carolina Student Impact Fund, which was established this spring to provide support for Carolina students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Knowing that everyone is struggling in various ways, I wanted to be mindful and pay attention to what specific needs the fund aims to support,” said CJ. “When I saw storage on the application, I was thrilled. That is definitely our biggest need for support right now and an expense that we didn’t plan to have.”
Upon CJ’s application, a portion of the Carolina Student Impact Fund has been allocated to CJ and her family for storage purposes as they wait to move forward in obtaining job security.
“The financial provision with regards to storage was both helpful and stress-relieving and we are so grateful,” said CJ. “I went to a small school for undergrad so Carolina was a really big shift for me. To feel so cared for by such a large institution and to be supported by both my program and people I’ve never even met is such a gift, I can’t even describe it.
“I just really thank Carolina from the bottom of my heart. I sincerely hope the fund can help more students, because I’ve been sincerely blessed by it.”
Students like CJ — hardworking, adaptable and resilient — are what make Carolina so special. The Carolina Student Impact Fund enables the Carolina community to continue to support its students throughout this time of uncertainty — because they both need and deserve it.
“The challenges graduate students are facing due to COVID-19 are difficult to address,” said Suzanne E. Barbour, dean of the UNC Graduate School. “Many are concerned about finishing their degrees on time because they haven’t been able to access research materials, lab spaces or their research sites. This is compounded by the loss of an off-campus job, the need to pay for childcare while schools and daycares are closed, that conference fee they can’t get refunded. Gifts to the Carolina Student Impact Fund help alleviate these burdens by giving us the flexibility to work with our students on a case-by-case basis. We are so grateful — and our students are grateful — for the generous support of our donors, many of whom are experiencing their own problems during these times.”
As of May 12, 2020, more than $776,000 was distributed to 896 students. The UNC Office of Scholarships and Student Aid is now accepting applications to the Carolina Student Impact Fund for summer 2020; the deadline to request summer assistance is June 28, 2020. Learn more about application requirements hereOpens in new window.