“When the University closed, my on-campus jobs—working in the CAS dean’s office and the Office of Student Programs & Leadership—were suspended. I went from working 15 hours a week to just two remotely now. The Dean of Students’ Student Life Emergency Fund has been a great help. By paying for my trip home to California, it alleviated part of the burden of managing this crisis. I was able to put my energy into focusing on other, more crucial things like my schoolwork and my family.”

So says Carina Lee (CAS’21), a history and philosophy major who also serves as the online photo director of The Buzz, Boston University’s official student-run lifestyle magazine.

Carina is just one of many students the Student Life Emergency Fund has helped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overseen by Associate Provost and Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore, the fund provides many ways to help students in need. In the past, it might have helped a student who was burned out of a home and needed a new computer, or who needed a plane ticket to attend a funeral, or who needed legal advice or faced some other unanticipated emergency.

It is still there for such crises. But today, in these times of extreme uncertainty, it is being used in myriad new ways. It might support students who have been displaced because of travel restrictions, had to leave campus in a hurry without essential school supplies, or had to deal with a parent’s job loss by getting new support for their education, housing, or even food.

“BU is a place of common ground, whether it be in our clubs and organizations, in the classroom, in our study groups or entrepreneurial pursuits,” says Dean Elmore. “We are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all of our students—the talented individuals who call that common ground home. That includes working with them to solve problems as they arise. Today, those problems are unprecedented, and addressing them has taken on a special urgency.”

Support in all aspects of life

Health sciences major Wesley Jones (CAS’21, Sargent’24, SPH’24) is a case in point.

“COVID-19 upended my stability in Boston,” says Wesley, a recipient of a Richard D. Cohen Scholarship. “I lost my summer internship and my two jobs on campus—one as an office assistant at the BU Physical Therapy Center, the other as a Class Gift intern in Development & Alumni Relations. My life changed overnight.”

Wesley’s weekly work hours dropped from 16 to two, and those two are happening remotely. His savings ran dry—he’d had to pay a bundle to secure his apartment for next year, and he lost the money he’d put down for an Airbnb in Spain for spring break. With the jobs that paid his living expenses essentially gone, he says, he had no money to buy a plane ticket home to Houston.

That’s when the Student Life Emergency Fund stepped in. Money for the ticket went immediately into his account. “I knew about the fund because I had worked for the dean of students during Orientation,” says Wesley, who counts his work-study at the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground among his most formative experiences at BU.

“The center and the people there gave me my home on campus,” he says. “That job pushed me in a lot of ways, personally and professionally. It made me take the ‘inward journey’ that Dr. Thurman described, examining my own belief system and what my place in the world is, as well as the outward journey of forming community. It was a springboard to my taking on many other leadership roles at BU.”

Now safely home, Wesley notes that the fund underscores that sense of community, “how deeply the University cares for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds.”

“Support for the Student Life Emergency Fund helps students during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also helps us weather less global challenges, such as temporary loss of housing and medical emergencies,” says Wesley. “It shows that BU is willing to invest in and support its students not only in the classroom but in all aspects of life. I am so grateful.”

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