Edinboro professor to deliver international keynote on post-pandemic higher education



Conference to promote research on COVID-19 lifestyle, learning struggles and student adaptations

What will the world of higher-education look like after the COVID-19 pandemic? Will we still rely on online learning, virtual communication and social distancing? How will our capacity for empathy continue to grow or decrease?

Dr. Andrew R. Smith, who teaches in Edinboro’s Department of Communication, Journalism and Media, will be one of four keynote speakers addressing these topics and more at the international conference “Re-envisioning Higher Education for a Post-Pandemic World” – a partnership between several universities and institutes in Morocco. The title of his talk is “Well-being and E-learning in a Pandemic: Attunement as Communicative Practice.”

The conference, held virtually on June 24-25 for higher-education administrators, faculty and students, is an opportunity for practitioners, researchers and educational stakeholders to share research findings and personal accounts relating to the problem of learning during the COVID-19 crisis.

An adjunct professor with Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco, Smith served as a senior Fulbright scholar there in 1998-1999 and Fulbright specialist on communication, culture and conflict in 2011. He is also a member of the Research Group on Language, Culture and Society in the Center for Doctoral Studies and has conducted fieldwork and offered seminars in Morocco during summer months for more than 20 years.

In the spring semester of 2021, graduate students in Smith’s communication methods course conducted research on students’ lived experiences of “well-being and e-learning during the pandemic” through in-depth interviews with graduate peers at Edinboro and elsewhere. Focus was on personal and professional relationships, changes in orientation to time and space, and overall physical, emotional and mental health.

“The in-depth interviews were based on these categories that define their well-being and their capacity to learn and e-learn on a full schedule,” said Smith, who served as graduate program head for the Master of Arts in Communication Studies program for two decades. “We focused on relationships and this notion of attunement – not just empathy but maintaining attentiveness, thinking in terms of others, and faculty and students struggles to be in synch with each other remotely.”

Edinboro graduate students who participated in the research project include Dominick DiRienzo, Kimberly Firestine, Melissa Giardini, Jessica Gray, Mia Harvey, Aulden Knight, Macala Leigey, Abigale Shick, Nathan Steis, Darian Switzer, Hannah Taylor and Ashley Troutman. All 12 students will be presented as co-authors of Smith’s keynote address.

According to the conference website, this scholarly event is a platform to discuss the numerous issues surrounding emergency remote education and its implications on teaching and learning processes. Participants and contributors will engage with themes and subthemes, especially those that provide challenging perspectives on post-pandemic higher education.

“What can we learn from this? So much or our ordinary lives were upended by the pandemic,” Smith said. “And many of our accustomed ways of interacting with people were radically transformed. What did this reveal?”

At Edinboro, Smith teaches courses in intercultural communication, conflict management, language and human conduct, freedom of speech and has directed over 30 master’s degree theses. He also co-supervises doctoral dissertations under the auspices of the Moroccan-American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange based in Rabat.

Smith joins Dr. Hassan Radoine, director of programming at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University; Dr. Youssef Yacoubi, from Seton Hall University in New Jersey; and Dr. Devin Thornburg, from Adelphia University in New York as keynote speakers.

The first-annual conference is organized by the SCALEC Research Laboratory at Moulay Ismail University in Meknes, Morocco – in collaboration with International Education of Students in Morocco, Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences at Mohammed V University, and Ibn Zohr University, Agadir, Morocco.