Letter from Cathrine Reck

To bolster my patience, I remember the Americans who endured the Great Depression and the shortages and horrors of World War II. Specifically, I think about my father, Gene, and how he spent the first twenty years of his life.

Growing up in Warsaw, Indiana, farming meant tending a small patch of ground and plowing with mules. Farming meant survival. I once asked him what he did during his free time. He cracked a smile, and said “Now Cathrine (yes, my dad always called me Cathrine) there wasn’t free time. If I wasn’t working on the railroad, I was working on the farm. And if I wasn’t working on the farm, I was chopping wood. And if I wasn’t chopping wood, I was probably sleeping.”

This man, who had known great deprivation and extensive suffering, was one of the most generous people I have ever known. He was also one of the most resilient. Now, when I feel my will breaking and my patience ending, I think of what generations of Americans have endured. I realize this is corny, but it truly does help me get through the days. And I know that we, too, can endure. I hope you can find your story that helps you cope with your personal struggles and helps you maintain your focus and motivation.

As we are navigating, yet again, new ground, I humbly offer you some words of advice to help you adapt once again to being at home. Below are some best practices that I have heard from some successful students living through fall 2020.

  • Continue developing time management skills. If you have not already, create a weekly schedule that you follow, designating certain hours each week to reading, watching lectures, completing assignments, studying, and participating in study groups. Commit to making your online coursework part of your weekly routine, and set reminders for yourself to complete these tasks.
    • When working on your assignments, try time-blocking, allotting yourself a certain amount of time for each task before moving on to the next one and setting a timer to keep you accountable.
    • Reflect periodically, and look at how you’re spending your time. Ask yourself: How much time am I dedicating to course reading and assignments? Am I regularly underestimating the time it’s taking me to get things done, forcing me to cram the nights before the exams? A little self-reflection and adjustment can go a long way.
  • Figure out how you learn best. Once you’ve established where you’ll learn, think about when and how you accomplish your best work. If you’re a morning person, make time to study first thing. More of a night owl? Set aside an hour or two after dinner to cozy up to your computer. If the kids require your morning and evening attention, try to carve out a study session mid-day while they’re at school. Brew your usual cup of coffee, put on your go-to playlist, and do whatever you need to get into the zone and down to business.

    Not everyone learns the same way, so think about what types of information help you best grasp new concepts and employ relevant study strategies. If you’re a visual learner, for example, print out transcripts of the video lectures to review. Learn best by listening? Make sure to build time into your schedule to play and replay all audio- and video-based course content.
  • Hold yourself accountable. If you have not already, reach out to the peers in your class and form study groups. You can find contact information on Canvas and you probably have met some folks through discussion sections.
  • Create a regular study space and stay organized. If you have not already, find a study location that is different than your bedroom. Some students have reported better success when they are in one location while watching lectures, another one for studying, and keep these locations separate from where play time is. 
    • Don’t study in bed. Instead, be sitting up to help you be more alert.
  • Add regular exercise into your day, if you have not already. You don’t have to go gung-ho, but you can add activities that will increase your heart rate and relieve some anxiety.

I commend you for sticking with it and continuing to adapt as you navigate this new landscape. I trust that this increased struggle now will pay off as you become a stronger and more resilient member of society. I believe the strengths of resilience are timeless and universal, and that we can all still learn much from our enduring these recent hardships.

I am proud to be a member of a community where people put the greater good above their own self-interest. Thank you for your patience and your resilience as we all learn to temper increased distance with deeper care for one another. 

I hope you all have a relaxing, rejuvenating, and peaceful break. Come back strong in December, ready to push on through the rest of the semester. I know you can do it!


Professor Cathrine Reck
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Department of Chemistry