MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — MTSU’s College of Graduate Studies recently released a “Pets are Invited” page on their website for graduate students to showcase the pets who have been their study companions this semester, with more than a few making Zoom cameos in this extended period of virtual learning.
“We wanted to hear from our students about the support they had received from their animals during a time of transition and uncertainty,” explained Sarah Hendrix, strategic communications manager. “We knew with so many people doing both work and school from home that their animals were now playing a bigger role in their day.
“In our own office, we had many Zoom calls where cats, dogs, and even a bird made an appearance unexpectedly, and it would always put a smile on everyone’s faces as we welcomed the happy distraction,” Hendrix said. “We love the furry friends that our students call family, and we want to get to see how everyone is keeping a positive attitude.”
The response from students has been “overwhelmingly engaged,” Hendrix added. “Students want to share more about their lives with us – showing their pets who they care so much about and who give companionship to them. These pets can help with our mental health, physical health and keep us laughing by their antics.”
The college has received positive feedback about the page since its launch.
“Thanks for doing this as we all love our pets! Happy Holidays!” said Geoshine George, an MTSU aeronautical science graduate student.
“I love the pet picture idea,” said Cynthia Chafin, associate director for community programs at MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services. “It will give everyone something to smile about in the midst of challenging times!”
Pets are not only giving a boost to students — they have brightened the graduate school office’s days, too.
“Melissa (Houghton), one of our analysts, had an appearance from her bird Peaches … on an office Zoom call,” Hendrix shared. “Peaches made our day, as we had been working from home for at least a month at that point, and we were looking for the opportunity to laugh.”
‘Paw-some’ student stories
“Clifford is my 6-month-old golden retriever,” said Lindsey Vogel, a graduate student pursuing a degree in special education. “Wherever I go, he is always right by my side and has even made a few Zoom appearances…. Clifford has certainly helped me to make the best out of this challenging year.”
“(My cat) Clementine is so sweet and loves to be around me when I'm working,” said Bronwyn Graves, an economics doctoral student. “However, she is also very routine-oriented and insists that I be with her while she eats; so without fail, I will be a couple hours into working when I will hear her screaming from the kitchen. It's a scream that you can't ignore, so it's like she's helping me get up and stretch but in a very jarring way…. I find her adorable and hilarious.”
“Juno, my pet rabbit of three years, has been by my side throughout my first semester of graduate school,” said Jessica Landaverde, a molecular biosciences doctoral student. “Starting school during a pandemic has been stressful, but she has been a great source of emotional support. She is always there to keep me company and put a smile on my face, jumping up on me whenever she wants attention and snoozing in her space beside my desk while I catch up on reading… I am grateful to have a pet like Juno and look forward to many more semesters with her.”
“My three ‘puppers’ have helped me through this semester by making me get outside and hike with them and making sure I take a break and give them the attention they need,” said current student Alexis Hamous.
“(My cat Ice) loves lap-naps while I write papers about aviation pioneers, emerging trends in the industry and research proposals,” said Geoshine George. “She has always been (by) my side (mainly on my lap) through graduate school and keeps me motivated with her ‘pawsitivity!’”
Those wishing to participate should send their pet pictures and story to firstname.lastname@example.org or submit through the website by clicking the “Email Use Your Pet Picture” link.