George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Conquering work-life balance so students benefit

June 22, 2020   /   by Ryley McGinnis

Lisa Sevilla (back right), her husband Mark Sevilla (back left) and her children Oona Noelani Sevilla, 3, (front left) and Elliott Palmer “Pono” Sevilla, 5, (front right).

On a regular day pre-COVID-19, Lisa Sevilla had her hands full advising hundreds of students in the Department of Information Sciences and Technology.

Now, while working at home, Sevilla still wakes up every day excited to help her advisees even as she juggles taking care of her two children, 3 and 5, while answering emails and talking with students via WebEx.  “My kids want to be a part of the calls too, talk to the students and show them their favorite animals,” says Sevilla.

But nonetheless, she has found a way to adjust and take care of her advisees’ needs. “I’m kind of a workaholic, but it’s because I love my job,” says Sevilla. “I love making sure my students’ needs are met.”

While taking WebEx meetings and answering emails with her 3-year old daughter on her lap, Sevilla has also adjusted to how students are now getting their advising. 

Before the coronavirus pandemic, she would see about nine or 10 students a day for in-person meetings until peak registration for classes where she had to allocate more time for completing overrides and answering emails.

“Now, unfortunately, I don’t get to actually speak with as many students, but I’m advising more students because they’re utilizing email more often as opposed to scheduling an appointment,” says Sevilla.

She says advising more students has been a benefit to working and learning from home, but it also has some challenges. “I miss being able to have that face-to-face connection with my students,” she says. “When I meet students in person, I get to see their face and talk, which creates a safe space for them where they can let it all out with no judgment. It definitely isn’t the same over WebEx.”

For Sevilla, her workday changed from her previous work routine. On a regular day in the office, in between her meetings with students or preparing for the next student she was seeing, Sevilla would take a break at mid-day to get outside, be active, and take some time to regroup.  

But amid the changes to virtual learning and being at home with her two children, Sevilla says sometimes it is harder to find time to move and find moments for herself. “It was a learning curve for me. I wanted to be at my kid's beck and call, but I had to juggle that and my job helping students. So, I find myself not getting that moment to take a breath in between meetings or emails.”

Despite the new challenges, Sevilla persists in giving her students the best guidance possible. “I still want my students who are leaving a meeting with me to feel like they can conquer anything.”

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