CORVALLIS, Ore. — Two years into the pandemic, an Oregon State University psychology professor is inviting college students and faculty to reflect and share about how they’ve managed to cope with the ups and downs of the COVID-19 era.
The Bright Side Project is a follow-up to OSU’s “Punch Through Pandemics” online course, which reached nearly 3,700 people in 2020 with lessons about the psychological effects of stress and ways to counter it at the onset of the pandemic. Now, one of the instructors behind that class is asking what people have learned in the meantime.
“From a psychological aspect, the more you can express your emotions, the more you can actively cope, the better off you generally are in the long run,” said Regan A.R. Gurung, professor and director of OSU’s general psychology program and director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. “The hope is that the Bright Side Project will give contributors the chance to reflect on things that made them happy and then share those with others.”
The project is aimed at students and instructors in higher education, and the call for submissions is open nationwide. Project organizers are seeking submissions in any form, including essay, meme, flow chart, poetry, art, infographic and music.
Organizers have offered four prompts, splitting the pandemic into sections: “The Pivot,” when classes first went online in March 2020; “Going Remote,” for the 2020-21 academic year; “The Return,” when many classes resumed in person in fall 2021; and “Now,” when there are signs of improvement mixed with ongoing uncertainty as the pandemic continues.
Responses can cover any or all of the prompts, and there is no word limit or deadline. Organizers will review the entries as they come in and upload them to a project website, where the material will be arranged by the four time periods for everyone to view. Eventually, Gurung hopes entries may be organized into a book, with any proceeds being donated to supporting OSU mental health resources.
Gurung wants the Bright Side Project to show contributors that they are not alone in their experience of the past two years, as well as offer new ideas for coping techniques that have proven effective for others.
“I think with everyday language, when we say we’re ‘coping,’ it means we’re doing ‘OK.’ But psychologically, coping is much more of an active process of dealing with stress,” he said. “Stress is the challenge, and coping is the body and mind’s response to that challenge.”
Different people use different coping skills, he said. Some use distraction, some turn to religion; many of his students started buying houseplants and baking bread during the pandemic. Gurung found solace in walks and hikes with his family.
“We’re coming up on two years of the pandemic. Something we know about coping is, not only is there no one way for everybody, but sometimes when we’re using the same tool over and over, that tool starts losing its utility,” he said. “Maybe you’ve tried a whole bunch of stuff and you need some new ideas. That’s another reason why I think reading people’s different stories may be helpful.”
Every guest expert who spoke to the Punch Through Pandemics course will also be invited to add their reflection to the Bright Side Project, Gurung said, offering analysis alongside the personal anecdotes.
To learn more and to submit a response, visit the Bright Side Project page on OSU’s Center for Teaching and Learning website.
About the OSU College of Liberal Arts: The College of Liberal Arts includes the fine and performing arts, humanities and social sciences, making it one of the largest and most diverse colleges at OSU. The college's research and instructional faculty members contribute to the education of all university students and provide national and international leadership, creativity and scholarship in their academic disciplines.