Interview of Diane Shaw

“You can see it, there’s a vibe in the space and there’s–in addition to facial expressions and body language and movement. There’s just a something in the air, I don’t know what you want to call it, but there’s a feeling there’s an energy, that is feeding back and forth.”

– Diane Shaw

Diane Shaw is the Associate Dean of Student Success, Director of Academic Support and Advising, and an instructor in psychology at Merrimack College. She holds an M.S. in experimental psychology from Tufts University and is a Merrimack psychology alum.

In the interview, Shaw describes her background at Merrimack and walks through her experiences during the pandemic, with a particular focus on how she and other faculty and staff were forced to adapt their teaching and work.


Mike Abdoo: …I believe we closed– the shutdown really started in the second week of March–when Merrimack College emailed not only you, but the rest of the community, what was your reaction, like your raw reaction to the shutdown of the college and just like transitioning everything online during that spring semester?

Diane Shaw: Um–I think the reaction–there’s no way for the reaction to not be professional and logistical and deeply deeply personal at the same time, right? So it isn’t, well, we have to pivot everything that we do professionally, it’s like we also have to figure out how to get groceries because the stores are empty and we also have to– what does it mean to actually go to go inside your house and not leave your house, unless you need food, you know for however long it’s going to take? And I think–so I think the initial reaction was overwhelming–wait, what? I mean it was just sort of like–how do we even? Where do we start? What do we do?

The announcement for Merrimack saying okay, we need to pivot, we need to, you know, we extended spring break by a week and said everybody figure out how to do what you do virtually so we in academic support and advising, where I’m the director, and the academic success center, where i’m the associate dean, we work with students on a one to one basis all the time. We have committees, we meet we have–you know, we meet individually as professionals with each other, one to one and in small groups, and then the whole floor and everything and we–everything that we do is is in consultation and relationships So how do you take virtual and put it on top of interpersonal and do all that and I think to figure all of that out was, okay, where do we start? And you know Zoom was like, what? And the whole vocabulary there’s a whole vocabulary that we weren’t talking about a year and a half ago that we don’t even know what that was. Like, “You’re muted.” Like so, “Hi, you’re muted.” Or, you know, or which colors work best when you’re on Zoom and which ones don’t and teaching to students who I’m asking, “Could you please turn on your cameras?” and people are telling me they don’t want to so teaching to one dimensional screens and little black rectangles with people’s names in them is just is is flabbergasting, so I think all of that, when we first heard it all has to change, and it all has to pivot was overwhelming but, at the end of a week, I have still no idea how most of it–we pretty figured, we figured out it–a ton of it, at least, so that we could keep things going, and then, and then there was a wonderful sense of collegiality and understanding, where everybody sort of said, okay we’ll iron out whatever little bumps and kinks there are–we’ll figure this out as we go.

And I think that’s kind of what we did, so the initial reaction was, what is it–how do you–what’s Zoom? I mean like that. And by the way, what do you mean I can’t go?–again this  kind of very blessed, and privileged world that we live in, in this side of the of the world right in this part of the world, we–if I run out of something, I go to Market Basket and I get it. And now it’s like–or order on Amazon and almost by the you know, sometimes even by the time I’m done hitting the order there’s somebody at the front door delivering it so–. To have to change all of that was–was just “shoosh” and eye opening and a serious wake up call in a lot of ways, so I think the original–the original part was, I don’t even know where to begin. And then, as we progressed, it was like, okay, we can–we did a lot of stuff that we did pull off, so I kind of think that.

Interview Details

The interview was conducted on Zoom in North Andover on November 22nd, 2021, by Mike Abdoo.

Accession Number


This interview is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.