While adjusting to teaching and learning online, Jennifer Perrone finds hope during the pandemic with the birth of her son.
Rustin Pio McIntosh is just shy of three months old, but he’s already part of a PhD cohort. On Fridays this spring, you’d find him attending Zoom classes with his mother, Jennifer Perrone, brightening up the days of her fellow doctoral candidates and giving them a reprieve from difficult times.
“He’s healthy, happy and thriving,” said Perrone. “He really is a sweetheart and truly a blessing.”
For his family, Rusty is a gift coming off a period that “has been quite a roller coaster,” she said. “As if dealing with the pandemic was not stressful and anxiety-provoking enough, imagine being in the final trimester of an already high-risk pregnancy while working full time and being a third-year PhD student.”
A registered nurse since 2007, Perrone left the hospital in August 2019 to teach full time at Farmingdale State College. She’s now also an adjunct professor at Adelphi, where she is pursuing her PhD. Like all faculty and students, this past March she had to adjust to isolating from family and friends and transition to teaching and learning online. “There was a learning curve for me, in terms of changing how I taught the students,” she said. “And being pregnant during the pandemic has been really, really frightening because there was always that fear of potential exposure [to COVID-19].”
On April 10, Perrone attended her Zoom class, then went to the hospital to give birth to Rusty. Seven days later he attended his first Zoom session with his mom. He was a class regular every Friday since then (aside from conflicts with nap time) up until the last session on June 12.
Even before he was born, Perrone’s instructor and classmates called him the cohort baby. After he was born, “They enjoyed seeing him every Friday in class. My colleagues really found him to be a breath of fresh air,” she said.
Rusty keeps Perrone, her husband and 12-year-old son “busy and entertained,” she added. “While the pandemic caused much heartache throughout the world, Rusty has been my ray of sunshine during a horrible storm. I will forever be grateful for the support I received from my classmates and professors at Adelphi University.”
The future holds many questions for Rusty and his family. In addition to the coronavirus, “I am black and my child is triracial,” she said. “So it’s just raising a lot of fear for his future and society in general. I appreciate the University’s commitment and recent forums addressing systemic racism. It gives me hope for the future and makes me proud to be part of Adelphi University.”
Rusty has not met his extended family yet. And this fall, Perrone is unsure if she will be teaching online, in the classroom or in a hospital setting. “I’ll just have to adapt the best that I can,” she said. “I’m a nurse—that’s what we do. We’re always ready to do whatever it takes and make it work.”
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