When classmates collaborate for a good cause

They’ve never met in person, but Praveena Ramaswami and Cari Delamielleure-Scott worked together to help meet a major need in Michigan during the COVID-19 pandemic: equipping medical professionals with personal protective equipment (PPE).

As classmates in the Michigan State University Strategic Communication Online Master’s Program, their collaboration came as a result of a Slack message a few weeks ago.

During the middle of March, Delamielleure-Scott, an internal communications specialist for Beaumont Health, currently working with its Incident Command Center, re-shared a Beaumont Health press release that was seeking PPE donations to an MSU StratCom Slack channel.

“While it is not my direct job to secure donations, it is my duty as a Beaumont employee to share our need with my contacts in every channel possible,” Delamielleure-Scott said.

As the community relations lead for Toyota Motor North America Research & Development, Ramaswami was seeking this sort of collaboration. Once she saw Delamielleure-Scott’s post, she acted. 

“I reached out to Cari in a Slack private message and within a day, we had a large donation heading their way from our Michigan-based Toyota Research & Development Center,” Ramaswami said.

The PPE were given to Beaumont Health’s frontline staff who cares for COVID-19 patients. 

“Our staff will tell you when we get a shipment of PPE, it’s like Christmas,” Delamielleure-Scott said. “This is a very serious, anxious time, and this donation makes a huge impact on our ability to care for patients with the level of safety and care they know and expect.” 

Navigating school, families and a stressful time at their jobs has been anything but easy, but making sure the PPE donations could happen was important.

“The safety of our community is essential, so it was a no-brainer to make this collaboration a priority,” Delamielleure-Scott said. “Praveena and I have never met in person, but together we made something amazing happen.”

 As a result of the pandemic, both have had to address the realities of the changing demands at their respective workplaces.

“This new demand in work hasn't just been the hours, but the stress in the constant shifts when we are used to a processed approach, and carrying the emotions of what our non-profit communities are facing,” Ramaswami said. 

Delamielleure-Scott said: “The pandemic doesn’t stop when you go home, and you feel guilty … a lot. Once the governor issued the stay-at-home order, two of my team members were asked to staff the [emergency operations center] while the rest of my group works from home. It’s nice to be able to see my kids and husband throughout the day when I need a quick break, but the hours, fatigue and guilt stay with you.”

The classmates, who are in their first semester in MSU StratCom, have been able to find some silver linings during these stressful times, including a positive outlook and incentives to keep working toward.

Delamielleure-Scott said: “In this time of uncertainty, it’s easy to fall back on fear. One of the most important things to remember is we’re all in this together: you and your colleague, your family, your neighbor, and even the stranger walking down the street. If we can make each day a little bit easier for one another, we’re going to get through this as one and be stronger in the end.”   

Ramaswami: “… I am looking forward to meeting Cari in person along with many of other students in the program. As I reflect, I am very grateful to be in this program, for its online flexible presence (especially in these times) and the beyond support the Strat Com teaching staff give through various platforms.” 

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