Expert Alert

Identifying obstacles for higher-ed students during the pandemic

Krista Soria
Krista Soria

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and University of California-Berkeley are working to investigate how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted students’ experiences in higher education. The researchers administered a survey at ten large, public research universities that was completed by more than 30,000 undergraduate students and more than 15,000 graduate and professional students. 

Krista Soria, director of student affairs assessment in the U of M Office of Institutional Research and Office for Student Affairs, and research associate with the Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC-Berkeley, talks about the importance of understanding the pandemic’s impact upon students and of sharing the data with university leaders, staff and faculty so that they can make decisions to better address the significant challenges students are facing. 

Krista Soria
“From a social justice perspective, it is important for institutional leaders, faculty and staff to understand how the pandemic has disproportionately escalated existing disparities, concerns, stressors and challenges for underrepresented and marginalized students. These populations include students who are caregivers to adults and children during the pandemic; students from low-income and working-class backgrounds; first-generation students; international students; students of color; Indigenous students; nonbinary and transgender students; and bisexual, pansexual, queer, gay, lesbian, or asexual students. We can also see how students within different academic major areas and degree programs (e.g., doctoral vs. master’s level) — or students with differing levels of previous online class experiences — are responding to the challenges of the pandemic. 

“With our robust SERU COVID-19 survey data, we are providing critical information to support decision makers in higher education on a very granular level. We can clearly see how the pandemic has heightened major areas of concerns for students, including their mental health disorders, food insecurity, housing insecurity, financial hardships, safety, and academic obstacles. The findings also suggest that the pandemic has disrupted other areas critical to students’ success, such as students’ engagement in internships, research and employment.

“It is our goal to amplify the voices of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who are experiencing those challenges during the pandemic so that higher education leaders, staff, and faculty can respond to better support students through trauma-informed approaches, compassion, and care.”

Krista Soria
Director of Student Affairs Assessment in the Office of Institutional Research

Download a high-resolution photo of Soria here.

View the SERU COVID-19 survey results online, including adapting to online instruction, financial hardships, food insecurity and mental health.

Soria is a director of student affairs assessment in the Office for Student Affairs and Office of Institutional Research and the assistant director of research and strategic partnerships at the SERU Consortium. She is also a research associate with the Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC-Berkeley. Soria is interested in researching high-impact practices that promote undergraduates' development and success, the experiences of marginalized and underrepresented  students in higher education, and programmatic efforts to enhance college students' leadership development, civic responsibility, and engagement in social change. 

If you would like Soria to analyze the SERU Consortium data and results for your story, please contact University Relations at

Media Contacts

Main Line

University Public Relations
(612) 624-5551

Kat Dodge

University Public Relations
Mon, 09/14/2020 - 12:15
Identifying obstacles for higher-ed students during the pandemic
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities