March 23, 2020
As we continue to navigate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, we feel that we are in a new reality of sorts. The pandemic has shifted the contours of our work, our home experience, our outward behavior and our inner emotional landscape. Uncertainty and fear can bring out less-than-the-best in our characters. Now is the time to draw on our strengths from truths that do not change, the values from our Catholic Benedictine heritage that guide us no matter how life circumstances evolve. We have a wellspring of wisdom that other higher educational institutions do not: our founders and sponsors, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery.
The Sisters want you to know that they are praying for and support you in a special way during these challenging times. I am pleased to report that they are now providing brief messages of hope and support to the College community daily, via the Benedictine Way feature on our Cor home page. We will also be sending these out via Facebook and Twitter.
Pandemic planning announcements: With the quickly evolving situation, I have asked that the Pandemic Response Team send out time-sensitive critical information to share with you as needed. Please look for these as separate communications. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz will continue to make decisions that may affect our College operations, and it's essential you are all informed.
Employees should work remotely: A reminder that all employees should be working remotely unless their work requires otherwise. This is not a personal decision but one that has met the approval of your supervisor. Please abide by this to keep our community safe.
Encouraging developments are emerging all around us. I find myself impressed, moved, and energized by the innovative solutions of our learning community. There are so many positive developments to appreciate.
Moving courses online: My deepest thanks to our faculty members for the extraordinary work they have been doing to migrate their courses to virtual platforms. This is an enormous undertaking. I am grateful for all that you are doing, through unprecedented circumstances, to embody the love of learning.
The Keep Teaching Team has provided thoughtful leadership and expertise. Trainings have been developed, websites created, consultations conducted, and courses adapted. Help has come from the Center for Teaching and Learning, Center for Instructional Design, Assessment, Center for Equal Access, the Library and Information Technology. Know that your efforts are appreciated, even by the media as seen in this article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune!
As our colleague Kevin Quarmby, Assistant Professor of English, so eloquently stated last week, "The tiny lens on our desktops and laptops and mobile devices offers students a window into our worlds. We owe it to them to remember that they, too, are experiencing our world in isolation. Technology allows us to break through the barrier of isolated dull receptivity to nurture the next generation of collaborative thinkers and doers."
Student Activities steps up: Student Activities staff members have taken their department online, building a new page of resources for students as they make the adjustment to virtual education. The new Saints Life page features virtual activities, resources for spiritual and emotional wellness and mental health, academic connections and various other tips and helpful information. SA staff are creating daily videos with useful updates.
Most students move out - but not all: Residence Life and Athletic staff, along with Security, have been doing a great job of coordinating student move-out efforts, a process that is currently scheduled to run until March 30. They are patiently helping our students through stressful circumstances while at the same time ensuring a professional and efficient process. I am grateful to all staff, including from our dining services, who are making sure that those students who remain in campus housing feel welcome and supported.
Welcoming accepted students, virtually: On Saturday, we hosted 70 prospective Future Saints and did 12 individual financial aid Zoom appointments for our first Virtual Accepted Student Day. Hats off to our Admissions Team members for devising creative ways to bring the campus visit experience online as we continue to demonstrate our values of hospitality and community in evolving ways.
Give to CSS Day a big success: March 19 was the annual Give to CSS Day. Even in the midst of uncertainty, there was an unprecedented showing of support for our Saints! 214 donors gave over $76,000, making Give to CSS Day 2020 our best yet, raising $10,000 more than 2019. Before noon we had 100 donors and two campaigns fulfill their matching dollars. Social media feedback throughout the day was also very positive and more active than normal. I also want to express thanks to the campaign leaders who planned and promoted their initiatives. This is a great example of employees, donors and alumni illustrating what happens when #SaintsRiseUp.
'Downward Dog' in your living room: Our Campus Recreation staff are boldly taking on the challenge of creating opportunities for fitness, connection and fellowship, all online. Fitness classes, including yoga and various other workouts that can be done around the house, are now being offered online through Zoom. Getting together for group exercise is a great way to boost your mood and combat the anxiety that we're all feeling during these unsettling times!
Attractive backgrounds: When you're in all those Zoom meetings, why not have a background that shows your Saints pride?
Mental health resources for all Saints: Finally, please remember, your mental and emotional health are of utmost importance at this time. I recognize that many of us are continuing to work while balancing concerns about the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones, as well as our society at large. We are living through a crisis of historic proportions. I am so proud of the way that everyone in our Saints community has stepped up during this time, and I want you to feel fully supported with the full range of mental health resources we have available.
Last, thanks to many folks, we hosted our first 'Virtual Happy Hour" for employees last Thursday and had over 120 people join! We hope to make this a regular event as many commented positively on how wonderful it was to connect. We'll keep you posted on the next opportunity! Attached you will also find links to the most recent media stories about our Saints rising up. Amazing stories!
Take care and stay well,