I would like to say how thankful I am for everyone's perseverance and resilience during what is an incredibly stressful period for all. It's a very tough time, particularly as we enter the holiday season with Thanksgiving just around the corner. We are fatigued by the rollercoaster of the virus and the impact it is having on our plans with family and friends. I urge you to take care of your health - mind, body and spirit - we have much hope on the horizon with the promising news of vaccines. And we have the love of our community to sustain us. Thank you for your flexibility as our circumstances continue to shift and for keeping our Community Pledge.
On Tuesday you were made aware that due to the rapid increase of COVID cases in our community and across the region, out of an abundance of caution, the College will be moving to a "modified" Alert Level Three after Thanksgiving. After the Thanksgiving break, fall classes will be virtual except for courses with hands-on skills required for accreditation and/or licensure. Campuses will remain open for office business while maintaining proper COVID precautions. Any questions about the academic model should be directed to Dr. Ryan Sandefer, VP of Academic Affairs.
With regard to travel over the Thanksgiving break, we are currently encouraging students to not travel home, but stay in their on-campus or off-campus residences. If students do choose to visit family or friends for Thanksgiving, we ask that they get tested before and after their travels. This week, we completed over 300 COVID saliva tests for our students through our partnership with the MDH.
On Wednesday evening, Governor Walz's announced a 4-week pause and new restrictions which has caused us to make additional changes to campus activities and facilities on the Duluth campuses during this four-week period:
We understand that these changes to the end of the semester and restricting social gatherings is not easy, but we thank everyone for working towards a healthier future by following these precautions. Updates will continue to be posted at css.edu/safereturn.
Thank you to everyone that is volunteering to support the Twin Ports Thanksgiving Day Buffet event through meal prep and food delivery - a big shout out to the volunteers and the Advancement Office team for their leadership role in planning and executing the annual event This year of course has been extra challenging! I had the honor to spend time delivering meals yesterday evening along with Sr. Kathleen Del Monte and was humbled by the gratitude shared by those receiving meals at their homes this year!
Updates from the Chief Diversity Officer
There is a lot happening in the EDI office and I wanted to share some information and updates with you regarding our progress specifically around our 2020-2021 priorities.
As you might remember, this past summer, an EDI Priorities Document was created to advance key strategies of the updated IE strategy plan for the 2020-2021 academic year. 19 priorities were identified to be accomplished over the course of this academic year which included several key priorities brought forward from our students.
To date, 12 of the 19 priorities are completed. The remaining seven are in some form of "in progress" status. For example, the search for a counselor who specializes in BIPOC students' needs remains in progress, and the search is still open. Another identified priority is to create a Diversity Dashboard and this work has not yet begun but will begin spring semester in collaboration with the Chief Operating Officer.
I would like to call attention to one key priority identified that is in its early stages which is the identification of and implementation of a campus climate assessment survey. In partnership with the Office of Institutional Research and the Chief Operating Officer, research is underway to identify a survey tool that might best meet our needs. The plan is to have a tool selected by late December/early January, administer the survey in early spring and have results shared by late Spring. The community will be kept up-to-date on our progress in this area as we want to be transparent in this process, ensuring we gain a high level of participation across campus so that moving forward the results can be disseminated and inform our work moving forward.
Finally, please use the EDI website to view the programming calendar, find resources (there is an awesome libguide there), request a workshop and more. Our updated IE Strategy Plan is there as well as our Priorities document. Please reach out to Dr. Amy Bergstrom with any ideas for collaboration or if you have questions.
Value of Community
What does it mean to "be community" during these very challenging times? How do we create and live out "community"? Check out The Benedictine Way on the COR homepage to see how Saints have found ways in and through everyday life activities to "be" community and live out social justice. What about you? How have you experienced "community" these challenging days? What examples have you seen? Contact Sister Kathleen at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your experiences of community.
In the news
This week two local news sources reported about St. Scholastica tutors providing support for K-12 students in the Duluth Public School District during this time of distance learning. Over 50 students have already signed up to serve as tutors.
View the article from WDIO
View the article from CBS3
Congratulations to Gary Boelhower and Sarah Brokke on the release of their children's book "A Common Thirst". Boelhower wrote the book focused on the common good in our divisive world during the climate crisis and Brokke beautifully illustrated the story. You can read more about this collaborative work from our colleagues in the Duluth News Tribune.
Lighting a Tradition
This past Wednesday our community came together virtually to view the lighting of Tower Hall. This event is always a favorite and festive night on campus and a huge thank you goes out to our Alumni Engagement and Facilities team for putting together a virtual event that helped kick off the holiday season. We've put together a video of highlights from the event. You can view Fox21's coverage here as well.
Thank you all for your ongoing commitment to our students and our Benedicine mission, you are an inspiration! Enjoy the weekend ahead, stay warm and safe.
Blessings to you all as we enter the holiday season!