January 18, 2022
Jan. 14 Safe Return update
Spring semester begins next week and we know, based on what we are hearing from other institutions, that our campus will likely experience a rise in infections among our community members. During this week’s higher ed stakeholders call, state officials shared the sobering news that Minnesota’s positivity rates are at record highs and that many colleges/universities who have already begun their spring semester are experiencing significant clusters, including among those who are fully vaccinated.
Nevertheless, the College remains committed to resuming in-person, on-campus operations because we believe we can do so safely. As we prepare for a new semester, please be aware of the following:
- Masks continue to be required in all indoor spaces on the Duluth and St. Cloud campuses regardless of vaccination status. Recently, MDH revised their recommendation to wear a high-quality mask (N95 or KN95) whenever possible.
- If you cannot find that type of mask, wear a well-fitting mask with at least two layers of tightly-woven fabric (this is a great infographic that demonstrates different masks and their effectiveness). You can even consider doubling up with a disposable mask underneath a cloth one.
- You’ll note that just yesterday, Mayor Emily Larson signed a declaration of emergency implementing a city-wide indoor mask mandate effective at 5 p.m. today.
- New CDC guidance for quarantine and isolation was issued last week and MDH has just updated their guidance for institutions of higher education accordingly. As such, the College will move towards officially adopting this new guidance effective Friday, Jan. 21 to provide time to update our processes. Please be on the lookout for a communication next week.
- Boosters are a protection against serious illness. If you have not yet received your booster, we strongly recommend doing so as soon as possible. Boosters play a significant role in increasing protection for those who have received their vaccinations.
- Two week quiet period is in effect Jan. 18-31 (or until further notice) for Duluth Campus students. You can read Steve Lyons’ message to students and parents here.
- Finally, for our students and faculty, please consider getting tested with a PCR test before you return to campus. This guidance applies to those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated.
- Updated testing hours at the DECC can be found here and you can also order a free, at-home test through Vault
- If you have tested positive for COVID-19, have had a close contact exposure, or are experiencing symptoms, please self-report using this form: COVID-19 Positive, Symptoms, and Close Contact Report Form
- Also please be aware that the supply chain for COVID tests is being challenged in our region and across the state, and your PCR test results may take longer than usual.
Don’t forget, the COVID-19 Case and Vaccination Dashboard is updated weekly and can be accessed in my.CSS. The SaintsRiseUp Safe Return website is also updated on a regular basis to reflect the most current guidance. If you have specific employee-related questions regarding COVID, please contact your supervisor or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, as always, for your resilience and care.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday, Monday, Jan. 17
On Monday, Jan. 17, we honor and recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Although this is an official College holiday, I encourage you to seek out opportunities for reflection and recognition. The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion has put together an MLK Resource and Information Guide for your use. As you will note, the Duluth chapter of the NAACP has some excellent virtual opportunities. Even though MLK is a specific day, civil rights for all is an ongoing daily effort. Please take this opportunity to reflect, engage and lean into our Benedictine value of Love of Learning on this important, historic day.
Art Collection and Restoration Advisory Council
The College’s Art Collection and Restoration Initiative was co-developed by Art Program Director Sarah Brokke Erickson and Archivist and Librarian Heidi Johnson, with the intent focus on the stewardship of the visual art at the College. We are so fortunate to have many incredible works from our Monastery, Sisters, faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as beautiful gifts from our donors. Starting with Tower Hall and led by a charge from President McDonald, the Initiative is currently forming an Advisory Council, to help assess, restore, identify, and care for current works at the College, and paving the way for future acquisitions. Focusing on hospitality, education, and inclusion, the group will highlight existing artworks through shifting installations and the development of signage. This Initiative will focus on helping our walls to more clearly reflect our mission and community for future generations of Saints.
Minnesota State Grant advocacy continues
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of meeting with Speaker Melissa Hortman and members of the Minnesota Private College Council leadership team to discuss the State’s surplus budget. Our push is, and always has been, to increase the state grant program and urge our officials to make it a priority for the House’s higher education committee this session. Coupled with our federal efforts in DC to double the Pell grant, this could have a profound impact on our current and future Saints. This year, 32% of full-time undergraduate students received MN State Grants averaging $5,688. I will keep you updated with our progress on that front.
Executive Director for Human Resources update
I am pleased to announce that we have hired an Executive Director for Human Resources. Bryan Kuzel will begin working at the College on Feb. 21, 2022. Bryan brings with him ten years of HR experience with several of those in HR management. He has worked in faith-based settings and served on church councils and non-profit boards. Bryan currently works for the Mississippi Market Natural Foods Cooperative and has worked in higher education for the University of Minnesota Medical School — Surgery as an HR Business Partner and at the U of M — Institute for Global Studies as an Academic Advisor.
Brian has also lived overseas in France, Mexico, and Honduras and has a Master’s degree in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management. We look forward to welcoming Bryan to the Saints community next month!
In closing, I want to share some uplifting words that were shared with me earlier this week. Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in US history, has written a new poem called New Day’s Lyric that feels especially appropriate and timely to reflect upon before our new academic semester. It is attached as a word doc to this email and also linked as a YouTube clip here. “For wherever we come together, We will forever overcome.”
Stay well and blessings to you,