Guest Opinion - Chad Dull: A Culture of Caring
Winona Daily News (also Red Wing Republican-Eagle), Nov 24, 2020
I know I have shared before about the culture of caring we believe in strongly at Minnesota State College Southeast. We even have a name for it, #MSCSoutheastCares. I talk about our culture every chance I get, but I know words don't mean much unless they lead to action. In other words, it's not enough to just describe a culture of care, you have to live it. This month I would like to share some stories that show how we live our #MSCSoutheastCares culture daily, and why we think it matters.
Just recently, a number of our faculty and staff got together to organize a day of health and wellness sessions for our students. This was not required -- it was a grassroots effort on their part. As a result of their energy and caring, we had a first-ever Health and Wellness Day on November 23, with sessions focused on nutrition, stress management, financial literacy, and a number of other topics to help our students succeed and even thrive in these trying times. Although the sessions were virtual, they are helping keep our students connected to their goals and dreams when so much else has been interrupted. Our culture of caring means we know our students are under stress and exhausted (aren't we all), and we want to keep supporting them in any way we can.
It is also amazing to see the college's Food Pantries in Red Wing and Winona grow. Even before the pandemic, survey data told us a number of our students were struggling with food insecurity. I am often in awe of how our students
face those challenges and come to college anyway. We have worked with local partners, our Student Senates, and our internal staff to enhance and enlarge our pantries in Red Wing and Winona. Funding from Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) grants is allowing us to add refrigeration and build additional shelving. A culture of caring means we know it is tough to learn if you are hungry or worried about feeding your family at home. If we can reduce that barrier we will, and our expanded food pantries area great step to doing just that.
I will leave you with a story from before the pandemic, but it's a story I tell often to illustrate how a college like ours, committed to our students, does what is needed. I was on campus one day and a new student came in to register. She had also brought her four young children along with her, and like most young children, they were not especially interested in allowing their mother to do what she needed to do. So, without hesitation, one of our staff found crayons, paper, and a space for those children to spend some time. Our staff member stayed with them, making sure they were OK and even getting Kleenex to wipe the nose of the youngest one, who appeared to be about two years old.
None of this appeared in anyone's job description, it was just what needed to be done that day to allow a young mother the chance to go to school and maybe change her life. It is a day I will never forget, but the person who took care of the kids barely noticed, because they believed they were just doing what they are supposed to do.
There are a million other examples, but that is a peek into what it looks like to be part of MSC Southeast. As we work our way through education in a pandemic, we cannot always be certain what each day will look like. However, you can be certain you will find people living #MSCSoutheastCares in a real way every day. The author Stephen Covey liked to remind us that "love is a verb." Our culture of caring is how we live up to just that expectation.
Chad Dull is vice president of Academic Affairs at Minnesota State College Southeast.