Thanksgiving Gratitude

November 24, 2021

Thanksgiving 2021 arrives in a time of deep social, economic and political concerns in America and globally.  The pandemic era remains relentless; we long to “return to normal” but ongoing virus surges keep us distanced, masked and worried about infection.  We mourn nearly 800,000 American lives lost to Covid-19 so far.  The economy is in a bad place with inflation driving up food and gas prices, supply chain woes causing shortages of everything including Christmas trees, and labor conditions making it difficult to fill vacancies in many industries.  Despite many positive political actions — passage of the infrastructure bill, progress on Build Back Better — the political environment remains turgid with too many extremist politicos dominating headlines.  In some states, governors and leading politicians mock the quest for racial justice, taking actions that repress academic freedom and the ability of teachers at all levels to teach the truth of American history.

With so much bad news, for what can we be thankful in this season that is all about gratitude?  At Trinity, we have so much for which we can be thankful, and these many blessings give us strength and resilience to meet the challenges of the world we engage each day.

So, let us give thanks for what makes our lives together at Trinity so fulfilling each day:

Thanks to everyone in the Trinity campus community for cooperating in our efforts to keep everyone safe and healthy.  We can take pride in knowing that we have had NO cases of Covid-19 transmission on campus, and 97% of the campus community have complied with our vaccine mandate.  I am so grateful to you for being part of this life-giving public health effort!

We give thanks for the gifts of so many remarkable students in our lives, women and men who know so much about life’s challenges and yet you bring so much ambition and vision to your quest for higher learning.  We know something of your  struggles — certainly not all — and many days are very hard.  But in the end, you, our students are the real meaning of our mission, the whole purpose of our lives at Trinity.  Thank you!

I give thanks each day for the dedication and talent of our faculty and staff, each one contributing so much to the success of our students.  I am so grateful that you chose Trinity for your life’s work when you have many other options — this work is often hard and complicated, but in the end, you are making a great difference for our students.  Thank you!

Some of the remarkable academic and programmatic achievements of our students and faculty this year include:

  • Thanks to the hard work of Dr. Denise Pope and the Nursing faculty, NCLEX first-time pass rate scores of our Nursing graduates continue to be very high, with a 100% first-time pass rate for our May graduates;
  • Thanks to the leadership of Dean Sita Ramamurti and Ms. Hope Witherspoon, Trinity launched the Early College Academy this fall with students from Coolidge High School, and we have also expanded dual enrollment programs with other schools;
  • Thanks to the fine work of Dr. Allen Pietrobon of Global Affairs, 16 Trinity students are completing the second round of fellowships with CSIS, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an important Washington organization focused on foreign policy and diplomacy;
  • We launched the Trinity DARE initiative in 2020 to promote action for racial equity in many ways, including examining Trinity’s own history and practices around race and racism; Thanks to Dr. Kimberly Monroe for leading the Trinity History Project and Dr. Joshua Wright for undertaking HerStory, an oral history initiative in which students interview alumnae that will contribute invaluable material for the Trinity History Project;
  • With support from Kaiser Permanente, Dr. Cynthia Greer, Dr. Lu Oprea, Dr. Diane Reese and Dr. Denise Boston of the Counseling Program have launched the Kaiser Permanente Practitioner Scholars Program helping to develop expertise in trauma-informed counseling for practitioners in Wards 7 and 8;
  • Trinity joined the Capital CoLab of the Greater Washington Partnership and created the Digital Analytics program which gives students an opportunity to earn a digital badge supporting career advancement in many fields;
  • Trinity joined a partnership with American University and Martha’s Table to expand Early Childhood Education programs in Wards 7 and 8, moving forward with the leadership of Associate Dean Jennifer Hauver and Early Childhood Program Director Michael Rowe;
  • Working with the D.C. Department of Employment Services, Dr. Nicole Betschman of Health Services created the Community Health Worker certificate and associate degree programs for health workers in Wards 7 and 8; thanks to Trinity’s Program Director at THEARC Cristina Lynch for supporting these and so many other Trinity initiatives at that important site;
  • With the excellence guidance of our science faculty, Trinity STEM students continue to excel in undergraduate research, including six students who recently presented at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students; with the great mentorship of Dr. Kaitlin Wellens and Dr. Anette Casiano-Negroni, Senior Biochemistry Major Zulma Reyes-Benitez ’22 and Junior Biology Major Esmeralda Segundo-Martinez ’23 won awards for their presentations at the conference; and earlier this year, students who participated in the DC NASA Space Grant program received recognition for their excellent research projects as well, with Senior Barachel Butler ’22 winning first place for her research, “Annotation and Homology Modeling of the Multidrug Transport Protein P-glycoprotein (ABCB1) of Equus caballus;”
  • Trinity has also joined the inaugural cohort of universities participating in the FamilyU project of Generation Hope, with a team from Trinity working on strategies to improve support for students who are also parents; Trinity is grateful to our Trustee Nicole Lynn Lewis for partnering with Trinity on FamilyU and providing so much support for our Generation Hope scholars!
  • Thanks to Dr. Jamal Watson who leads the Strategic Communication and Public Relations Program, Trinity has welcomed a number of great speakers including, most recently, renowned Philosopher Dr. Cornel West and PBS White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor;

We have simply incredible benefactors and friends whose generosity makes it possible for us to sustain Trinity.  In the last two years, we have received nearly $25 million in charitable gifts toward our goal of $50 million in the Renaissance Campaign for Trinity’s 125th Anniversary.  These gifts support scholarships, emergency grants, academic programs, faculty development, facilities needs and endowment growth.  Thanks to generous gifts, Trinity’s endowment has grown from $19 million to $33 million in the last year, which provides the kind of strong financial foundation we must have to move forward with many projects.  Some examples of the outstanding gifts that Trinity has received recently include:

  • Our great alumna and benefactor Joan Payden ’53 made a large contribution to improve Trinity’s endowment and strengthen our financial foundation;
  • Bill and Joanne Conway, through their Bedford Falls Foundation, contributed $1 million outright to support Nursing through the pandemic, and pledged an additional $10 million over five years to support Nursing scholarships;
  • Several anonymous donors made gifts of $1 million each to support scholarships;  other donors made large gifts to support emergency funds for students;
  • The Class of 1971 has contributed nearly $500,000 in honor of their 50th Reunion to support Environmental Studies, scholarships and other needs;
  • The Class of 1970 raised nearly $250,000 for their 50th Reunion to support Nursing students;
  • The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have made several generous gifts to Trinity for scholarships and book grants;
  • A $500,000 gift from the estate of Mary Field Goubeau ’27 made it possible for us to install air conditioning at long last in Notre Dame Chapel!

Here’s a special message of thanks to our alums and benefactors who have contributed so much:

Many other donors are making similarly important gifts to support Trinity students.  We are so grateful for all of our benefactors who have responded so generously to the need for more scholarships and grants.

I am also deeply grateful for the tremendous generosity of time and talent that the members of Trinity’s Board of Trustees provide continuously.  Few know how many hours and how much expertise our trustees contribute — but I do!  THANK YOU to our trustees for your constant leadership for Trinity.

In 2022, we are launching the second phase of the Renaissance Campaign, this time to reach a $30 million goal for the renovation of Alumnae Hall.  I am so grateful that an anonymous donor has pledged $1 million to help kick-off this phase of our campaign.  We are re-imagining Alumnae Hall as a dynamic campus center where all students, faculty and staff can gather each day for good food, camaraderie, casual meetings and study in new and renovated dining halls and lounges, with refreshed student residences upstairs.

Trinity is also fortunate to have many corporate, foundation and governmental sources of support for our students and academic programs.  Just some of the amazing support we have received recently includes:

  • A $200,000 grant from the Evelyn Y. Davis Foundation will support development of a Digital Media Lab for our Journalism and Media Studies Program;
  • Grants from Kaiser Permanente are supporting the development of the trauma-informed professional development program for counselors in Wards 7 & 8;
  • A renewal of the grant we have received previously through the Predominantly Black Institutions Program of the U.S. Department of Education will provide $1 million over the next five years to support faculty development in Nursing and the sciences, replenishment of our science and Nursing instrumentation, development of an academic program in Information Technology, as well as creation of the Center for Student Success.

Trinity has also been fortunate to receive a great deal of funding from the federal government as part of the Covid-19 emergency response.  As of November 2020, Trinity has distributed nearly $7.5 million to students in the form of emergency grants and balance paydowns.  The balance paydown program has received much media attention including on the PBS NewsHour with Yamiche Alcindor.  Thanks to Vice President Ann Pauley for excellent work on all of the media relations for this and other Trinity initiatives.

Finally, Trinity is also so grateful to the thousands of alumnae and alumni whose lives and work are such a wonderful testament to the value and purpose of a Trinity education.  Many thanks to the Alumnae/i Association Board of Directors whose leadership is vital to sustaining a healthy association for all of our graduates.Please visit our Alumnae and Alumni Profiles page on the website to learn more about the amazing graduates of Trinity!

To all students, colleagues, alums, trustees, benefactors and friends who make our lives in and through Trinity so meaningful, THANK YOU!  May Trinity’s many blessings be with you at Thanksgiving, and always.

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On Scandal and Schism

November 8, 2021

Growing up in a very conservative Catholic household, I heard many warnings about not causing “scandal” but I never thought much about the concept until a bishop accused me of doing just that.  About two decades ago, the incident involved an award for a prominent alumna in public life. A photograph of the alumna and mention of the award appeared in our TRINITY magazine, which prompted a scolding letter from the local bishop, a cardinal, accusing me of creating scandal because the alumna, a politician, is pro-choice, contrary to Catholic teachings.  Nothing about the award or the photograph suggested that Trinity or I were supporting abortion or flagrant disrespect for the Church.  This women’s college was recognizing women’s leadership.  No matter. In the words of the bishop, I was guilty of… Scandal!

The cardinal in question was McCarrick, no longer a cardinal nor priest.  Defrocked due to sexual abuse allegations.  The response of the hierarchy to the massive scandal of priests committing sexual crimes remains inadequate.

Can we talk about real “scandal” in the Church?

I was thinking of this incident recently when I read a speech that Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles gave on November 4, 2021 to the Congress on Catholics and Public Life in Spain.  His Excellency Archbishop Gomez is also the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops which will meet next week to discuss, among other things, whether Catholic politicians who are pro choice can receive Holy Communion, something that some bishops call a scandal.

In his speech, Archbishop Gomez decried “new social justice movements” as “pseudo-religions” perpetrated by, among others, “an elite leadership class” in universities.  Commentators have subsequently made it clear that he was referring to Black Lives Matter, among other movements.   Archbishop Gomez said, “Whatever we call these movements — “social justice,” “wokeness,” “identity politics,” “intersectionality,” “successor ideology” — they claim to offer what religion provides.”  He then ridicules “the ‘woke’story” of human suffering and oppression as somehow anti-Christian and wholly secular.   He went on, “Today’s critical theories and ideologies are profoundly atheistic. They deny the soul, the spiritual, transcendent dimension of human nature; or they think that it is irrelevant to human happiness. They reduce what it means to be human to essentially physical qualities — the color of our skin, our sex, our notions of gender, our ethnic background, or our position in society…these movements resemble some of the heresies that we find in Church history.”

Can we talk about “scandal” in the Church?

Rather than going after faithful lay Catholics whose political views differ from their own, the bishops need to examine their own scandalous entwinement with political groups that mock Church teachings on social justice and profess outright contempt for Pope Francis.

It is a profound scandal for one of the leading Catholic bishops to call advocating for racial justice a heresy, to engage in gaslighting about the concept of social justice which is central to Catholic teachings and has been since the late 19th Century when Pope Leo XIII wrote Rerum Novarum.  There is nothing “new” about social justice, nor is there anything “atheistic” about what has been a core set of beliefs for Catholics across generations.  There is nothing — absolutely NOTHING! — that is anti-Christian about confronting racial hatred and white supremacy, about protesting police violence and the killings of Black people by law enforcement officers, about proclaiming the inherent rights and dignity of persons of color to be free from political oppression and social degradation.  In fact, to do so is profoundly Christian.

Social justice starts with the bedrock teaching on the dignity and worth of human life — the whole basis for the Church’s teachings against abortion, the death penalty, and other major life-centered dogmas including (ahem, Archbishop Gomez) racism — and proceed through the tenets of solidarity, the option for the poor, the rights of workers, care for family and the community, the exercise of responsibility to participate in public life, and care for God’s creation.  How “woke” is that?  You can look it all up right there on the USCCB website!  Social justice IS what we do as Catholics!  But you wouldn’t know that from reading the Archbishop’s screed against it.

Perhaps most disturbing in his historically agnostic address, Archbishop Gomez cites the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd as the basis for the rise of “pseudo-religions” that are antithetical to Christian beliefs.  “The new social movements and ideologies that we are talking about today, were being seeded and prepared for many years in our universities and cultural institutions. But with the tension and fear caused by the pandemic and social isolation, and with the killing of an unarmed black man by a white policeman and the protests that followed in our cities, these movements were fully unleashed in our society.” 

Shame on the archbishop for using George Floyd’s murder as a pretext for political grandstanding in the guise of Catholic teaching! Shame on him for dismissing concerns about racial hatred, white supremacy, and the actual and profound harm done to human life through the ongoing consequences of racial brutality and political oppression!  Shame on him for speaking contemptuously of the work of universities devoted to promoting the ideals of social justice — universities like Trinity that work in solidarity with those who are marginalized, who have suffered immense poverty and discrimination and yet are able to find hope and pathways to greater economic security and lifelong fulfillment with a great education, one that was first conceived and shaped by the selfless labor of great Catholic religious women like our Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur here at Trinity, and religious orders like the Jesuits and others.

In response to the murder of George Floyd and the righteous protests that followed, here at Trinity we created Trinity DARE: Driving Actions for Racial Equity to promote racial justice for our students, the majority of whom are African American, with substantial representation of Hispanic, Asian and students from immigrant backgrounds.  We certainly did not do this as some kind of (in the words of Archbishop Gomez) Marxist or pseudo-religious or atheistic impulse.  Rather, as with all that we do at Trinity, we pursue racial justice as an expression of our mission in Catholic social justice.

Not a word of acknowledgement or gratitude in the speech of Archbishop Gomez for all those who do the hard work of the Church every day, lay women and men whose devotion to mission is breathtaking, the workers in what Pope Francis once called the “field hospital” of our faith.

The archbishop’s statement seems wholly divorced from the reality of Catholic teachings on social justice as well as the plain fact that the most important social justice movement of our lifetime — the civil rights movement, the quest to atone for the ongoing consequences of slavery and search for racial equity — arose from, was led by, and is fueled by the passion of people of faith and Christian beliefs, and generations of ministers including, most famously, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Reading the bishop’s speech, I felt that he had never actually talked with or had any experience with members of the Black community who are profoundly Christian and unabashedly religious in their expression — more so than most white Catholics of my acquaintance.

Commenting on the bishop’s speech in National Catholic Reporter, Fr. Bryan Massingale noted, “…he blanketly characterizes social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter as pseudo-religions based on profoundly atheistic ideologies that are hostile to Catholic belief…On the contrary, most Black Catholics I know advocate Black Lives Matter precisely because of our belief in the universal human dignity of all people as images of God,” Massingale added. “We declare that Black Lives Matter precisely because of our allegiance to what the archbishop calls the Christian story.”

Can we talk about the real “scandal” in the Church?

Next week the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops, of which Archbishop Gomez is president, will be meeting in Baltimore to discuss, among other things, a document that arose from the desire of some bishops to prohibit pro-choice politicians from receiving Holy Communion. Joe Biden is only the second Catholic president in all of American history, and yet a significant group of bishops are hell-bent on making him a pariah in our Church.  Why? Because he is pro-choice, which seems to be the single greatest “scandal” in the lexicon of some bishops.  Dimissive of social justice, unconcerned about the deeply corrosive effects of racial hatred, ignoring their responsibilities as pastoral leaders, some bishops would seem to be happier if the Church were much smaller.  They may get their wish.  If bishops like Gomez keep it up, the defections among the faithful will increase, not in any dramatic walkout, but in the slow and steady erosion of confidence in the leadership of the Catholic Church in America.

The real scandal that is brewing is a potential fracturing of the Church in the United States — some say it has already occurred — leading to a formal recognition of schism. If the bishops care anything about the health of the Catholic Church in America, they should reconsider their strategies.  The vast body of the faithful are looking for pastoral leadership, affirmation of the good work that we are doing, and even if our views depart at times from what the bishops may wish (sometimes for good reason, if they would only listen), at least some care and concern for how disagreement occurs among people who are all walking together on the same journey across very treacherous terrain.  Bishops should be looking for ways to hold the faithful together, not using wedges to drive us farther apart.

Pope Francis has made it eminently clear that he wants the American bishops to stand down from their confrontation with President Biden and other Catholic politicians whose secular political positions are at odds with Catholic teachings on abortion.  Teach and preach, yes, that’s what bishops should do; but public condemnation of individuals?  No.  Public confrontation at the communion rail over political issues is desecration of the sacrament and at odds with the pastoral responsibilities of the clergy.

Let those pastoral responsibilities start with a commitment to backing away from culture wars and dismissive rhetoric about the importance of social justice movements.  Let the bishops stand up to racial hatred and injustice as a matter of our faith teaching about the dignity and worth of all human life.  Let the bishops commit themselves to spending more time side-by-side with those who are laboring mightily in the field hospital, and less time in places like the Napa Institute cavorting with those who are responsible for driving people to the margins.

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OCTOBER COMMUNITY SURVEY – CAMPUS HEALTH

October 31, 2021

We conducted the October Community Survey with a focus on campus Health Services and questions about personal health.  The results are eye-opening and will prompt a number of changes in our services.  I am very grateful to MSN Student Allison Martin, RN, who has also recently joined the Health Services team, for suggesting the survey and providing questions.  Thanks as well to Professor Erika Ross and her students in SNHP 330 for providing questions, and to MPH/Health Services Program Director Dr. Nicole Betschman and NHP Dean Dr. Brigid Noonan.  This survey provides baseline data for additional research as well as action to improve everyone’s health on campus.

The “word cloud” above depicts the results of the final question for everyone on campus — the question asked each respondent to write-in what she or he might do to improve their health.  The #1 response was “exercise” followed closely by better nutrition, losing weight and reducing stress.  The question followed a prior question asking respondents to assess their health status on a 1-10 scale. Overall, the assessment is “good” to “improving” but there’s a lot of room for improvement.  More on this below.

242 members of the campus community completed the survey, arrayed by cohort group as follows:

The opening question repeated a question that we’ve been using in surveys since the start of the pandemic:  how’s it going?  The point of this question is to take a general temperature of the community and the respective groups.  Comparing results across the months is very interesting.  On the below chart, we compare September and October responses for this semester:

What we can see here is that for faculty and staff, the semester is actually improving as a general rule.  However, for students, the “worse than expected” answer increased from 16% to 19%. The comments on this question raised a number of important issues that we will be addressing in the days ahead.  The concerns include:

a) Workload overload: a lot of comments not only by students but also by staff regarding too much work and feeling stressed out.  We are asking faculty and deans to talk about this regarding coursework; we’ll be talking with supervisors and HR about the best ways to reduce staff stress over workload.

b) Online courses v. in-person courses:  we are seeing comments both ways, with some students wanting more in-person courses and others asking for more online.  CAS and NHP students are largely in-person for Fall 2021, but we have heard concern about wanting some online options.  Provost Ocampo has worked with the deans to provide some options for students who are unable to attend in-person, but we cannot promise a return to fully online course work in these programs.

c) Mental Health support: a lot of comments cite stress, concerns about Covid, and general worry about personal health and mental health.  We are looking at ways to provide increased counseling support for students as well as faculty and staff, and I hope to have more on this next week.

Some of the more notable comments on this question are:

SPS student: “It’s been pretty rough. Financially and mentally it’s been draining. The Scholarship that I’d previously received wasn’t offered, so now I have a balance that I was trying to avoid on my account. Also, I work at a school, and it’s been challenging to navigate all of the changes due to Covid-19.”

CAS student:I am doing most of the stuff I planned to do and I still need to work harder to achieve better in some of my classes. However, commuting as a public transportation user is challenging on top of carrying a good portion of responsibility in my family.”

A CAS faculty member observes:Students struggle to focus and stay on task more than usual. I find I am having to review material much more often than in the past and have had to drop sections and sometimes entire chapters because I have run out of time to discuss them. I have not had to do this in past semesters. Students are trying to listen and ask questions, but it’s like things are just not sinking in and sticking the way they have before. It is very different.”

A graduate student in NHP writes:  “What I find unreasonable is the amount of course work expected by some professors. In order to get the highest amount of graduate students to complete the course and obtain a masters degree some flexibility must be expected of professors. Overall the institution has a caring nature and continuously teaches self-care as a model of professional growth, but the amount of course work to be turned in contradicts the model when some students are experiencing high levels of anxiety and can not do self-care as many juggle work, family and school. More flexibility is needed from professors.”

A staff member: I feel overwhelmed. I feel that there is so much more work to do and I do not think I am doing a good job keeping up. I feel tired all the time.”

NHP graduate student:  “As a student, I am concerned about my fellow classmates who may find it difficult to attend face-to-face classes in the Spring semester for various reasons. They include: 1. childcare concerns; 2. having to transfer to another school because they are unable to come on campus;(Some relocated outside of the DMV during the pandemic to save on rent and other expenses) 3. Vaccine related concerns. (Even if vaccinated, some persons are afraid to attend face-to-face classes because their children are unable to be vaccinated and they fear taking home COVID to them).”

Not all of the responses are concerning; some are actually very positive:

CAS student: “This is my first semester at TWU; I transferred here from Georgia State University. So far, I’ve had an incredible experience at Trinity. All of my professors are very helpful. I feel a genuine desire from all of my professors to see me succeed in school and after I graduate. My advisor has been very diligent about keeping me up to date with registration dates and took the time to set up my classes. Coming from a bigger institution, I feel valued and seen on this campus.”

SPS student at THEARC:  “So far for the fall semester I have to great teachers, who give precise instructions and listens. I’m very happy with my classmates as well we communicate and piggyback off one another. ”

Another SPS student:  “Due to me working full time, a full time mother, taking 3 to 4 classes and occasionally picking up side work on the weekends not to mention the safety precautions I have to take due to COVID. I am thankful that classes are given to the working adults online. I actually do better online than in person. I feel this should remain an option for SPS evening students who work during the day and have children. Its more beneficial.”

CAS student: “I’m so happy to be back on campus and learning in person, I feel like it’s definitely helped my learning experience compared to last semester or previous virtual semesters.”

CAS student: “I feel better being back on campus. When the pandemic hit, I was not doing well in my classes. Now that we are back on campus, I have improved and I am able to focus more in class. I learn so much better in person and I am happy to be back.”

As noted above in analyzing the results for Question 3 on “how’s it going” the campus community has raised concerns about support for mental health and stress reduction.  Question 4, summarized above, asked about important services and the results are also illuminating.  73% of students and 68% of faculty and staff cited Mental Health services among their top 4 priorities.

For students, no surprises here, the very top priorities are financial aid, emergency grants, and the convenience of online advising.

For personnel, flextime is very important — and while we know that everyone wants convenient parking, we simply are unable to provide parking next to the building where every staff member works.  We have instituted the campus shuttle loop to help those who do not wish to walk from the parking lots.

The comments on this question included a number of good suggestions including improving food service options, returning the Deli to some service hours, making dorm rooms available for commuters who need to stay overnight from time to time, expanding online services, providing longer shuttle hours at night, and once again, addressing the requests for more online course options.

Some of the comments expressed continuing concern about Covid safety on campus.  We have had 25 reported cases since August within the Trinity community, but only two of those involved campus residents, and none of the cases involved transmission on campus.  We have a very safe campus with a high vaccination rate and strong policies and practices for masking, hand washing, hygiene, testing.  I provide all of the data in weekly messages to the campus community.

Questions Regarding Health Services

Questions 4 through 10 of the survey concerned Health Services and the personal health assessment.  We are evaluating the answers very carefully as part of a plan to improve and expand Health Services in the new year.  We appreciate everyone’s input.

Right now, fewer than 15% of the college community use health services according to this survey, a surprisingly low participation rate.  35% of the campus community has no idea where the Health Services center is located (4th Floor of Main Hall on the O’Connor wing overlooking the Well).  Even among CAS students for whom health insurance is mandatory, only about 30% use Health Services on a routine basis.  Students, faculty and staff who use Health Services do it largely to get flu shots, Covid tests, Counseling services, and some routine examinations or assistance when feeling ill.

Of those who have used Health Services, 44% rated the experience excellent, and 41% said it was satisfactory.  Concerns expressed include the difficulty in making appointments, concerns about responsiveness, and overall lack of awareness of the services available.

Some of the respondents offered praise for the staff in Health Services, such as:

CAS student: “The new nurse is incredible.”

SPS student: “The counselor made me feel comfortable…”

CAS faculty: “Annie C is amazing.”

NHP student: “Anne Cosimano is a fantastic counselor and I’d recommend her to anyone.”

Perhaps the survey’s most important question concerned what improvements we should make in Health Services.  Online appointments emerge as the #1 request, followed closely by flu shots, extended hours, and other topics.  While I do not have all the answers right this minute as I write this blog, here are some important notes:

a) Online appointments:  Health Services is installing a new Electronic Health Record system this semester, and it should be ready very soon.  With the EHR system, you should be able to make online appointments!  Hooray for that.  the online system will also make it possible to address another topic of the survey, namely, having Covid-19 vaccine on site.  D.C. Department of Health requires the online EHR in order to certify a clinic for Covid-19 vaccine distribution.  If all goes well, we should have the vaccines here in time for the second semester, if not earlier.  We also have procured the refrigeration units required to store the vaccine.  The EHR system should also modernize billing and insurance interface, which should then make it possible for Trinity to consider new ways of delivering health services to a broader swatch of the campus population.  Progress is on the way!

b) Flu shots:  by now I hope you have seen that the Health Center now has flu shots and is offering the flu clinics on a schedule posted on the Health Services website.

c) Extended hours and Telehealth services:  we will be assessing the staff capacity needed for extended hours and telehealth services; both are great ideas, and with some creative thinking we should be able to provide more options in 2022.

All of the other suggestions above are excellent, and we will take them into account as we develop plans for the future of health services.  One of my goals is to create a plan through which Campus Health Services moves away from the outmoded model of serving mostly full-time undergraduates (or mostly residents), and instead, becomes a real health clinic serving the entire campus community.  To do that, we have to understand the impact on staffing, space and resources.  But with Healthcare now the leading arena for Trinity’s academic programs, our on-campus health services should be a stellar model for the kind of healthcare profession we are preparing our students to engage for their careers.  In fact, with many clinical partners already for our academic programs, a great faculty and very successful graduates, I am confident that we can make Campus Health Services a true model program for the future of healthcare for our campus community.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in shaping and answering the survey.  Now, let’s get walking, swimming, exercising, and fulfilling all of those resolutions we identified in the answer to Question 10!  As a reminder:

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Remembering Sr. Dorothy Beach, SND, Class of 1943 and Head Librarian

October 17, 2021

Sister Dorothy Beach, SND, Class of 1943, Trinity Head Librarian 1972 to 1985

(photo courtesy of the Sisters of Notre Dame)

The loss of many great SNDs across the last year has been a cause of great sorrow for the sisters and also for Trinity, and this month we mourn once again — but also with a sense of joy and gratitude for the 100 years of life that Sr. Dorothy Beach, SND, shared so generously with Trinity and her community.  When she died on October 12 at Mount Notre Dame in Cincinnati, Dorothy had just recently celebrated her 75th Anniversary as a Sister of Notre Dame.  Across the long span of her remarkable life, Dorothy responded to the challenges and opportunities of each historic era, and she left every institution so much the better for her stewardship.

Dorothy Beach arrived at Trinity as a freshman in 1939, with the Class of 1943.  The world was heading into another dangerous and awful war, but in 1939 the new students of Trinity were consumed with learning the ropes of class days and well sings and Trinity traditions.  But as the war years unfolded and the United States joined the allies in Europe while also waging war against Japan in the Pacific, the women of Trinity stepped up their participation in the war effort in numerous ways.  The Class History of 1943, recorded on the pages of that year’s Trinilogue of which Dorothy Beach was the editor-in-chief, recounted the activities of Trinity students doing small chores for quarters to raise money for Defense Bonds, or going to perpetual adoration in the Chapel to pray for peace, and numerous other small and large efforts to respond to the national emergency.  The yearbook also recounted the many fun, frivolous and joyful times, and the editor wrote in her Foreward that this tome was not ignoring the world crisis, but a statement of the values that transcended the historic moment and its tragedies:  “…intangible, spiritual values which cannot be studied under a microscope, perhaps, nor expressed in terms of mathematical formulae, but which must be in very truth the aim of all the striving in this world at war if a permanent peace is to be found.  And so we have emphasized on these pages the abiding things which Trinity has given to us to make life beautiful — spiritual knowledge, intellectual aspiration, a sense of justice, and an appreciation of the friendships by which our daily living has been enriched.  Defense interests have played their prominent part in our activities of this past year, and through them we have learned the lessons of selflessness.  It is our aim to carry with us into the larger field of service that we are about to enter the spirit of love, generosity, and justice which alone will give value to our work for others.”  (1943 Trinilogue, Foreward)

Dorothy Beach put her words into action by choosing military life immediately following graduation.   Along with nine other members of her class, she joined the WAVES, the women’s branch of the Naval Reserve in those days.

After the war and her services in the Navy, Dorothy Beach decided to pursue the calling she had felt ever since her college days — she entered the Sisters of Notre Dame.  Her professional experience served her well as she immediately began teaching and preparing for her future work in libraries.  After serving in several SND high schools, she came to Trinity in 1950 to work as one of the librarians.

Sr. Dorothy Beach worked alongside the great Trinity Librarian Sr. Helen Sheehan, SND, Class of 1919, for whom the library is named.  When Sr. Helen retired, Sr. Dorothy became Trinity’s head Librarian and held that position until the early 1980’s.

Sr. Dorothy and Sr. Helen were responsible for building the then-new Trinity Library in 1963; prior to that time, the library was housed in the south end of Main Hall where Admissions is today.  Moving the books from Main Hall to the new library was one of the legendary feats of that era, recounted often by alumnae who were part of the human chain moving books in 1963.

I remember Sr. Dorothy when I was a student in the early 1970’s.  She was always a kind, learned presence in the library, ready and able to answer just about any question, to find any book, or to secure help from other libraries.  “Back in the day” we did not have computers — we actually went to the physical library, took books off the shelves, or spun through the rolls of microfiche on the large machine in the basement.  I remember spending many days in the basement periodical room where a sleepy student could also have a very good nap in the carrels buried deep in the room.  (I never got locked in there, but came close a few times!)

When her years of service as Trinity’s librarian were over, Sr. Dorothy went to Rome where she was a librarian at the North American College.  Upon returning to the United States in the early 1990’s, she was the archivist for the Maryland Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame.  She returned to Trinity to live with the SND community here, and was always an interesting and lively commentator on the day’s news.

Sr. Dorothy moved to Mount Notre Dame in Cincinnati in 2010, and she continued her ministry in learning and knowledge throughout her days there.

We remember her fondly, and with gratitude for being such a vital part of Trinity’s life through the latter half of the 20th Century.  When we use Trinity’s library today, let’s offer a prayer of thanks for the wonderful work of Sr. Dorothy Beach who contributed so much to our modern information resources.

Beside and below are photos of Sr. Dorothy as I remember her, smiling and always reading — and in the photo below, with Sr. Ann Julia of the Classics Department who was one of my favorite teachers in my freshman year — we read Ovid together in her office (I was the only Latin student that year).

We remember them with gratitude for laying the foundation for our intellectual lives well beyond our student days.

 

 

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September 2021 Community Survey Results

September 28, 2021

We conducted a survey at the end of the first month of return-to-campus in September 2021.  Thanks to 272 members of the Trinity community who responded!  Your input is extremely valuable.  The breakdown of the participation is in the graphic above.

We will discuss the results of this survey and also the parking/transportation survey on Thursday, September 30 at 4 pm on zoom as we resume “Campus Conversations” — please join us then!  The zoom link has gone out on email.

Q2: How is the fall semester going?

Our first question asked respondents to tell us about how the Fall 2021 semester is going in general:  Is the Fall 2021 semester going the same, better or worse than expected?  Here are the results broken out by students, faculty and staff:

For most respondents, the semester seems to be going well.  But students had more concerns than the faculty and staff.  Some of the comments that accompanied the question are revealing:

Some CAS student comments:

“I am really enjoying my classes and having on-campus experience. It’s good to be able to see new faces. I feel safe in the environment that I am in.”

“I was excited about finally being in person but I think not being used to being in school for almost 2 years has made it exhausting. Virtual allowed me to be more prepared and better at knowing the content. My inperson classes are very quiet and more lecture and it’s a bit
draining.”

“It’s overwhelming, I think since we’re in person people are forgetting we’re in a pandemic. Professors are giving more work than usual and half of the students that attend Trinity are working to take care of themselves or family. Now I feel like mentally and physically I’m drained.”

“Professors are giving too much work.”

Some comments from graduate students in NHP:

“The pace of study and assignments are on par with what I expected. I am thoroughly enjoying the course content and interactions with professors. The overall organization of Moodle is at times confusing. Ocassionally, due dates and assignment postings on Moodle are incongruent with teacher’s syllabus. This causes some excess stress and confusion and detracts from study time.”

“Although I have been given resources to help me. I don’t feel supported in my work. I am only given negative feedback from one of my professors, which does not motivate me to want to move forward, but to quit. It seems that if it’s this hard out the gate, then I won’t be able to
finish.”

“I feel like professors are putting forth their best effort and still attempting to show grace when necessary.”

Some comments from students in PGS (SPS, BGS, EDU):

“I really enjoy my professors and their ability to connect with us. They make learning fun and give us space to speak our minds and truths!”

“I was intimidated by taking Business Law and Statistics at the same time, but each class is going well so far and I am excited about all I am learning!”

“When I saw that Moodle was going to be used, I was worried. However, the work submission process is going well. As well, being online is not as exhausting as I thought it would be. We are still able to have discussions and the class seems a bit more interactive. There is also a
great convenience to being online, the greatest being that after wearing a mask for nine hours at work, we don’t have to wear one for 4 more hours on a Friday night. My professors are doing a great job of communicating so I really have nothing bad to say!”

Some comments from faculty:

“All of the students in my classes seem engaged and happy to be back in person, although I am hearing a bit about traffic issues and workload.”

“It has been adjustment for students and for faculty to adjust to in person learning . Yet students are prepared, bringing computers to classroom to access their online work, seem more organized & very familiar with meeting deadlines on Moodle. Students report being
exhausted from adjusting to commuting.”

“Out of all the semesters I have taught at Trinity I feel the least prepared for this one. For every plan I have to have backup plans for when students or myself are out sick, out taking care of sick family members, having doctor appointments, or waiting for Covid test results. I am very happy to be back in person, and would rather be in person than online, but this semester is much more work than a typical in-person semester.”

Some staff comments:

“The return to fully in person instruction has been overwhelming. I do not know if I forgot what the pace of work prior to the pandemic was like or if it truly is more intense. I am glad that students are engaged and eager to learn but I feel a strain trying to keep pace with students’
needs and requests.

I know that the school has taken precautions concerning covid safety and making sure the correct information about anything related to covid was and is available to all the Trinity community. I also saw how hard my colleagues work in ensuring that the students had a
prompt response to their questions and concerns. I expected the start of fall’21 to be a good start and I believe that we will continue to have a good semester. Of course, there will always be issues to fix but that is common for all semesters.

Q3:  Tell Us A Few Things About Yourself

We know that the pandemic has been an immensely stressful time for everyone.  The results of this survey tell us that students need more support for mental health and physical health than ever before.  We are working to expand Campus Health Services supports and will be communicating more about that in the days ahead.

We also know, and see in the survey results, that students, faculty and staff are all caring for family members to a great extent — not only children, but siblings, elder or sick parents, grandparents, other relatives.  Family care is a major source of stress and also financial concern.

Financial concerns are huge issues for Trinity students, confirmed in the survey results.  42% of CAS students have worries about basic needs like food, books, transportation, other essentials.  Other student populations have similar needs.

Trinity supports students with financial concerns in a number of ways:

  • Through the federal CARES Act/ARP program, we have distributed more than $4 million in direct emergency grants to students, and an additional $2.3 million in balance paydowns.  We continue to make these grants to students this year, but the funds will expire at the end of the academic year.  What this program has illustrated clearly is the need for additional federal financial aid for our students!  Congress needs to stop playing partisan games and get moving on Doubling Pell and taking other actions that will help college students to stay in school and succeed academically!  More on this later in October.
  • Thanks to some exceptionally generous private benefactors, Trinity also has private emergency funds to help students with extraordinary needs.  Each year Trinity awards more than $100,000 in emergency grants from these funds.
  • Trinity also maintains a food pantry and other emergency help like Metro cards and references to external services for family issues, legal issues and domestic violence concerns.

Dr. Karen Gerlach, Vice President for Student Affairs, administers the emergency grant programs, and Dean Michele Bowie administers the food pantry and other support services.  More information is available on the website about how to access these emergency services.

Q4: Evaluation of Services

We asked you to rate campus services based on your experience during the first month of school.  The above ratings reflect all 278 respondents, we have detailed data by cohort group (students, faculty, staff, etc.) but for this report the aggregate data seems useful.

The good news is that, in general, classes are going well!!

The other good news — depending on your perspective — is that the biggest problem is parking!!  No, I’m not being cavalier about this (see below) but the fact that we are back on campus with crowded parking lots is such a joyful problem to have after the long months of emptiness and isolation the pandemic.  We count the blessings we have.

More on parking below, but let me address a few other issues:

  1.  Some students expressed concern about the volume of assignments — a familiar problem from last year as well — and the academic deans have all of the detailed responses broken out by cohort and will take up the issues with the faculty as appropriate.
  2. Concerns about Covid-19 remain on everyone’s mind, and I addressed some of this in a general message to the campus community recently.  In short, with a 93% vaccine rate for everyone on campus, and indoor masking throughout, we are operating at maximum safety levels.  We have air purifiers in classrooms and gathering spaces, and our Facilities team is working hard on cleaning continuously.  For those very few constituents who still need to get vaccinated, we will be doing individual outreach and counseling in the next several weeks — unvaccinated persons are the major reason why the pandemic is not yet over, and we all have to help convince our friends and colleagues to do the right thing and get vaccinated for the sake of community health as well as their own!
  3. We have a very low rate of Covid positives among members of the Trinity community — just 15 positive cases since August, with 13 of those occurring in persons who have been off-campus the entire time, and 2 cases among students who immediately isolated in Kerby Hall and are now cleared.  Those two cases occurred off-campus before school began, and the tests required at the start of school revealed the cases.  I will continue to report on cases in my frequent weekly campus messages.
  4. Dr. Gerlach will follow-up with resident students about a number of concerns residents expressed in the survey about facilities, dining services and also —- visitation!  We will be announcing a solution for visitation very soon… stay tuned!

Parking, Campus Shuttle and Transportation Survey

I will return to other topics covered in the September Community Survey in a future blog, but the comments about parking were so numerous and urgent that the topic bears addressing right here.  We created a second survey that we are still analyzing, so these are preliminary results.

Skipping immediately to the very last question about solutions, we have considered various options and will be taking these actions in the next week or two as possible:

1. We will resume the shuttle loop around campus — a considerable number of the survey respondents, above, seemed to think this is a good idea (see the lime green bar on top of the columns) — the shuttle loop has these advantages:  students can ride from the Metro to the Payden Center without having to get off at the loading dock and walk through Main Hall to get there; students and others who park in the Cuvilly parking lot can get the shuttle at the stop there to go over to Payden or Alumnae Hall; after class, students who ride Metro can get the shuttle directly in front of Payden to go back to Metro.  The campus loop adds about 10 minutes to the shuttle schedule, meaning the shuttle runs about every 30 minutes.  We will be posting a new shuttle schedule later this week, and also, the website shuttle tracker is now working properly so you can follow it on your smartphones!

2.  We did not impose parking fees this semester because of the pandemic, and the combination of free parking and students wanting to avoid Metro probably has caused the significant increase in the number of students parking in the 9 am to 11 am time zone.  We will not re-impose the fees right now, but are considering ways to encourage everyone to resume using more public transportation options.

3.  We will republish and clarify the designation of parking areas for all constituents, and we ask everyone to cooperate with those designations.  With the campus shuttle loop, parking should be easier if you can also get a ride to your destination.

4.  We will also clean-up and re-stripe the parking lots where there are issues with the size of spaces and other concerns.

5.  We will assess whether we can get a bike and scooter dock on or near campus for those who want to use them, and we will also take a look at where we need to add more bike racks.

6.  Alas, we cannot add parking spaces — our zoning order limits campus parking to 420 spaces.  So we have to work with what the city has already approved.  The city does not like adding parking spaces because it’s the official policy of the city to reduce private automobiles and encourage public transportation.

7.  For that reason — and also for cost reasons — we cannot build a parking garage.  Parking costs about $21,000 per space to build, with average garage costs topping nearly $10 million.  So, that’s not on the agenda any time soon.

8.  Metro cards — cost is also an issue here.  Some students mentioned the “free” Metro cards available to K-12 students (subsidized by the city), and also some local universities have Metro card programs.  But what most do not know is that those university programs are subsidized through hefty fees assessed to all students regardless of whether they ride Metro.  We looked into the programs and we’d have to assess every student a fee in excess of $100 to be able to participate in the program.  Our evaluation is that we do not want to impose more fees on students, we are trying to reduce fees!  Plus, we do not want to have fees assessed on students who will not use the service.  So, that’s the explanation.  We will keep looking at other options for this, and right now, we do have emergency funds and emergency Metro cards available for those who may need them.

We are taking a look at other options, and giving consideration to where students, faculty and staff live.  The survey provided this interesting picture:

Most of our students commute from the eastern side of the city and out into Maryland.  Staff are more diffuse but more likely to be north and west.  Understanding residential and transportation patterns is part of our analysis of how to provide better services both on campus, and perhaps more online services as well.

While the map above was from the voluntary responses to our parking survey, the picture is consistent with our more complete residential data based on student enrollment this fall:

About 51% of all Trinity students are D.C. residents, with another 30% in Maryland, and a much smaller percentage in Virginia.  This data informs our thinking about how to manage course schedules, transportation and other services.

We are not finished analyzing the September Community Survey or the Parking and Transportation Survey, but we have enough preliminary data to start working on solutions.

THANK YOU to all who participated — your input is very important, and please know that we read every word!

 

 

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