Monday Moments with President Bergman: April 13, 2020

Gustavus President Rebecca M. Bergman shares her thoughts with College employees each week.
Posted on April 13th, 2020 by

President Rebecca M. Bergman

What? Snow in mid-April? It feels like another unexpected disruption in everyday life. Reaching inside for my eternal optimist, I tried to tell myself that the snow on the trees was especially beautiful, and that was certainly true. Let’s hope it melts very quickly and we can return to warmer temperatures and spring flowers.

Last week, I found myself thinking about innovation. Our vision statement calls us to provide an “innovative liberal arts education” for our students. Over the last few weeks, our residential liberal arts college has been turned upside down. Right now, practically nothing seems typical or normal about the way we are delivering a liberal arts education to our students. Most of them are working from home, and we are, too. Innovation has been vital to our connections with our students and with each other. It feels a little strange, and there are inevitable bumps in the road, because innovation is always a little messy. But we are doing it!

The cycle of innovation is predictable–we try, learn, adjust, and try again. Innovation is essentially an iterative problem-solving process. We create and test a variety of ideas, share results with each other to determine what works best, make changes to improve the outcome, and try again. While it sounds easy, innovation can be challenging, and at times, it can be exhausting. That is especially true right now, in large part because we are innovating and adjusting in practically every aspect of our lives, and the cycle of innovation is radically short. We are planning and jumping into action to implement new ideas on a daily basis. Forget the concept of planning for a semester, running a small pilot, documenting and assessing results, and then (maybe) rolling out a new practice. These days, we just try stuff! That is what we are called to do right now, and it is working amazingly well.

For those of you who celebrated a religious holiday over the weekend, I trust that you found innovative ways to participate in your traditions and find spiritual connections with your religious community. At my home in North Oaks, we watched our congregation’s Easter service on TV, including participating in hymns and communion. We followed that with a traditional ham dinner. Then, I had a video call with my mother and sister in Pennsylvania, and we shared stories about looking for Easter eggs in the snow in years past. And so, I was reminded that snow on Easter was not entirely unusual, and somehow that was reassuring.

It is a new Monday, and off we go for another week of radical innovation superimposed on our longstanding Gustavus and family traditions. Thank you for your ability to try, learn, adjust, and try again. Keep it going.

And maybe, just maybe, we have seen the last snow of spring 2020.

Yours in community,

Becky

 

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