Monday Moments with President Bergman: May 4, 2020

Gustavus President Rebecca M. Bergman shares her thoughts with College employees each week.
Posted on May 4th, 2020 by

President Rebecca M. Bergman

How are you doing? I mean this as a real question, not just as a polite greeting. So, let me ask again, with all sincerity… how are you doing, really? There is no doubt about it—the COVID-19 pandemic we are experiencing is difficult, disruptive, and downright scary. It feels like everything has changed, and everyone has been impacted. There are many more questions than answers, and uncertainty is all around us.

I am finding that on most days, I am full of unbridled optimism and confidence that we can figure out how to best move forward. On other days, I have felt overwhelmed by the situation, and occasionally I simply feel tired. In all cases, what lifts me up is the people around me who care—especially my family and the Gustavus community.
In my inauguration address in October 2014, I spoke about the power of a healthy and vibrant community. First, I set the groundwork by addressing the question, what is a community? Here was my answer at the time, and it feels as relevant today as it did then:
“A community is generally defined as a social unit that shares common values. But it is much more than a casual collection of individuals. A healthy community is a group of people who have a deep and abiding commitment to each other, who communicate with authenticity, who celebrate together, who mourn together, who support and care for each other, who labor together, and who commit to a shared purpose.”
I went on to describe a model developed by a community psychologist named David McMillan, who emphasized four pillars that work together to create a strong sense of community. I believe these pillars will also resonate with us today:
  1. Spirit…the sense of belonging together, of being connected, of feeling safe and accepted by others.
  2. Trust…knowing what to expect from one another, understanding roles, and following established principles.
  3. Trade…finding ways to benefit one another and the community as a whole by sharing individual gifts and talents for the benefit of the whole.
  4. Art…the symbolic representation of shared experiences, particularly dramatic shared experiences that become part of the community story.
In times of great challenge, like those we are facing right now, an organization that has a clear sense of purpose and a strong sense of community will pull together and come out the other side even stronger. Here are the closing comments I made in answer to the question of why it is vital for Gustavus to nurture and maintain a strong and cohesive community:
“So here is the bottom line—organizations with a strong sense of community are high-energy organizations, and that energy is channeled toward greatness. They drive for achievement of organizational goals. They are innovative and are always trying something new. They set high standards of excellence in performance. They have a can-do attitude. They are willing to enter into constructive debate and are always looking to stay on the leading edge. They exude optimism and are resilient when things go wrong. They embrace change and boldly go where no one has ever gone before. This is what matters.”
Yes, indeed this is what matters. We are Gustavus. We stand in community, and together we will get through this.

Yours in community,



Comments are closed.