Monday Moments with President Bergman: November 9, 2020

Gustavus President Rebecca M. Bergman shares her thoughts with College students, faculty, and staff each week.
Posted on November 9th, 2020 by

Even for 2020, when it seems like history is being made almost every day, it has been a notable week.

President Rebecca M. Bergman

In national news, a closely watched presidential election has been decided and the United States has a new president-elect. In Minnesota and in Nicollet County, COVID-19 cases are surging, community spread is rampant, and hospitals are struggling to keep up with the number of patients who need specialized care. On campus, after an increase in the number of students who have tested positive for the virus, we have instituted a two-week “lay low” period. Students have been asked to hunker down in their residence halls, strictly limit social interactions, and prioritize their academics for the two weeks leading up to the Thanksgiving break. We will participate in a mass testing event for COVID-19 on Friday, November 13 (both students and employees will have an opportunity to take a saliva test–watch for details in the next few days).

Whew! With all that going on, what else deserves our attention today? Actually, we have a big reason to celebrate. Today, we are honoring our first-generation students, faculty, and staff. The National First Generation College Celebration is held annually on November 8, and, since that was a Sunday this year, we are celebrating and acknowledging the accomplishments of those who identify as first-gen in our community today. These are Gusties who are first in their families to attend or graduate from a four-year college, and they comprise approximately 14 percent of our student body.

One of the key goals of our Gustavus Acts Strategic Plan is to make a Gustavus education affordable and accessible to every family. We continue to make progress on that goal through scholarship funds made possible by the generosity of our alumni and friends of the College. Our dedication to excellence in education for all students has recently been highlighted by the U.S. News and World Report, who ranked Gustavus as tied for best in Minnesota on their list of Top Performers for Social Mobility this fall.

My father was a first-gen student. He was the eighth child of nine in a farm family in eastern Pennsylvania. His mother, my grandmother, finished the “8th Reader” in a country school. His father, a progressive dairy farmer, was fascinated by automated milking equipment, and took a six-week course at a local agricultural school to learn the state-of-the-art techniques of that time. I remember my dad talking about how much his family sacrificed in order to afford to send him to college, even though he had won numerous scholarships.

Each of our first-gen students, faculty, and staff have their own story to tell. First-generation Gusties, your journeys undoubtedly have required courage and determination to successfully navigate the joys and challenges associated with being first in your families to attend an institution of higher education. Today, the rest of the Gustavus community celebrates with you and congratulates you on your accomplishments.

First-generation Gusties, we are especially proud of you, today and always.

Until next week, keep up the good work, Gusties!

With respect,

President Bergman


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