Monday Moments with President Bergman: March 7, 2022Guest author, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Student JoNes VanHecke '88 shares her thoughts with College students, faculty, and staff.
Posted on March 7th, 2022 by

This spring, members of the Gustavus Cabinet will write guest posts for Monday Moments. This week, I’m pleased to share thoughts from JoNes VanHecke ’88, our Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students. – Becky

Good Morning Gusties!

I hope everyone made time this past weekend to participate in the Building Bridges Conference. “Knowledge is Power: Dismantling Systematic Bias in Educational Institutions” was the 27th annual Building Bridges Conference and was co-chaired by seniors Ellie Hartmann and Mad Chase in concert with their talented executive board, co-captains, and committee members! This year’s Building Bridges was a powerful example of how dedicated student leaders can drive our cultural and societal agendas. One of the things that was particularly impressive was the conference goal to not only “bring awareness to the multifaceted ways educational institutions perpetuate discrimination, inequality, and misinformation” but more importantly to help attendees to “recognize and deconstruct information and knowledge bias in their own communities.”

The first Building Bridges conference took place in 1996 and was entitled “Promoting Diversity Through Student-Initiated Change.” Just take a minute to reflect on the fact that for the past 26 years, students at Gustavus have envisioned, planned, and executed this amazing exchange of substantial and significant ideas grounded in social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. What an incredible legacy! I think back to those grunge-loving, flannel-wearing Gusties of the mid 90s and I clearly see the spark for social justice that has grown into a flame among today’s Gustavus student leaders. Building Bridges is a great example of what happens when a talented group of Gusties decide they are going to shape the future.

Students, as you ponder your future at Gustavus and beyond, I hope that you lean into your Building Bridges legacy of being the change you want to see in the world. Your voices, individually and collectively, are powerful. When you see ways that the College could better serve you and your peers, don’t hesitate to say something. I can think of so many examples from the past 10 years when one or more students were the reason that positive change happened at Gustavus. Sometimes it was a protest, a petition, or a letter writing campaign, but just as often it was as simple as a conversation or two that brought a challenge to the community’s attention.

Employees, our part in this is two-fold. First, we need to be open to both hearing from students and seeking their feedback. This generation of Gusties is unlike any others that came before them. Now more than ever, we need to partner with students to understand what they need from us to succeed in this complex world. Second, we need to keep our students front and center in our decision-making processes. When we’re tired or feeling weighed down by the complexities of this world, it is easy to make decisions based on what is best for us. Our challenge is to make decisions based on what is best for our students. In a Monday Moments series where the President asked her Cabinet to talk about the College’s future, I can think of no more powerful point to make than highlighting the fact that our future is our students.

Together, students and employees, I am confident that we can realize the very best version of Gustavus possible!  I’m all in – how about you?




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