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Message from Dean of Students JJ Brown: Reflections on our community

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fellow Mountaineers:

I write to you today knowing that this semester has been full of challenges on our campus. I know of many students who are struggling as I write this note right now. Some of you have been and are wondering where to begin with any number of challenges you are feeling right now. Certainly the events of this week and losing one of our own emphasize that point. I also am aware that several of you have lost other friends and family this semester. I firmly believe that where there are challenges, there are also opportunities. I want you and every student to know that if I could look each of you in the eye right now, I would say that you matter.

I am here to help you, as are many, many faculty and staff on this campus. Chancellor Everts sent you links to some resources earlier this week, and there are many more at http://appcares.appstate.edu. If you or someone you know is facing a crisis, resources are available 24/7. You don’t have to be facing a crisis, however, to need a little help. This time of year can be hard, and spending a few minutes with someone in the Counseling Center can help you gain some perspective, and also offer you some tools you can use on your own to move forward if you are feeling stuck or unsure what to do next.

I began my journey in the professional field of higher education as a graduate student in 1994. I knew then that it was a privilege to work on a college campus, and to work with college students. I still feel privileged to work on a college campus, and especially Appalachian’s campus. I know, however, that we have work to do – as individuals, and as a community – to ensure that our university is welcoming to all and hostile to none. I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about how to ensure all members of our community are heard and feel valued.

I was humbled to walk around Roess Dining Hall two weeks ago and see the courage displayed by several students, and staff speaking to the #otherappstate. I appreciate these Mountaineers being brave by sharing their thoughts and truths about their Appalachian experience. Everyone in our community needs to feel a part of it, and we can and must do the hard work to make this happen.

Our “It’s Up To Me” campaign highlights how we all play a role in ensuring this is that welcoming place for all. It speaks to the Mountaineer spirit we strive for as a campus community – one that looks out for another. It also reflects the motto on our seal, “Esse Quam Videri,” “To Be, Rather Than to Seem.”

At Appalachian, we are uniquely tied to this mission of helping one another, and I feel strongly we need it right now more than ever. We all contribute or take away from this environment every day by our actions and our words. Our actions and words matter, and I encourage you to look for ways to use your actions and words to make others feel welcome at Appalachian, and embrace opportunities for meaningful discussions and exchanges. College campuses are amazing places where we can learn in and out of the classroom, and when we take the time and dedicate our thoughts to reaching out and really understanding a perspective we had never before considered, we can have powerful learning experiences that really do change the world.

I ask you to think about this as you approach even the little things in your life. The anonymity and distance of social media outlets like Yik Yak can offer freedom to express ourselves, but we must hold one another as accountable in these spaces as we do in face-to-face situations.

Maintaining our caring culture requires each member of our community to actively engage in finding solutions to the challenges we face. I am committed to working to find meaningful solutions to these challenges. Do your part as well. Think about how you are treating others with your actions and words. Take time to be involved in organizations, discussions, events and people who contribute in positive ways to you as a person, and to this community as a whole. Remember to Be Aware. Ask and Listen. Have a Plan. And if you See (or hear) Something… Say Something.

Help ensure that we all act respectfully and do not disrespect anyone’s race, color, religion, creed, sex, gender identity and expression, political affiliation, gender identity and expression, national origin, age, veteran status, disability, genetic information or sexual orientation. Every person in our community and on our campus matters.

To use an advertisement phrase from Adidas and the 2014 World Cup, I am “all in” for this work, and I know that, working together, we can and will ensure this is a welcoming place to everyone and hostile to no one. We can and will make our campus and community even greater than the great place we know it to be.

Proud to be your Dean of Students,

JJ Brown