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Message from Dean of Students JJ Brown: The importance of doing small things with great love

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Fellow Mountaineers:

I hope you are ready for the final push of the spring semester and the sunny days that come along with April. Seeing so many of you on Sanford Mall connecting in conversations, through music, slacklining, playing ultimate Frisbee, or enjoying a hammock is one of the great things about being a part of our community, especially during this season.

Earlier in the semester, I shared this quote by Mother Teresa, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” The small things have been so important to so many of us in managing some difficult times this year. Each one of you matters here at Appalachian, and it is the small things that have made, and continue to make a huge difference, especially during difficult times. These stories enrich our individual lives, as well as the overall life of our community.

Over the past few weeks, a number of conversations have taken place about some challenging topics and experiences. Even as we talk about and seek to learn from the student deaths that shadowed our campus last semester and the early weeks of this semester, we have also been, and continue to be, challenged as individuals and as a community to face our shortcomings in how we address matters of race and bias on our campus.

Some of the more visible evidence of conversations around cultural and individual identity has taken the form of student demonstrations and bulletin boards, but there are less visible signs of these conversations taking place as well. Some of these things seem very small, but they open the way for further conversations that are based in honesty, compassion and trust.

In my leadership class this semester, we have challenged one another to stretch our comfort zones in a variety of small ways. Members of our class have baked cookies and given them away, joined someone sitting alone in Crossroads or at Roess Dining Hall, and made connections with their acquaintances. We learned to never underestimate the power you have as an individual to connect by saying “hello,” holding a door open for someone, making a new friend, or standing up for someone who is being bullied or harassed. We learned that little things truly can and do make a difference.

Taking care of yourself is critical to your ability to take care of others. As you combine your end-of-semester classwork with the important work of caring for yourself and your community, here are a few items for your consideration:

  • University Recreation offers fitness classes as well as outdoor leadership trips offered through Outdoor Programs.
  • Still Point, a group of faculty and staff who practice contemplative inquiry in order to contribute to a climate of health and well-being on our campus, has a variety of programs you can participate in, including weekly, 15-minute meditation sessions held Fridays at 2:30pm in the College of Education, Room 301.
  • An Art Therapy group meets Tuesdays from 7-9pm in Whitewater Café. Consider joining this group.
  • The university’s Counseling Center, located in the Miles Annas Student Services building, has expanded their walk-in hours, and 24/7 counseling services are available to students in crisis by calling campus police or Daymark Recovery Services, either of which will put you directly in touch with a counselor.

Please take the time to do small things for yourselves, and for others whom you see struggling in our community. As Mountaineers, we must continue to do the small things that make a difference to one another and our community that allow us to better understand one another and this journey called life. Investing in one another helps us all learn one other’s stories better.

The important thing I want you to know is that YOU matter. This has been a tough year, but also one where I know we have grown as individuals and as a community. Know your Dean of Students Office staff, as well as countless other faculty and staff members on this campus are here to support you as we finish this semester.

Finish strong!

Proud to be with you,

/s/ J.J. Brown

J.J. Brown
Dean of Students