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Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Smarts

After several months in the Coates Library the Dean of Students Office has been moved to its latest permanent destination in the Coates University Center. The move is part of the University's relocation of Admissions to the upper campus in Northrup Hall. Bet you thought it was gonna be named Coates.

Despite much whining about the lack of accessibility and meeting space, I did learn some interesting things in the library. The first was that it was more social and lively than I imagined. It has a nice vibe. I learned that the women of Alpha Chi Lambda pretty much owned the central seating area. I also noted their chagrin when a man from the community plopped down in their territory once. Lots of headphones went on and plenty of eyes rolled. I don't know who I felt worse for.

On the flip side, I do believe I could have taken many more pictures like the ones below.
Energy and rest. A good combination.

Finally, one day I snapped the photo at right of Helene Barnes. I thought it was neat that on her day
off from Teach for America that this 2013 grad decided to return to her roots and come back to the library where it all began. I told her I appreciated her loyalty. She told me she was pretty much just waiting for her boyfriend to get out of class. Close enough.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Our students are so weird

Yesterday the Facebook page "Overheard at Trinity" exploded, among other things, with several photo shop images and memes of the Dean of Students. Aside from drawing the conclusion that our students are loveable but strange, here are some other conclusions I have arrived at.

1. Our students are not as busy as they say.
2. Most of our students are horrible at photo shop.
3. I still don't like my last name.
4. Thanksgiving break can't get here soon enough.
5. I am not a pretty woman.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

How Bazaar

I love Happy People. Especially Laurel (background).
Let's just get this out of the way. As a vegetarian for almost 25 years, I still love the smell of bacon. But, if you must know, I love fake bacon. No gummy, greasy, membranes and fat and stuff. Not sure what I am eating with fake bacon, but I will call it a draw, at a minimum.

Last week I moved into my newest office, and it is in the Coates University Center. It is my ninth or tenth office at trinity. I have lost count. I have worked here as long as I haven't eaten meat. That's weird. So imagine my surprise to smell bacon in the Coates Center lobby this week. Yes, I inhaled. I do the same around secondhand smoke. As a former smoker - yes, since about 25 years ago - I still love the smell. I may be the only one that smokers try to get away from rather than the other way around.

The bacon purveyors were members of this new group on campus called Happy People. How can you not love a group whose mission is to spread happiness? I love them. But, I think I hurt their feelings them when I passed up taking some of their free joyful bacon. I told them I was part of a group named Happy Pigs which didn't want me to eat them. I may be the only one who follows smokers around AND offends Happy People. AND I don't wear cause ribbons. I need a secret entrance to my office.

The bacon sellers are only the latest group to have turned the Coates Center lobby into a market. Some days you can't get through the lobby without being barraged about buying a shirt to save/stop something, signing up for an event, pinning on a bow, or basically about changing your life. I would be a broke man if I bought everything students were trying to sell me. I don't even carry cash anymore. It makes me look cheap. And I AM cheap, but now students know it. Part of me wants it all to stop! The other part of me wants me to remind you that you can give to my Kayla Mire Food Drive in the Coates lobby next week (or give virtually). Because my cause is important. And you can donate bacon just this once.

There are some tentative changes in the works for the Coates Center pending approval later this year. The information desk is gone, because we didn't need one with the new one going into Northrup this September. That one is gone too now. Oops. We donated some leather furniture from the lobby to Northrup and we didn't want the University to spend more when we were looking to replace these anyway. And we wanted to let some animals keep their leather. But for the time being, the Coates lobby looks a little bit sad and like a pig sty. Sorry.

Hopefully the mailboxes will be relocated this summer, and the Coates Center will breathe. With night-time food service returning to the Commons the Coates Center is being resuscitated. Furniture options are being considered for downstairs and the mail area and the upstairs Alumni Lounge will be called the Loft. Trust me. What's more, the Counseling and Career area will be re-envisioned and a center for engagement may sprout up on the second floor of Coates. These are exciting times.

It makes sense to bring lots of life to Coates. Our current students deserve a student union feel in the building. We will look at multiple seating styles and areas that will allow for small study groups, eating, working, charging mobile devices, and even sleeping. And with the new admissions center across the way - with its black leather furniture and lack of an information desk - we need a place for prospective students and families to come and observe campus life up close and personal. Although that sounds like a zoo. Cruelty free.

Which brings us back to where we started. Whether it is bacon, free jewelry, YMCA memberships, or baked goods from the Trinity Women's Club, this aspect of Trinity life won't change. Hopefully the area from the esplanade, through the lobby, and out the north side of the Mail Center plaza can be a place where we can continue to buy, sell, and barter. We need a place for our Wednesday nacho hours and our Friday Bella-Tone concerts. We need a place that lives, breathes, and even smells. Day and night. It will be hog heaven. Oink.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Distance Learning

In a parking lot north of downtown we stopped to discuss the day's run before heading back to campus.Some of the responses: I am surprised that in our own city that this happens; It is amazing that just a few blocks away, life goes on - on the river walk - and people have no clue...; The smell of urine is what sticks in my mind; I felt like an outsider - like who was I to RUN where they were; It was depressing; I said hi to people and tried to look them in the eye; Gratitude. I felt grateful for what I have; I want to get involved - I want to volunteer and help; I can't believe this is so close to where we live...

Training for the Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge offers an opportunity to teach participants a number of things. The goals of the program, now in its sixth year, are to teach students their mental and physical capacities of resilience. Indeed many feel they would never have imagined running 13.1 miles. For others, the goal is to achieve a milestone and check something off of their bucket lists.

Because training groups usually run for a charity, we do a food drive. The Kayla Mire Food Drive is named for 2010 graduate Kayla Mire who died in a one car accident shortly after graduation. She was an advocate for the needy. A food drive requires a light commitment of time and money for our students and supporters, so is perfect for those in college.

San Antonio provides an outstanding classroom for issues related to socioeconomic disparity, especially when it is in evidence all within walking - or running - distance. Our training starts in August with runs through the wealthier neighborhoods of Olmos Park and Alamo Heights. In late October the group does the annual homeless run. The participants this year are pictured above. We run downtown on Main Street and then turn toward the area of town where Haven for Hope and other services are based. And we run through streets where the poor and homeless are just hanging out.

What impressed me most about our young scholars was their empathy, the depth of their reflections, and how easily they went from person to person to discuss what they noticed and what they felt. Their professors and families have taught them well. The run isn't made to put the homeless on display. We are just running where we live. I look forward to it and dread it every year. But the jolt helps us break out of our bubble and see that right here, where we live, people need us. We get to go home, and eat, and rest comfortably. They don't.

Please consider contributing to this year's food drive by contributing online at this virtual food drive link from the San Antonio Food Bank. (After you click on Start you can click Skip if you want to pass the shopping spree.)