Some of the greatest life lessons come from having people react very unexpectedly to what you consider very normal behavior. A few years ago, I had two separate student interactions happen within weeks of each other that caused me to look at my role as dean of students in a different light.
After meeting with a student regularly throughout the Fall semester, we met at the beginning of the spring semester to talk about the holidays, classes, and his grades from the previous semester. While he wished for higher grades, I knew how hard he worked to achieve those grades, as I witnessed the energy and effort he put into his academics. I told the student how proud I was of him and that he should be equally proud of himself. His reaction was immediate. Despite his efforts, I could see he was fighting back tears. When I asked him what was wrong, he responded that nothing was wrong, it was just that it had been a long time since someone told him they were proud of him and he forgotten how good it felt to hear.
A student stopped by my office to talk about some challenges she was facing in a course. She started talking about the difficulties of the class, but quickly began to open up about how hard it was to be so far away from home, not seeing her family, and feeling very homesick. She paused and, with a small crack in her voice, said “And, it’s my birthday and my mom isn’t here to give me a hug.” I stood up, stretched out my arms and simply said,“I’m here and while I’m not your mom, I’d be honored to give you a birthday hug.” Tears followed…from both of us.
I realized in those two moments that my role as dean of students is not only to advocate, advise, listen, and support, but is to also show love. To the members of my community. To the members of my Wentworth family. To my students. College can be hard. Life can be hard. And, while the rewards are worth the struggle, the struggle can be real. Telling someone you are proud of them or offering someone a hug can make a world of difference in someone’s life. Hence, #deanlove was created. One small way to send as many students as possible the recognition, care, and love they deserve, one little tweet at a time.
Love. That was all I did with those two students. That’s all any of us need to do. In our own comfortable way. Show love. Show compassion. Show kindness. Show that we care for each other…in times of celebration, in times of sadness, in times of confusion, and in times of pain. Love can and often does make a difference.
Remember, my door is always open.