Taking Flu Prevention on the Road

With news reports of the flu epidemic reaching a fevered height, it is reassuring to know that thanks to our Health Services Office, we are well prepared on campus for the flu season. Since this past October, flu clinics were available on a scheduled basis in the Health Center at no cost to students, staff and faculty. In addition, Director of Health Services, Katherine Nicoletti (pictured right), took the flu vaccination clinic on the road to the students in the Davis Lobby, the Athletic Center lobby for the Bison Stampede Event and in Jazzman’s Café. As a result of her efforts, more than 100 people were vaccinated through health services (not counting those vaccinated off campus on their own) and only 3-4 students visiting Health Services exhibited flu symptoms and were sent home.

As students returned to campus from break, we welcomed them back with additional information about the flu. During Christmas break, postings on the Nichols portal advised students to obtain a flu shot before returning to campus along with the advice not to return to campus if they are ill. We also asked students to make sure they are fever free without Tylenol or Motrin for at least 24 hours before returning to campus. During check-in, flu pamphlets were also given to students as a reminder of the symptoms.

In all of this planning, we recognize the principle that student health and safety are always paramount. That’s why we carefully weigh our focus on academics with health safety for students, faculty and staff. And with viruses like the flu, where individuals can be contagious even a day or so after their symptoms have subsided, we ask faculty to be flexible and allow students to make up work and stay away during the time period where they may spread their illness to others.

Through all of these efforts, our goal is to limit the effects of the flu virus on campus and to create an environment where students, staff, and faculty alike can stay healthy throughout the spring semester.

Martin Luther King Day

After a long holiday break, students are returning to campus this week to begin another semester of classes. It is also a week when we celebrate the contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the struggle for equality.

Here on campus through the Fischer Institute, talk show host Ayanna Crawford will lead a two-part taping of her show Inside Excellence, that discusses “Martin Luther King’s Legacy: How Far Have We Come in Building a Colorblind Society?”

We recognize the value of providing opportunities for our student to examine critical issues facing today’s society through class content, films, discussions, and notable speakers. As Dr. King said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

While King has offered many words of wisdom through his speeches, one that I believe is applicable to college students and to the members of this community is his quote about service. He asks us to consider one of life’s most persistent and urgent questions, “What are you doing for others?”

While the question is often not easily answered, it is one worth asking. On campus, serving may be an act as simple as offering an encouraging word to a student, giving extra help to a co-worker, or volunteering for an on-campus service project or activity. In the local community, it may mean helping at the local food bank, volunteering to help out at a local school, or serving as a scout leader or a children’s athletic coach.

Whatever activity each of us selects, we need to recognize that it does make a difference. As Dr. King states, “Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.”

Athletes . . . Learning Life Skills in the Athletics “Classroom”

The annual NCAA Convention is taking place this week in Texas, and Charlie Robert, Director of Athletics, is there representing Nichols College.  Although, she explains, the climate feels like New England, not Texas!

In light of the Convention, I thought it was a good time to recognize the role of athletics here at Nichols. When students visit our campus, one of their first questions is about our athletics program. It is no wonder given that 48 percent of the Fall 2012 incoming class are student-athletes. We have had a number of prospective students, men and women alike, inquire about cross country and track. Recognizing the importance of these sports to many students, we added both in Fall 2012, and they will become varsity sports in Fall 2013.  Of course, my personal bias would be to add an equestrian team!

The proportion of our students who are involved in athletics has risen in recent years; so it is an important part of our culture. Teams are a perfect place for students to learn and practice key life and organizational skills – time management, leadership, teamwork, goal setting, etc. Visit a classroom, a team study hall or team practice, and you will find students who are working hard to succeed in the classroom and on the field, court or ice. For most athletes, it takes commitment, dedication, and a great deal of time and hard work to be a contributing team member.

Our coaches and their staff teach life skills in the athletics “classroom,” and in many cases create a personal connection for students—a family away from home. In addition, our coaches are incredible role models and often the first ones to know if a student is feeling homesick or struggling in a particular class.

An earlier blog profiled Coach Mike Vendetti, whose players from the 1970s still talk about what a major influence he was on their lives. Our current coaches will also be fondly remembered in years to come.

As with our coaches, our athletes’ contributions do not end after they graduate. Many of them participate in alumni events, provide financial support, spread the word to high school students and families, and hire NC grads. Here’s hoping for a successful Spring 2013 athletic season!

The New Year

As we enter the New Year, it’s time again for us to write those pesky New Year’s resolutions. I’ve personally resolved to spend more time thinking and reading in order to better position the College for the future and like most folks, to lose those few extra pounds. But it often seems that something gets in the way.

I recently read a Wall Street Journal article (December 18, 2012, Health & Wellness section, page D2) that addresses this issue. “Why can’t we stick to the plan, and why do we try again?” The article mentions the current “self-change” research and discusses ways we often reduce our chances of success. Ultimately, successful people create specific plans on what they will do if an obstacle arises as they pursue their goals.

Although the College has not created what we would call “resolutions” to implement this New Year, we will begin monitoring and measuring key performance indicators. I’m looking forward to beginning this process so we can achieve our vision of becoming “the college of choice.”

All of these measures link to our strategic plan. Some of the related activities folks will see this spring include design work on a new academic building that will be built next to Davis Hall and also concerted efforts to increase the number of scholarships for our terrific students.

In an earlier blog, I recommended the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg: http://president.nichols.edu/category/relevant-readings/. That book details a process on how to effectively change a habit. I think I’ll reread it over the break and prepare my own “self-change” plan so the odds are greater that my resolutions will become reality this year!

One of my personal goals this year is to spend as much time as possible with my two-year old granddaughter, Grace. There is nothing more energizing (and exhausting) than my time as “Nana.”