Dear Parents and Guardians,
Welcome to the new school year from the Dean of Students Office! It has been such a joy to have everyone back on campus!
If you have learned about the Enneagram, it will make sense to you when I say that I am a 3. If you aren’t into this personality test, just know that I tend to value success and goals are very important to me. This year at Ursuline, I have two main goals. I want to articulate what student well-being looks like at Ursuline and I want to make Jesus famous!
I often get asked, “What does Ursuline do for student well-being?” and it does not take me very long to come up with a long list. I have had the privilege of calling Ursuline home for the past 15 years and in that time, I have seen this school transform. Many parents I talk to that have had multiples daughters attend over time, tell me the same thing. All of our teachers were asked to look into the type of homework they were giving and how long it would take. We have changed AP and Honors applications and adjusted graduation requirements so our girls can have a more flexible schedule and so we could incorporate a mandatory Life Skills requirement. We have four personal counselors and have added four Grade Deans to my office – all to add layers of support for our students. We now offer a Mindfulness and Stress Management class in our PE department, along with yoga. All freshmen take a mental health survey, and our personal counselors gather necessary information from those surveys and follow up one-on-one if there are any concerns. This year we built in four Community Days to our school calendar for students and teachers to have flexible days to catch up on anything they need to and there are no classes on these days.
I love Lisa Damour’s definition of mental health: mental health is having the right feeling at the right time and coping with it effectively. Removing obstacles is not how we create strong, confident, resilient young women. We do that by educating them on how to cope with the obstacles that they will inevitably have at some point in their lives.
I believe it is a gift to work at a faith-based school and more specifically, it is a gift that I can talk about faith when discussing well-being. Studies show that students who have a strong faith have better mental health. Statistically, religion and faith has helped more people than anti-depressants. While medications are sometimes needed, I think adding a faith component to the struggles we all go through would be an even better way to process and heal. Ursuline students are able to attend mass, go on retreats, and live out Serviam. Faith makes us realize that there is something much bigger than us and teaches us that we can give our hurts, worries, and anxieties to God – a power much strong than us.
I did not come up with the phrase, “make Jesus famous”; I heard it on a podcast about burnout. I know many of us could argue that Jesus is already quite famous, and I would agree! For me, this doesn’t mean that I have to talk about Jesus every single second of every single day but instead, I hope to meet this goal by my actions and interactions with the people around me. I want to make people leave a conversation with me and think, “Why didn’t she get angry? Why did she respond so differently than expected? Why did she forgive so easily?” If the answers to those question can be, “because I love the Lord and I work for Him”, I will consider my goal to be met.
I’ll say it again, it has been such a joy to have your daughters on campus. While we may not be completely back to normal, we are definitely getting there. As always, please let me know if you ever need anything!
Dean of Students