From the Dean of Students

November / December 2019

Home for the Holidays

John T. Kirkpatrick, UNH Senior Vice Provost for Student Life and Dean of Students

The Fall 2019 semester is drawing to a close. Final examinations begin soon and students on campus are marshalling their resources for a strong finish. Life on campus has a serious cast to it now, marked by long hours in the Dimond Library and other learning spaces. T-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweatpants are the wardrobe of choice these days among students, a sure sign of their focus and priority... and coffee is the preferred beverage. Lots of it.

Very soon, most students will return home for the holidays. They may sleep a great deal at the beginning of break to restock their exhausted energy stores. Having them home again can bring great joy to you all, but it can be challenging as well. Students change over their years of college study. Our seasoned parents can attest to this change. The college years are an immensely powerful period in young adulthood; a process of becoming. It is wise to anticipate that the student you dropped off on campus in late August is not the student you will see when they return home this December. For counsel, I turned to Belle Vukovich Kenoyer, a senior staffer in Residential Life at UNH and a parent of triplets, for advice. She kindly offered us the following observations:

“During the winter break, you and your student will have four weeks or more to figure out what it means to live together again, and how you are going to give and receive feedback and information going forward. It can be tempting to fall back into old patterns where a student seeks direction from the parent and the parent gives direction in order to help. From one parent to another, it’s OK to not go back to old ways of doing things. This is a time when your student wants and needs to demonstrate and develop their competence around what it means for them to be an adult, even if they don’t act like they want to. The more your student flexes the muscle of being an adult, the better they will get at using that muscle.

So, let them do YOUR laundry for a change or have a simple dinner ready for you a few nights a week when you get home. Heck, even have them go to the grocery store for the family. And when they share problems that have arisen at college, trust that you have prepared them for these bumps in the road. Listen to how they worked out the problem or what they plan to do as a remedy. Laugh with them, hug them, and reassure them that life has a way of working things out if they are actively engaged.

Children are not perfect robots; they are not designed to be. Mistakes are important to human development. You as a parent have given them the best foundation you were able, and now is the time to trust that foundation.”

We hope you have a wonderful winter break with your college student and that your Wildcat comes back to UNH refreshed and rejuvenated for the road ahead. Check out the links below for more resources that help with parenting a college student.

https://www.collegiateparent.com/parent-view/hands-off-parenting-in-college/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/09/02/9-tips-on-how-to-be-a-good-college-parent/

https://grownandflown.com/good-parenting-gone-bad/

https://www.springer.com/about+springer/media/springer+select?SGWID=0-11001-6-1406648-0

Please accept our warmest wishes for a wonderful holiday season. And thank you again for offering us the privilege of working with your students.

With best wishes from Durham,

John T. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

October 2019

The Wisdom of Safe Sharenting

We parents take great pride in the achievements of our children. Often, we are engaged in their activities, their trials and their challenges. For the parent of a college-aged child, particularly one at a residential campus away from home, comfort and reassurance about issues that range from academic expectations to roommate troubles and more can be had by reaching out to fellow parents through digital platforms. On social media, we can offer our own views and ask for advice from other parents.

Certainly, there is great value in doing so — but there also are risks. While the internet age offers remarkable access globally in real time, those properties should give us pause when talking about our college-aged students online on social media platforms. Professor Leah Plunkett, a faculty colleague at the UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law, recently published her new book, “Sharenthood: Why we should think before talking about our kids online (MIT Press, 2019).” Sharenthood joins works by Margaret Atwood and Stephen King on Wired's list of "must-read" books for fall 2019. Professor Plunkett's book illuminates children's digital footprints: the digital baby monitors, the daycare livestreams, the nurse's office health records, the bus and cafeteria passes recording their travel and consumption patterns ― all part of an indelible dossier for anyone who knows how to look for it. Plunkett believes the offspring surveillance ought to stop and has suggestions for how to kick the sharenting habit. They are worth considering. Professor Plunkett was kind to share with us her good counsel:

“Practice Safe Sharenting! You've likely talked to your kids about how to use digital technologies safely. How to avoid cyber-bullies. How to avoid internet predators. And how to avoid embarrassing themselves on social media by posting an inappropriate photo or ill-advised remark. There are also important conversations for us to have as parents of children of all ages about what we "sharent" about our kids on social media. The term "sharenting"— which is gaining increased use in the media — refers to the practice of parents or other caregivers divulging private details of their children's lives online, through apps or via other digital devices and services. Parents tend to "sharent" with the best of intentions. They are looking to connect with other parents and maybe get advice on or commiserate about the challenges of raising kids. Unfortunately, once private information is shared digitally, that information can be used in ways you don't anticipate. Many of those ways could harm your child's current or future opportunities. For instance, a post on a social media group about your child's brush with the law could be seen downstream by a future employer. Even if the social media group is ostensibly restricted to a certain community, any post can be preserved by taking a screen-shot and easily shared by email, text, or posting on another site. In addition, it's essentially impossible to anticipate how a social media or other digital service provider might use data collected about your child in ways that aren't visible to you, now or in the future, such as sharing the data with private data brokers that then re-sell the data to other interested parties. Especially as you think about parenting children on the cusp of adulthood, it's wise to seek non-digital ways to connect with and receive advice from other parents to avoid inadvertently harming your kids as they enter adulthood.”

I might add one more caution. Often our students, now legally adults, know nothing of our online conversations about them. They have trusted us throughout their young lives to have their best interests in mind in all that we do. I encourage those who have an urge to post about their college student to first ask if their child might object.....and then act according to their wishes. You and we want to protect both their privacy and their future prospects.

With best wishes from Durham,

John T. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

September 2019

Good News from a Great Campus

Many families of our new first-year class still have lingering worries about whether or not their sons and daughters are making a successful adjustment to college life. Our veteran families understand the feeling. A fair share of them can reassure our new Wildcat parents and families they need not worry as much as they do. In time, students indeed do make the transition. Of course there are days and weeks when a new student may experience loneliness, doubt, homesickness, personal struggle or insecurity about the future. There is some comfort, however, in knowing that those feelings begin to ebb as the fall semester unfolds. New friendships, a restored confidence in themselves and where they are, pride in new accomplishments and sheer staying power tend to brighten any student’s outlook. You also may take comfort in knowing that UNH ranks in the top 10 percent of public universities in the country in its graduation rate, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, a sure sign of ultimate student success and wellbeing. In the end, their UNH experience — the triumphs, the challenges, the joy and the pain — will make them stronger and better human beings.

The following tips may be useful to both new and veteran Wildcat families:

  • Be sure to offer an ear when your student needs one.
  • Listen more than you profess.
  • Guide gently and with an approach that clearly conveys to them that they have the “right stuff” to meet challenge.
  • Reinforce the fact that hard work and diligence generally pay handsome dividends.
  • Play hard but work harder.
  • Go to class.
  • Get coursework done and in on time.
  • Pay attention.
  • Everyone struggles from time to time.
  • Keep your eye on the prize: earning the degree.
  • It is vital to what you want to do in the world.
  • All of these bits of gentle guidance and encouragement may seem trite and well-worn, but they are still worth offering when the moment is right.
  • Timing and the manner in which gentle advice is given, however, are key elements of the successful coaching of college students.

Here's the good news: The campus is alive with activity. Our students are an incredibly impressive group, and they indeed are working hard. This is a great, nationally ranked institution for each student to explore. What they do here will affect them profoundly for a lifetime. You and we can work together over their years of study at UNH to reinforce the confidence we have in them, offer them guidance rather than directives and watch together as they strengthen their powers of imagination and the equanimity required to do what each student is meant to do in this world.

With best wishes from the campus,

John T. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

August 2019

Summer Into Fall

The campus eagerly awaits the return of our upper-class students and the welcoming of our new first-year students next week. Spring and summer brought ample shares of sun and rain, and the campus has never looked better. The faculty and staff are making final preparations for the start of the 2019-20 academic year. Once it begins, UNH will be a busy hive of activity in the purposive life of the mind. Parents and families of our returning students know that I promise to be frank and open in this column. New members of our community can expect that as well in this and future columns. As we look forward to the coming year, I realize seasoned and new parents and families may want to know what will dominate our conversations with UNH students in 2019-20. It may be helpful for me to itemize five priorities, as conversations around these priorities will start the minute students arrive on campus and continue throughout the year.

  1. Mental health and wellbeing: Student success requires habits of the mind, both cognitive and emotional. At UNH, students will be schooled in developing both with a particular focus on resilience and mental wellbeing to face life’s everyday challenges. Clinicians in UNH Psychological and Counseling Services will reach out in a variety of ways to educate students about how to maintain balance and wellbeing in college, and Health & Wellness colleagues are equally engaged in those conversations as are many faculty and staff on campus. We want to help students help themselves.
  2. Alcohol use: The legal drinking age is 21. UNH adheres to the law. Underage drinking often co-occurs with other unwelcome behavior. We will always support students, no matter their predicament, but we cannot insulate them from the consequences of ill-advised choices. There are consequences for the underage drinker at UNH and in New Hampshire’s seacoast communities. The successful student chooses wisely.
  3. Sexual violence and harassment: The Time’s Up/Me Too movement in the nation rightly focuses on the manner in which unwelcome sexual contact interferes with the personal and professional lives of victims. We will be engaging students in a yearlong effort to educate them about what consent is and what it means in intimate relationships. Sexual violence and harassment are destructive to this nation’s communities. We plan to talk often about how to navigate relationships free of harm to others.
  4. Equity, diversity and inclusion: The 21st-century landscape is changing rapidly, as is this nation’s demography. In the workplace beyond UNH, employers are looking at prospective hires who have the tools to navigate a world of difference. UNH takes seriously our responsibility to help students develop those tools over their four years of study. Count on us to be engaged on campus in many conversations. The strength of the nation depends on the younger generation’s ability to create an equitable, inclusive and kinder way of “being” relative to others from different backgrounds and identities.
  5. Living green: UNH has earned the Platinum ranking in the national Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Ranking System or STARS, one of only six institutions in the country to earn this highest rank. UNH did so by being mindful of smart environmentally friendly practices across the campus and encouraging students to engage in civic-minded service. Last year, our students volunteered a half-million hours of community service, ample testimony to the commitment of our students to the world beyond the self.

We look forward to seeing you at the start of the academic year. Please join us in welcoming our new Wildcat parents and families. And mark your calendars for Family Weekend on Saturday, Sept. 28. We’ll be communicating more about that soon.

With warm regards from Durham,

John T. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

May 2019

Ouroboros

I won’t belabor the Egyptian, Greek and alchemy roots of the term “ouroboros,” a rather obscure one. We need not worry about its graphic depictions as a snake or dragon consuming its own tail. I prefer Carl Jung’s reference as both infinity and wholeness at once, a symbol of the unending and unifying cycle of life.

The month of May on a college campus reminds me of the essence of an ouroboros. We congratulate our graduating seniors as they set out for new worlds apart from Durham and look forward to welcoming our new entering class for the coming 2019-2020 academic year. After graduation, our alumni return to campus from time to time with stories of their feats and their travels. And, of course, our new first-year students will join them one day as alumni in the same cycle. And younger successors will take their place. May is both an end and a beginning.

Universities are remarkably durable institutions, a centuries-old idea, and at UNH, we are well into our second century of existence. Despite UNH’s long span in the human story, each generation of UNH students has its moment in time. Our senior class here at UNH has made us all immensely proud of what they’ve achieved and of the human beings they’ve become. We applauded their accomplishments at Commencement, a beautiful day in an otherwise rainy spring — clearly a bright spot of the season. And now we pivot toward June orientation and Wildcat Days for our new entering class. In four years’ time, we will bid them farewell as well, and still another new generation will join us and call themselves Wildcats. There is something immensely comforting in that unending cycle. There is a constant in the cycle: the vitality, curiosity, and daring of the young people that give it form.

Thank you all for your good partnership this year. We are grateful for your efforts to parent from afar. You and we can take our own moment to appreciate the dividend of that work: the joy of watching what they will do with their lives in this world. Have a wonderful summer.

With best wishes from Durham,

John T. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

April 2019

The Science and Practice of Mental Health and Well-Being

The academic year is drawing to a close. Commencement is only a few short weeks away. Final exams and semester-end papers and projects come first, of course, and students are noticeably focused on their remaining coursework. Yes, the weather improves by the day, but stress levels will remain elevated as we head toward the finish.

This might be a good time to reassure your sons and daughters that indeed they can and will make it through to the finish line. They have the right stuff to persevere. At the same time, I suggest an attentive ear to the expressions of their stress level they convey this time of year. You and I really can’t help them do their assigned college work, nor should we. We can, however, be good listeners. The comfort you give them by being a sounding board is immeasurable. Your calm reassurance that you are in their corner from afar is as valuable. We, too, will be a source of reassurance. Together with you, we will listen, validate their work ethic and discipline, support them and be ever-encouraging. These are ingredients of an optimal outcome for the spring semester.

Mental health and well-being under pressure take practice. Equanimity develops over time. There are some simple habits that social and behavioral science studies indicate are powerful stabilizers for any of us to endure stressful periods. Moreover, their adoption produces measurable positive effects on emotional wellbeing and cognitive performance:

1. Eight hours of sleep each night
2. Three meals each day
3. At least thirty minutes outdoors each day, even when the weather is grim

 

Sounds simple and intuitive, but it works — and not such bad advice for us parents as well. You’ve heard me speak often about the benefits of daily mindfulness practice and the expression of gratitude. We know this empirically from the same body of research. As a skeptic, it took me awhile to believe, but the research on the matter is persuasive. When appropriate — timing is everything … remember, we’re listening more than talking — work into your conversations with your sons and daughters the value of mindfulness, gratitude and the three daily habits I’ve listed. Repetition of message is no sin over the next few weeks.

If your student seems to buckle under the stress, please encourage them to visit Psychological and Counseling Services (PACS) here on campus. My PACS colleagues run many group sessions on stress management. Participating students have found them to be extremely helpful, and they are assured that other students experience similar anxious moments. I am available as well to help any student who needs guidance. We all were young once, too. If you are like me, you are grateful for the people that helped you through struggle and challenge. Pass it on.

I hope that all is well with our Wildcat families. Please know that one immense benefit of my role is that I witness every week countless acts of kindness and generosity among our students. I am hopeful and optimistic about our future. I hope that you all are as well.

With best wishes from Durham,
 

John T. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

March 2019

Back At It

Students have returned to campus after spring break looking rested, eager to finish the second half of the semester with the best grades they can muster. They are sharing stories of their travels, experiences and work during their time away from Durham. There are more smiles on their faces now, perhaps because late March signals the end of a long winter. Daylight increases each day; the weather warms, and more students now linger outside between classes than they did before break. I often argue that there is no finer place to be than on a college campus in the springtime.

Gratitude. Therapists, leaders of high-performance sectors of the work world, artists, neuroscientists and clergy speak frequently and with authoritative experience of the dividends of the daily acknowledgement of thankfulness. Some suggest that a simple recognition of three things for which we are grateful each day pays handsome dividends to both our emotional wellbeing and our cognitive ability. We feel better, and we work and play better. Lately, I’ve been encouraging students to take pictures with their phones of three things they find beautiful each day. And save them for a while.

I borrowed the suggestion from those who are schooled in mindfulness practice. I also suggest that when they are feeling down, forlorn, stressed or challenged, take a look at those pictures. They help to remind us of the positives in life when negative thoughts encroach. The mind is a powerful instrument. It turns out, our neuroscience colleagues advise, that it is also quite elastic and malleable. The brain may be more a product of what we do with it than its hardwiring at birth. Of course, be active and challenge yourself, but take an equal amount of time to find beauty in everyday life and to be grateful that you have the mind to really experience it. Happily, many pictures of beauty that students are brave enough to share with me are of friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers waiting in line at a store or coffee shop. I am grateful, as I hope you are, that therein is the larger source of their gratitude: the beauty that is right before them, every day.

Soon, April will bring green to the grass and buds to the trees on our campus. I hope that you too find beauty and gratitude where you are in your everyday lives. Via email or text, share your pictures of beauty with your sons and daughters here at UNH. I have a strong hunch that they may snap a photo of your email or text … and it may very well be one of their daily pictures of beauty, an expression of their gratitude for what you mean to them.

With my very best wishes,
 

John T. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

February 2019

Being There: Absences From Class

We now are in the throes of a busy spring semester. Evidence of students fully engaged in their studies is everywhere on campus. Dimond Library is packed; students in droves are crossing campus walkways with purpose on their way to classes throughout the day, and our academic buildings hum with activity. All of this is heartening. Students understand that their academic work at UNH is a fundamental ingredient of the good life.

I wanted to take this opportunity early in the semester to speak to absences from college classes. Many parents and students have asked for greater clarity about our expectations of student attendance. Last month, I wrote to all students to provide that clarity. Please allow me to share what I shared with them.

As a general rule, college students must shoulder the responsibility for their own attendance. Higher education is pricey, and each class has both a financial and intellectual value. Most students understand that, but we reinforce that fact with them often. A few faculty actually take attendance, but they are a small slice of our faculty. Most simply state in their first class that attendance is an expectation in college work and in their class. Many also make note of it in their course syllabi. Time is too valuable a commodity in a college course, and faculty generally are reluctant to use any of it to monitor attendance. More than a few parents have advised their sons and daughters, “if you snooze, you lose” in life. That adage resonates in college. Being where you need to be when you need to be there is always good counsel.

There are times, however, when nonacademic circumstances affect a student’s ability to attend their classes for a period of time. Acute illness, serious injury, victimization, a loss in the family — these are all conditions that can interfere with a student’s ability to be present. In my message to students last month, I encouraged them to notify their faculty when those conditions are present as soon as they can and to make arrangements with faculty to stay current in the class while they are away. The responsibility lies with the student to stay current even as their faculty are sensitive to their situation. As a guide, a student who misses a few classes indeed can catch up. Any condition that leads to a student’s absence for two weeks or more is another story, however. Catching up is difficult in most of our courses. In order to avoid any damage to their college grade point average, we often counsel students who are absent to consider a leave of absence from their studies to allow them the time and space to address adverse circumstances.

Remember, class time is precious and important to the mastery of college course material. Academic demands are considerable, and they often mount appreciably in the wake of extended absences. A student’s academic associate dean can provide good counsel to a student in such circumstances. Encourage your student to seek out their dean for guidance if they need it.

One more thing. There are no “excuses” to be written for absences in college-level classes that are similar to what students experience in middle and high school. Moreover, we strongly discourage students from sharing protected health or mental health documentation with faculty. Two years ago, the Office of the Dean of Students took on the responsibility to inform faculty when documented nonacademic circumstances exist that compromise class attendance. This is a helpful protocol for you to know as you support your student. If a faculty member requires documentation for missed classes or work, the student provides that documentation only to my office. We review that confidential information and make a determination if a letter from me to faculty is appropriate. Importantly, when I do write, I do not reveal the reason for the absence. Rather, I simply convey that we do have documentation and ask that the faculty member be sensitive to the presence of compelling nonacademic circumstances. I most certainly write in instances of an aggravated illness, injury or victimization. I do not write for any lesser reason. There is a difference between an appendectomy and a scratch. For better or for worse, I make that judgment in any given case based upon the privileged information shared with me by the student.

Please do encourage your son or daughter to contact me if a challenging circumstance arises. I will do everything I can to support students through challenges and to direct them to appropriate support services when needed.

We want all UNH students to thrive, no matter their life circumstances. Please know that we will do our best to help students help themselves when challenges confront them.

With my very best wishes,
 

John T. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

January 2019

A Loss to the University Community

ADD ALT TEXT
Aulbani Beauregard

The start of a new year is a hopeful time. This year, sadly, we begin the new year with news of the loss of a young first-year student. Aulbani Beauregard died suddenly and unexpectedly of natural causes while visiting family in Florida over the break. Family, friends and those of us who knew her are heartbroken. Aulbani was a bright light on our campus. In only a few short months since she arrived from Merrimack, New Hampshire, in late August, she endeared herself to nearly everyone she met.

Aulbani was so very happy to be a Wildcat. Many say that she came into her own at UNH. She welcomed everyone into her generous heart, the very heart that failed her at so young an age. She turned 18 in December.

With an infectious smile and a sparkle in her eyes, she looked outward and touched her faculty and classmates, unusual for an entering student. She loved to dance, to sing and especially to laugh. The divides that separate the human story mattered not to Aulbani: race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender and gender expression. She saw humanity in each of us here at UNH, reaching out to everyone who crossed her path. Most extraordinary was her zest for life. Unbridled and free. The smile she offered others earned smiles in return. I know you will join me in offering comfort to those who now grieve her absence.

A light went out in our world. Our hearts are heavy. We will miss her terribly. We will never forget her. A Wildcat she will always be.

Sincerely,

John T. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

November 2018

The Road

A few weeks remain in the fall semester, and students are beginning to prepare for final papers and examinations. The time between Thanksgiving and the holidays is a hopeful time even as it brings its share of stress among students. When visiting the Dimond Library and other campus study areas, the sight and silence of students working in preparation for semester’s end are indicators of a commitment to their studies. They intend to finish strongly and to earn the highest grades that they can. Focus, determination and discipline serve each student well this time of year. Watching them as they labor in these remaining weeks is affirming. This generation will face great challenges in the decades ahead. The work ethic and commitment they demonstrate at UNH reassure anyone who wonders about the future.

Determining how best to guide and support students, your sons and daughters, as they greet challenge is a lingering preoccupation for you and for us. We want them to be successful in their lives, but we know that they now must learn to stand on their own to do so. Through their young lives, parents have been their touchstones, points of reliable reference when difficulty, conflict or self-doubt arise. Now that they are young adults, a clear understanding about how to parent from afar at this developmental stage through such circumstances is more elusive.

An old folk adage provides us with some comfort. For parents and faculty engaged with college students, a simple translation might do: “Prepare the young adult for the road and not the road for the young adult.” Put another way, build resilience and confidence among students so that they are better suited to meet unexpected turns in the road or its steep inclines. Given our instinct to protect them, we may not be preparing them for the twists and turns and ups and downs they will face we if we smooth the road for them. Most assuredly, we cannot straighten or level the road, no matter how much we may want to do so. The road awaits. Our task is to prepare them for what it brings and where it goes. Perhaps the optimal strategy now is to help them develop resilience and confidence in themselves with our support. Try as we may, we cannot gift them those qualities. Students earn them through adversity. We cannot rescue them from the hard patches of the road, but we can support, guide and reassure them that they will get through these rough patches.

Please have confidence in your sons and daughters. They can and will “do” life. Try to avoid paving the road for them, stark advice given a shared instinct to protect them. Tell them they will get through those rough patches. Tell them to muster an inner strength as they try. In time, they will do so on their own … and that is what we all want from their higher education.

Please accept our warmest wishes from Durham for the holidays. The New Year beckons and, with it, hope and good cheer.

Sincerely,
 

John T. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

October 2018

Autumn Leaves

Homecoming is now well behind us, as is Family Weekend. It was wonderful to see so many of you this month. The campus is now in peak foliage season, awash in bright reds, vibrant yellows and russet tones. Many find this time of year to be UNH at its prettiest. Importantly for our students, we are now beyond mid-semester and student attention turns to Halloween, Thanksgiving and the final push toward final exams. November tends to seem like a short month for students. Before they know it, the last week of classes is upon them in early December. Doubling down on academic work is usually the order of late fall … and with it comes a fair amount of stress. You and we can be strong supporters of our students, reminding them that they clearly have the ability get through it all but only if they marshal their full attention, discipline and work ethic in the weeks ahead.

If you’ll allow me, I’d like to address alcohol use among underage students. You have my commitment to be frank and direct when necessary, and this is an appropriate time to be both.

Alcohol consumption patterns and trends and what they leave in their wake are longstanding concerns of mine. Earlier this semester, arrests for alcohol offenses showed signs of increasing on our campus and in Durham compared to the past two years. Fortunately, the increase has lessened somewhat in recent weeks, but each new arrest only adds to my worry. Importantly, each student who is arrested has a mandatory meeting with their academic dean. The point of the meeting is not a punitive one. Rather, it is to clearly state our concern for their health and safety. Moreover, arrests are public record, and employers, graduate schools and professional schools are vetting arrest records of candidates with increasing regularity. An arrest record can compromise a student’s career prospects, and we want to do all that we can do to educate our students about the risks that poor choices can bring.

I ask you all to join us in constructive conversations about troublesome alcohol usage. The more we join  together in this effort, the better the odds of strengthening protective factors among our students. Repetition of message is no vice. Interestingly, the faculty are discussing ways that they, too, can join the effort by raising academic demands, scheduling more classes on Fridays and talking as directly with their advisees as I do about staying healthy and safe as they pursue their higher educations. Students have  considerable talent and a great deal of energy. Our task is to channel both in ways that serve them well now and in the future.

And so we head together directly into the remaining weeks of the fall semester. Each day, the  sunlit hours grow shorter this time of year, and warm coats, hats and gloves are seen more frequently across campus. The academic pursuits and campus engagement of our students are a constant, however. And happily so.

With best wishes from Durham,
 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

September 2018

An Autumn Reflection

The fall semester is well underway, and students are immersed in their studies. The campus is buzzing again with activity, and energy levels are high. It’s wonderful to have students back after the summer respite. To date, all indicators point to a productive and high-spirited academic year at UNH. I will be certain to keep all of our Wildcat families informed as the year unfolds.

For now, it might be useful to share a current preoccupation of ours. As the midterm elections approach in November, I’ve received several concerns from parents about a need to encourage civility and respect among our students as they engage in political debate.

The University of New Hampshire is a public flagship institution and, appropriately, is careful to preserve a nonpartisan position on political matters and during election cycles. As a university, we do not take sides, nor should we. We do have an obligation, however, to tend to a campus environment where students are free to express their own ideas and their own views on the challenges that face the nation. Universities are places where debate must occur, and it does. All voices must be heard, all points of view may be voiced — provided those expressions do not threaten violence or harass another.

In truth, the nation faces a similar challenge: to remain fiercely loyal to First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly while staying as loyal to the notion that others with whom we may disagree have the same freedoms. Civil discourse is what most of us seek at a fractious time in the nation. Certainly we can disagree with one another and often do, but diminishing others with whom we disagree runs counter to a core campus value of decency.   

In the coming weeks, we will be talking with and listening to our students from across the political spectrum. A responsibility to model what civil discourse looks like on our campus is one we willingly shoulder. We cannot expect our students to behave in ways that we ourselves do not.

Politically inspired student groups  are stirring, and outside speakers from a variety of political persuasions undoubtedly will be visiting our campus in the coming weeks. We ask that you join us when talking with your sons and daughters to encourage them to be mindful of those who might disagree with them. Diplomacy in everyday life relies upon an ability to recognize a different way of seeing things and another way of being present in this world. One need not agree with an opposing voice, but it is wise to listen respectfully to it and offer one’s own view respectfully.

Please do talk about politics, economics, culture, the arts and international affairs with your sons and daughters. Be mindful that they watch all of you as closely as they watch all of us. Generosity of spirit and of mind is part of the American fabric. Even as we may disagree, we have at our disposal the means to show students that disagreement need not be uncivil.

This nation will get the future it deserves. Whatever the outcome of the midterm elections, I, for one, believe that the prospects for the future of this country are very bright indeed. Thousands of students here at UNH tell me so. Let’s give them the help, guidance and patience they need from us all.

Thank you all, yet again, for the terrific work you do. Our work on campus is a complement to the work you do at home.

With best wishes from Durham,
 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

august 2018

The Coming Year

Despite bouts of sweltering summer heat, UNH has been busy preparing for the arrival of our entering and returning students in late August. Repairing sidewalks, cleaning residence halls, attending to the landscaping of this beautiful campus and installing new instructional technologies are all part of the summer drill. We’ve also been at work in welcoming and orienting new faculty for the 2018-19 year. It’s always a time of great excitement and anticipation, but the real magic begins when students return to campus to start the new academic year.

Over the coming months, you’ll hear from me about a number of issues important to student life on our campus. Mental health and well-being, sexual violence, safety, diversity and inclusion, alcohol use patterns and trends are on our slate of priorities this year, as they are on scores of other campuses around the country. The residential college experience develops both intellect and character. The well-rounded student attends to both. One day, the world will look to this generation of college students for leadership and solutions to seemingly intractable problems. UNH aims to make certain that they are ready for the world that awaits them when they leave us, hard-earned degrees in hand. We will be clear in our messages to students about our expectations and their responsibilities at UNH.

We value your partnership in this work. College students are adults now. Deep down, I know they are thankful for the love, support and guidance you’ve provided them over the course of their young lives. We are grateful as well. Once in residence in college, they practice on their own the lessons you have taught them well: how to “be” in this world as a person who matters and who cares in equal measure about others. Our job is to build upon the foundation you’ve provided them, to offer guidance and encouragement when they need it and to push them beyond what they believe are personal limits. They must be active agents in their higher education, however. Accountability, resilience and grit are assets in the face of challenge. They are central ingredients of success as a student and later in life.

I hope that what remains of the summer is good to you and your families. Thank you for the trust you place in our hands. We pledge to do our very best in developing the young talent this world so desperately needs.

With my very best wishes from Durham,
 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

may 2018

The Waft of Bittersweet

The 2017-18 academic year is now among the annals of the university’s history.

Commencement is always the final chapter of an academic year. We have celebrated at awards ceremonies and commencement the sizable achievements of our graduating seniors and wished them well as they move beyond the campus into worlds apart. So talented were they when they first arrived on our campus as entering students. Now seasoned and tested, they have departed to ply their talents in their careers, settle into the communities where they will land and create new kinship systems, familial and otherwise. We will watch closely what each will contribute over their life course. Many of us masked a quiet tear as we watched them leave after the ceremony. Sad, yes, in seeing them leave, but heartened by what we know they will do in this world and the hope that they bring to it.

May is also a time when we begin to pivot toward our entering class for 2018-19, a new group of proven and talented young people more than 3,000 strong. In late August, we will welcome them and their families to Wildcat country. I know that you will welcome our new parents into your fold as well. I’m guessing that they will need the loan of your experience and your guidance, since many will be sending a son or daughter to college for the first time. You now are accomplished in the challenges of parenting adult children, conversant with the ways in which UNH develops not only intellect but, in equal measure, character in our students. Both are important elements of a higher education.

I encourage you to support our new parents as they find their way. Share your wisdom, your successes and the unexpected challenges you undoubtedly have faced as you parented from afar. I know it has not been easy at times, but I do want each of you to know how much you mean to our students, individually and collectively. While your students may not tell you as frequently as perhaps they should, they do tell me. You are constant touchstones in their lives and will forever be.

Thank you all for your partnership over the past year. I am immensely grateful for it. Judging from the intellectual range and the solid character of our recently graduated seniors, you and we didn’t do too badly, I should think. Well done.

Have a wonderful summer, and — with the exception of our graduates’ parents — we will see you all again in the fall.

With best wishes from Durham, 

 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

april 2018

As the Academic Year Nears Its End

The university will host the 2018 Commencement soon: Saturday, May 19. It is a bittersweet time when we both honor our students who have labored long and hard to earn their degrees and bid them farewell.

Old as I am, I shed a tear each time. It is a moving experience. We were there when our seniors first entered the university: talented, proven for their age, eager, impassioned but unseasoned in the ways of the life of the mind. Over their years of study, certainly they struggled. Our job is to throw them seemingly intractable problems and then guide them as they muster the courage and imagination to face them squarely and successfully. They also celebrated triumph, individually and collectively. The important thing is that they prevailed … and that alone is our nation’s greatest hope. They are the envy of so many parts of the world, and as I’ve said on many occasions, they will have a lot to do with the shape of the 21st century.

The most moving moment in Commencement is when the trumpets sound, the faculty part on both sides and our graduates move through them into worlds apart and as yet unknown. Together, we have the pleasure of watching what they do to make this world a better place. The whole world watches with us.

Over three decades at UNH, there has not been a single day when I am not grateful for a life spent among them. Sure, I see them at their worst or when they stumble and when they fail. But I have never lost faith in them, even as pundits and critics sometimes do. Some of you may remember something I conveyed to parents the summer before their first year of study at UNH … that they may very well be the next greatest generation, so formidable are the challenges that face them. Our seniors are ready now, and they will answer the summons of responsibility that awaits them at their graduation. I have faith in them. I hope you have as much.

And one more thing. To the parents of our graduating seniors, let me express our deep appreciation again for the privilege of working with your sons and daughters. We are immensely grateful. To the parents of our freshmen, sophomores and juniors, your turn will come soon enough, and we will celebrate as vigorously. I encourage all of you to welcome our parents of new freshmen this fall. You now are our veteran parents. Our new parents will need both your support and guidance.

Please accept my very best wishes for a terrific summer. We all know we deserve it, given how long the cold weather lingered.

With warn regards from Durham,

 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

march 2018

Springtime on a College Campus

Many years ago, a senior colleague warned me that spring is marching season on a college campus. The cold winter weather fades, he said, and students emerge from their seasonal hibernation, restive and energized. He intended the advice as preparation for the ramping up of campus activity, both welcome and not so welcome. I, on the other hand, always look forward to this time of year. Students provide energy to the life of the mind. Once spring arrives, we all get to see that energy in full force across the campus.

That said, I do want to keep you informed about a couple of important things. Across the nation’s campuses, April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Our Sexual Assault and Harassment Prevention Program (SHARPP) at UNH has many events and programs planned each week. Perhaps the most pivotal in demonstrating unity around the issue is the campus march planned for Thursday, April 12. in the afternoon. Traditionally, faculty, staff and students gather to show strength in our common commitment to address the damage that sexual assault and harassment cause. The recent welcome and impressive “Me Too” and “Times Up” movements in the arts, sports, business and industry, politics, science and the academy clearly indicate that the wider society has put those who engage in either on notice. Sexual violence and harassment have no place at UNH nor anywhere else in the modern world. We hope that you will join us, especially during the month of April, in talking with your sons and daughters about the perils and often lasting damage of sexual violence and harassment. The SHARPP march in mid-April is a most welcome channeling of student energy toward a worthy end: an end to sexual victimization. We need your help to get there.

Second, last May, our campus suffered as we heard countless stories of pain and conflict around students’ identities. These days, students draw their personal identities from a multiplicity of sources: gender, race, ethnicity, political leanings, religion, sexual orientation, country of origin, age and veteran status among them. I always tell students that one need not love another. One need not even like another. Those are both individual choices. But all people are deserving of respect for who they are and where they came from. “Unity from many” is at the very core of the American story. College is a place where one learns how valuable are the virtues of respect, civility and the affordance of dignity toward others. I cannot speak for all of you, but I’m betting that you are as tired as I am of the incidence and prevalence of people screaming at each other about the things that divide us as a nation. These young, talented students have the chance to reset that circumstance, and they demonstrate a willingness to do so.

On Saturday, May 5, the university will recognize a Unity Day as a day of service among our students. We will be working together as a campus community on projects to tidy up both our campus and the town of Durham, a gift from our UNH students to this place as we prepare for Commencement and as the rising undergraduates prepare to leave us for the summer. Please know that we will be enlisting everyone in this effort, turning that spring energy into something positive and hopeful and in contrast to the negative zeitgeist that appears so pervasive in our time. We ask that you inquire of your sons and daughters in April how they plan to participate on May 5. Giving back to others is a premium fuel of this great nation. We plan to prime the pump by doing this annually on the last Saturday before classes end each spring. It starts this spring.

Thank you all for the privilege of working with your sons and daughters. I’ve always thought there is no greater one.

With best wishes from Durham,

 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

february 2018

Safety Is a Priority

Colleagues in student life and the academic deans in our colleges at UNH share a dedication to safety among our students. I’ve talked before about another priority on our campus, the health and wellness of our students. Please allow me equal time to address efforts about student safety on our campus.

Students at UNH perform best academically when they work in a learning environment that is both safe and supportive. They must be full partners to our efforts to see that the learning environment is both, however. Risk is a part of everyday life for us all, young and old alike. Most older adults have learned to minimize risk in their lives. For the most part, we fasten our seatbelts, wear helmets on the slopes or on our bikes, pay our taxes on time, stay on the good side of law and ordinance and avoid iffy situations when we sense danger or threat. Young adults are not yet as savvy about risk management, but we take it upon ourselves here at UNH to build on what you’ve taught them about the subject before they arrived on our campus. Remember my mention of character and judgment in a prior column? They require as much attention in higher education as does the development of intellect.

To date this semester, I’ve notified all of our students about three helpful sources available to them that are valuable as they approach safety in their everyday lives. The first is the university’s new Student Social Media Policy. The policy was the product of effort by a number of faculty, staff and students who worked jointly over six months to compose and revise drafts. The end-product was approved by near-unanimous vote of the Student Senate last December. The delicate balance between free speech and safety was at the heart of the effort. Rest assured that the university remains steadfastly committed to First Amendment guarantees. At the same time, we believe in accountability for what is said. We also accept fully our responsibility to make sure that all students feel safe as they pursue their academic degrees. The world holds each of us accountable for what we have every right to say, as long as it does not threaten another’s safety. Knowing that just because we can say something doesn’t always mean we should is a life lesson, one all the more acutely apparent on social media platforms that have breathtaking speed and range.

The second is a downloadable app for our students, LiveSafe, operated by University Police Chief Paul Dean. We encourage all of our students to use it if and when they need to do so. The app offers our students immediate help when they need it and other useful information that is updated periodically to help them stay safe and to live full and rich lives on our campus. It is an available app for our students on the UNH Suite.

Finally, early this month, we introduced another app, uSafeUS, which is geared toward minimizing sexual harassment and sexual violence in our community. The app was engineered and is operated by the Preventions Innovations Research Center right here at UNH. Many colleges and universities from around the country have employed it with considerable success to reduce the incidence and prevalence of sexual violence. Other entities outside of academia are using it as well. Several risk-management strategies are available to our students on uSafeUS and will be available by month’s end on the UNH Suite as well.

The spring semester is now in full swing. Thank you again for your continuing partnership with us to promote health, wellness, and safety among Wildcats.

With best wishes from Durham, 

 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

january 2018

The Blue Plate Special

Some say that Memphis, Tennessee, is the birthplace of the blues, soul and rock ’n roll.  The Blue Plate Café is a diner there known for its southern-style breakfasts. Locals and visitors alike crowd its booths and tables on most mornings.

The Blue Plate’s paper menu looks like a small newspaper. On the front page, a regular customer, Drew Brown, offers his advice to patrons on some rules of life: 

  1. Wake up. Show up. Pay attention.
  2. Be happy. Have fun.
  3. Learn, master and play by the rules.
  4. Get an education.
  5. Work hard. Work smart. Never quit.
  6. Never lie, cheat or steal.
  7. Know your weaknesses and overcome them.
  8. Learn a skill, trade or profession you love, and master it.
  9. Avoid the seven deadly sins — pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony and lust.
  10. Don’t judge, and learn how to forgive.
  11. Never sweat the small stuff.
  12. Treat all with dignity and respect.
  13. Acquire patience and serenity.
  14. Make a negative a positive, and learn from the past.
  15. To thine own self be true. Develop self-discipline.
  16. You gotta believe.

All things considered, that’s wise counsel for college students, I should think, and soulful music from the heartland for young people in search of themselves.

Please accept our very best wishes for 2018.  

 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

Nov/Dec 2017

A Thanksgiving

November and December can be stark months, but they are also a time of grace and generosity. What follows is a true story cut from the cloth of each. The names of the two students have been changed.

Music belongs to everyone and to no one. Only the talented can make it. Most everyone enjoys it. Alissia is a gifted music major, a junior who struggles with financing her education at UNH. On at least one occasion, the Swipe It Forward program helped her to address her food insecurity. She plays a large string instrument, and like most musicians, she invested a sizable sum to purchase her principle instrument some years ago. Other string instruments, of course, are in her closet, but they are only avocational amusements and are of a much lower quality. Her violin, in particular, is not anything a musician would care to play.

One afternoon, as Alissia returned to her room, Huan, an older engineering student from China, was in the lounge playing his violin — rather badly, Alissia thought. She noticed his violin was an expensive one. As Huan struggled with his finger and bow work, Alissia retrieved her violin from her room. Without speaking, she sat next to Huan and played the piece he struggled to master. Alissia’s music was sweet and effortless, and Huan brightened instantly even as his music did not.  

The two played together many long afternoons after that. Both enjoyed each other’s company, the master and her student engaged in moments of disharmony to the ear but harmony of heart. Sadly, Huan would be graduating at semester’s end, returning to China to start his engineering career.

The last afternoon they played together was bittersweet for both. Once they finished their last piece, Huan smiled and held out his violin to Alissia: “This is for you. It belongs in the hands of one who can make it sing so sweetly.”

She never saw him again. 

Alissia still has that violin. She continues to struggle with money. Yet each time she plays that violin, the sweet music that only she can make is a gift in return to the young man who made it possible.  

Please accept our warmest wishes for the holiday season from all of us at UNH.

 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

october 2017

Frost on the Pumpkin

The fall semester is beyond its midpoint, and the season’s first frost has hit many areas in New England. Most students have shed their t-shirts and shorts. Sweatshirts, long pants and boots are the wardrobe of choice around campus now. We won’t see those t-shirts and flip-flops again on campus until late March when the hardy cast off their winter togs.

On balance, campus life has been hopeful. Students are fully engaged in their academic work; the Hamel Recreation Center is a busy hub of physical activity; and the Memorial Union Building buzzes with the work of scores of student organizations, entertainment and social activities. The fact that the number of arrests and student conduct cases are down significantly from last year at this time is welcome news. And colleagues in residential life report life in our 22 residence halls and student apartment buildings is marked increasingly by civility and mutual respect. For those of you parents who have contributed to these very positive outcomes through the guidance and care you have offered our talented students from afar, please know how grateful we are for your partnership. It is paying clear dividends.

We ask again for your help as Halloween weekend approaches. Students look forward to celebrating, gathering with friends on campus and in Durham. Our messages to students ask them to celebrate responsibly and to watch out for each Wildcat’s health and safety. Many deans, faculty members and senior administrators will don our “Red Coats” — marked with the UNH logo and our names — and walk the campus and town over the weekend evenings.  We do so to remind students to celebrate safely and to watch out for each other. Wildcat Country is at its strongest when we care as much about the well-being of others as we do for ourselves.  

Our students come from across both the nation and the globe, but the Wildcat blue that runs through all members of our campus community and through all of our parents defines us and our common character.

So, thank you again for all that you do. And thank you for the privilege of working with these wonderful young people. You and we expect much of them, as does the world they will one day lead.    

 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

september 2017

Rights and Responsibilities

September 17 is Constitution Day, the day in 1787 that the U.S. Constitution was signed in Philadelphia, a signal event in our nation’s history.  

The annual recognition of that day is testimony to this nation’s loyalty to the rule of law. In truth, the Constitution and its amendments guide much of our everyday lives as citizens of a free society.

On the evening of Constitution Day this year, I met with student leaders and representatives to discuss our challenges and opportunities for the coming year as an academic community. We spoke frankly about troubling events on our campus last spring and the recent tragic events at the University of Virginia, a place where ugliness showed its face. Painful as the tragedy in Charlottesville was, the hope and promise of the American story appeared in its wake. Republicans and Democrats alike, the joint chiefs of staff, business leaders, UNH President Mark Huddleston and legions of citizens condemned the violent conduct used to gain attention for virulent expressions of racial and religious hatred.  

The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to our Constitution, is a deliberate inventory of rights of all citizens. Responsibilities are close complements to those rights. The exercise of free speech rights, for instance, carries with it a responsibility to safeguard the rights of others to express opposing views. In my conversations with the student leaders that night, we talked about our duty as free citizens to exercise rights responsibly to preserve the community we share. I was impressed by the ability and willingness of young Wildcats to grasp that concept. 

Our students cannot alone fix what ails this nation of course, but they are fully prepared to be full partners with faculty and administrators as we work to find remedies for evidence of that illness on this campus. Too many students are hurting — students of all skin colors, ethnic origins, religions, sexual orientations and genders. Our student leadership expressed a strong desire to work with their peers to make it better for all UNH students, and that is a very good start.

There is great value in asking all who join the life of the mind on this campus to exercise generosity, restraint, kindness and forgiveness as we engage each other in civil and, at times, heated debate. It’s what universities have done for centuries and what they must do to serve the needs of the citizens who will inherit the world our generation leaves them. The number of UNH students who express a willingness to exercise those virtues as we engage in debate is impressive. More than that, it suggests that this republic will be in good hands indeed. 

I ask that you support your sons and daughters as they exercise their constitutional rights responsibly and with decency to those who may disagree with them. This nation and this world will need them and that temperament in due time.    

 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

August 2017

The New Academic Year Is Nigh

These warm sunny days of August soon will lead us to the opening of the 2017-18 academic year. August always is an exciting time on campus. We are finishing up the summer’s many construction projects. Faculty are returning to Durham from their travels and research in faraway places. New faculty and staff are beginning their orientation to UNH. Many of our student athletes in our Fall Division I teams are returning for preseason sessions, and our new team of residential hall directors are in training, preparing for the return of our students at month’s end.

More than 3,000 first-year students comprise the entering UNH class this fall. New and old, our students are an impressive bunch. What they share in common is their talent, their curiosity and their ambition. We eagerly await the energy they bring to the life of the mind here at UNH. It’s been a little lonely this summer without them.

Over the course of the year in this monthly column, I hope to continue what I began with Wildcat Parents last year: a frank conversation about the ways that we can partner to guide and support our students as they pursue their higher educations. We will be focusing more and more on promoting health and wellness practices among our students to allow them to better meet the challenges that arise in everyday life.

As the parents of our new first-year students know, we have assigned summer reading to all entering students: “The Mindful Twenty-Something” by Dr. Holly B. Rodgers, a Duke University psychiatrist. There is strong evidence in neuroscience literature that mindful practice can improve cognitive functioning and strengthen resilience in the face of challenge or change. We will be working with first-year students inside and outside the classroom and elsewhere on campus on ways to introduce mindfulness practice each day. The University of Vermont is doing so, and Duke has seen impressive results. UNH is now fully engaged in a similar effort. I invite parents of our returning students to encourage your UNH sons and daughters to read the book as well. Let’s work together to provide our students with the tools to do the extraordinary as college students and later in their lives. They certainly have it in them.

I also want to emphasize that we will be talking directly and often with all of our students about consent in intimate relationships, respect for the many sources from which our students draw their sense of identity, the virtues of civility and decency when engaging others and the many wonderful and deeply satisfying ways to “be” on our campus without engaging in excessive and dangerous use of alcohol and other drugs. We know from surveys of our students that health and safety are two primary values that are important to them. We plan to spend a great deal of time and effort in teaching them how to nurture both in their daily lives.

Their time is now. They may very well be the next greatest generation, whether they want to be or not. The world expects much of them. I am grateful for the efforts of all of you in joining with us to make certain that they have the strength of intellect and of character to assume the mantle of responsibility that the world one day will place upon their shoulders.

Let’s bring as much energy and good will to the work ahead as our bright UNH students bring to this campus.

 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

April 2017

Partners in Plain Talk

Years ago, a senior colleague told me that there is no finer place to be in this world than a college campus in the springtime. After 30 years or more of enjoying the season on the Durham campus, he gets no argument from me. The college campus is awash in the warm sunlight; students are boisterously spirited; and everyone is filled with the promise that only this time of year can bring.

In a few weeks, at the close of this year’s Commencement, the trumpets will sound and our seniors will march by lines of university faculty to enter new worlds yet imagined, educated minds of the 21st century. A moving moment, to be sure.

This time of year also reminds us of our obligation as “the adults in the room.” We share your hope that every student is and remains healthy, well and safe as we count down toward semester’s end.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month across the U.S. Here, we take special note of the many UNH colleagues and students who devote their time and talents to minimize the likelihood that any student is victimized. It is noble work. We ask that you partner with us in plain talk with your sons and daughters about how to address the origins of sexual violence and harassment effectively. One suggestion is to emphasize what consent truly is — not what students may think it is. Precisely what it is: No means no. And anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not capable of providing consent.

A helpful tool is the short video “Tea and Consent.” We hope you take a look and send it to your student as well. They may remember it from freshman orientation. Repetition of message is a virtue in this instance. No one deserves to suffer the pain of sexual victimization. Join us in the effort to see that they don’t.

We also hope that you will join us in talking with your sons and daughters about responsibility and accountability now that the nice weather is here. The next two weekends look to be eventful ones, particularly the one beginning next Friday, May 5. A dozen of my colleagues will be walking the streets of Durham and around campus that night, not to admonish but rather to encourage our students to be safe and to take care of each other. Early that week, UNH Police Chief Paul Dean and I will send a communication to all of our students with the same message: Stay safe and watch out for each other — another message that can never be conveyed too many times. You and we are touchstones for young people. They look to us for guidance, and we should offer it when circumstance calls us to do so.

Please accept my thanks for all your messages over this past year and your continuing support of our work at UNH. We are mindful of the singular pleasure of helping your children develop their intellect as well as the character and judgment to use it wisely.

With best wishes,

 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

march 2017

New Era, New Challenges

Teddy Roosevelt’s refrain about the importance of both a strong mind and a strong body has long resonated. Just look at the new Hamel Recreation Center that opened this year to see how the maxim endures among students on our campus: “In the last analysis, a healthy state can exist only when the men and women who make it up live clean, vigorous, healthy lives; when the children are so trained that they shall endeavor not to shirk from difficulties but to overcome them; not to seek ease but to know how to wrest triumph from toil and risk.” That’s music to all of us who enjoy the privilege of working with your sons and daughters at UNH.

We are mixing it up a bit in student life here, however, reorganizing somewhat and redirecting our energies toward new priorities to educate our students about how to live fully and with purpose. I pledge to keep you informed as we do. For now, it’s probably helpful to explain why we are doing so.

Campuses across the country are troubled by the persistence of student struggles with mental health, with alcohol and illicit substance consumption patterns and rates and with students’ difficulties in maintaining composure under stress. At UNH, we’ve reached a general agreement in recent months that the optimal way to address these lingering worries here is to better equip our students with the means to better manage the inevitable bumps and hurdles of everyday life. We need tools. And we need to teach our students how to use them regularly. What they learn how to do now will serve them in countless constructive ways in their personal lives, in their careers and in their communities.

Advances in the neurosciences are illuminating, and we are willfully turning to that literature for guidance in choosing carefully the tools we plan to teach our students to use effectively. It turns out that a defining characteristic of the human brain is its neuroplasticity. The brain and how it thinks about the world can be altered over the life course. Put another way, how each of our brains operate has a lot to do with what each of us has asked our brain to do in the past. Careful as we should be not to oversimplify the complexities of the brain, interesting new neuroscience research suggest that indeed we can influence more positive and health-enhancing ways to think about the world, even among those who have experienced significant challenges, obstacles and trying circumstances. For example, there’s fairly strong evidence that smiling — even smiling that is not coming from a place of actual happiness— can improve health outcomes. It sounds silly, of course, but we should never miss an opportunity to seize upon the simple when it is so promising. I’m reminded of that old adage that laughter is an instant vacation. Vacations help each of us to perform better and to stay in the game longer.

So you’ll hear us talk with increasing frequency with your sons and daughters about powerful tools we will give them and show them how to use: mindfulness, resiliency and equanimity or MREs — like ready-to-eat meals for the mind. Remember, your sons and daughters have great talent. You and we share a desire for these able young people to be happy and productive in their lives. We are confident in our ability to teach them how. For your part, at least for now, tell them to smile. I assure you that they will hear you, even as they may roll their eyes. And don’t stray from that message. We won’t. Believe in them. Believe in UNH.

 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students

 


 

February 2017

A New and Promising Partnership

The opportunity to share thoughts with you through a monthly column in the Parents Newsletter was truly a welcome one. Having spent the bulk of my years at UNH in an academic dean’s office, moving to the dean of students’ office a year and a half ago looked to be an easy transition. Far from it, however. Many months working collaboratively with student life professionals on pressing and emerging student issues has proved to be quite an education, even for an old fellow like me.  

Working with young talented students in the formative years of college is a privilege, of course. These four years of formal study in the company of peers from the four corners of the globe, under the direction of an immensely accomplished faculty, change students in ways they do not anticipate when entering in their first year. College is every bit as much about the development of character as it is about the development of intellect; intellect without the judgement to use it wisely is of no avail to the individual or the wider community.  

In the months ahead, I look forward to sharing some thoughts with all of you about the issues that matter to your sons and daughters and how we can work together to address them successfully.  

The challenges that await these bright young minds after graduation are great. The world will expect much of them, and they will help shape the 21st century. We share with you confidence in their abilities, deep affection for each of them and an understanding that we should brook no nonsense in them. They are a joyous lot with considerable energy. Our shared responsibility is to steer them in ways that benefit them, now and in the years ahead. 

Please do share with me any observations or concerns you may have, any questions that may arise and any constructive ideas you might have. This is a partnership between you and us. I for one look forward to what dividends to campus life we might produce together. Until next time, stay safe, stay well and stay hopeful about the future of your children.  

 

John T. Kirkpatrick
Senior Vice Provost for Student Life
and Dean of Students