Dean of the College of Health and Human Services Mike Ferrara made sure to shake everyone's hand when they entered the classroom at the Child Study and Development Center. It didn't matter that they were 3- and 4-year-olds, who greeted Ferrara with smiles but also a bit of confusion about who this tall man in a suit might be.
But once Ferrara opened up The Mitten and read the first line of the children's book, the crowd of kiddos was hooked.
Ferrara read the story to CSDC students as a random act of kindness, part of the Month of Believing, where students, faculty and staff across the university's three campuses took time out of their busy schedules to do something nice for someone else.
Ferrara said he and his staff originally thought of giving out doughnuts as an act of kindness—and while it might have been a welcome treat for UNH students, "as the dean of health and human services, it seemed like perhaps doughnuts weren't the healthiest idea," Ferrara says.
"It made sense to do this story reading because I have such a passion for educating our kids, no matter how young they are."
For the last five weeks, University Advancement staff have been hosting the Month of Believing, an effort to boast even more about the university, to show those beyond the Durham, Manchester and Concord campuses all the great things happening at UNH. The five weeks of events followed four major themes: service, giving thanks, caring and pride in the university.
Last week's theme was kindness, and in addition to story time at CSDC, several deans handed out free coffee and cocoa to students, wishing them good luck on finals, and in general bringing smiles of passersby.
And a "say something nice" station in Murkland Courtyard proved to be wildly popular; although people weren't too sure in the beginning what it was all about.
"With the end of a long semester and finals approaching, we thought students might like to pause and give a shout out to their peers; turns out we were right!" says Katie Oslin, director of the UNH Fund and one of the organizers of Month of Believeing events. See for yourself by watching the video:
This week's events focused on UNH pride, and the school spirit is nowhere more evident than at UNH sporting events—including the game of rivals on Friday and Saturday nights when UNH men's hockey takes on UMaine. The pride week also included "Wildcats in the Wild" where alums around the world were asked to share photos of themselves with their UNH gear on.
All of the events were promoted and documented on the university's social media channels, using the #ibelieveinunh hashtag.
"We are overwhelmed by the response to this effort—students, faculty, staff and alumni have enthusiastically participated and confirmed they really do believe in UNH!" Oslin says.