From the Desk of the Dean of Students
September 5, 2008
For the last couple of years, I have been asking parents of new students to send me a letter introducing me to their daughters and sons.
These letters have been fascinating, providing me with a unique view on how parents see their children and what expectations they have of St. Olaf College. The letters and e-mail messages I receive sometimes include photographs, running commentary from the student who is the subject of the letter and -- a recent favorite -- greetings from the family dog. Messages include the biography of success that seems to be so common of our gifted student body. They also include success stories in progress, as students deal with loss or struggle with learning disabilities, chronic medical concerns, or mental health challenges.
Reading the letters, I am again reminded that there is no "normal" St. Olaf student, because our students reflect the full diversity and challenge of the whole human race. I actually wish everyone could read them, as they create a great patchwork quilt that together is more beautiful than any single piece.
In these letters and through the stories that are shared, parents often express their own hopes and fears through the lens of their children's lives. They also share the children's anxieties through the lens of their own experience. Either way, there is clearly a lot of anxiety out there.
We know. It is the focus of much of what happens during these first days on campus.
As I mentioned to new St. Olaf parents recently as they dropped off their daughters and sons, every one of those letters carried a very powerful message to us. Not everyone said it out loud, but the message was still received: We have worked hard and done everything we could to love and parent and provide this child with the guidance and support they need to make it at St. Olaf. They are the most precious thing we have, and they are in your hands now. Please respect and cherish this exceptional gift.
Message received. They are in both your and our hands now. Thank you for your trust.
Vice President and Dean of Students
St. Olaf College