Thursday, October 26, 2017

Hungry Huskies Initiative

In the fall of 2017, Bloomsburg launched the Hungry Huskies Initiative aimed at assisting students with food instability concerns. We recognized that we have a student population that often went hungry, making choices like whether to buy a particular book for class or to buy food.

Sometimes students would seek assistance from various offices or trusted staff and faculty. Other times, a friend would ask out of concern. Different offices noticed this need and would independently gather resources, such as having canned goods and other non-perishables in their office. Or they would keep information on how to seek public assistance for food.

We approached our local food bank for their insight and assistance. The result is student only access to the Bloomsburg Food Cupboard on Mondays from 5 to 6 p.m., most weeks during the fall and spring semesters. (Students tend to have food from home or other resources at the beginning of the term.)

This program has been very beneficial for our students, both those who use the service and in creating a heightened social awareness for the greater university community. Weekly, anywhere from a handful to a few dozen students take advantage of this resource. We decided against any income verification process or anything else that could create a barrier to students in need. Our goal continues to be straightforward and simple – feeding students who do not have enough to eat.

Along the way, we’re making improvements. For example, one volunteer noticed that the Food Cupboard regularly stocked ingredients to make chili, yet the students didn’t know how to cook it. So, the volunteer made copies of a recipe and sent it the following week. Another noticed students looking at a head of cabbage, but not selecting it. When asked, the students responded saying that they didn’t know how to make it like their grandmothers. After a few questions, the students had instructions and went home with heads of cabbage.

In addition to the Student Night at the Food Cupboard, emergency food bags are available to students in several offices – Dean of Students, Student Health Center, TRiO Student Support Services, Multicultural Affairs, Women’s Resource Center, and Academic Enrichment, and the Student Affairs office. These bags contain a variety of non-perishables and students just need to ask for them to receive them.

The team working on this initiative is very conscientious and thought of details like, providing sandwich bags of hotel-sized toiletries or making sure a variety of shopping bags are stocked at the Food Cupboard, so students don’t unintentionally reveal where they were as they walk home. When the Food Cupboard learned the patrons needed can openers, the Dean of Students Office purchased them to be distributed to our students and the community members.

The students who use these services span demographics – they are male, female, white and students of color, and live in both rural and urban areas. Sometimes, individuals hold stereotypes of college students – or more sadly – of college students in need. Our student participants defy these stereotypes.

Our students are grateful for these resources. They don’t understand that we are also grateful for them. If they were not coming forward, we wouldn’t have an opportunity to help them. If this effort helps students focus on their studies, we’re fulfilling our mission as an institution of higher education.

We’re still in need of volunteer assistance for the Hungry Huskies Initiative. If you’re on campus, there are a variety of food drives that assist the Food Cupboard. If you’re off campus, the Food Cupboard accepts cash donations. To volunteer at the BU Student night, please contact Student Affairs at or 570-389-4063.
    — Dione D. Somerville, vice president for student affairs

Friday, September 29, 2017

Evolving with students' changing needs

A week ago, the U.S. Department of Education rescinded guidance issued in 2011 and 2014 regarding student sexual misconduct and issued new guidance. As we review and learn more about that action, be assured that the university will always strive to be in compliance with Title IX. Furthermore, we will never take actions that compromise student safety or due process, and are proud of improvements we’ve made over the years, many of which pre-date the aforementioned guidance.

Most notably, our University Resource Advocates for Sexual Misconduct/Title IX program began with dedicated professionals who recognized that students had specialized needs when a report of sexual misconduct occurs.

Advocates complete rigorous training and operate in an on-call rotation. They meet with students in hospitals, police stations, the Health Center, or wherever they are called. Depending on the student’s wishes, an advocate may be engaged for a brief conversation about resources or may be engaged longer if a student wishes their advocate to accompany them during criminal proceedings.

We have enhanced our student sexual misconduct educational offerings. Students are exposed to sexual misconduct information beginning with Orientation. These programs engage students and help them think through different situations where sexual misconduct can occur as well as bystander intervention and where to go for resources. In addition to mandatory sessions, different student groups participate in more in-depth education, such as student athletes, student employees, Greek students, and students living in the residence halls.

The university has also clarified how students can access resources. Resources that used to be scattered throughout campus and in the community are all available for students online and in pamphlets. Posters are throughout campus, focused in student areas and contain contact information where students can learn more.

Finally, our student code of conduct underwent a vigorous review. The goal of our student code has always been education of the student. We want to make sure that students can emerge from our campus judicial process with a greater understanding of their behavior, how their choices impact others, and the consequences that accompany their choices. Due process is at the heart of any campus judicial proceeding – for the reporting student and the accused student.

We know for sure that our response to student sexual misconduct will continue to evolve as student needs continue to evolve. What will remain unchanging is our commitment to our students – their education and their safety.

    — Dione D. Somerville, vice president for student affairs

Friday, September 15, 2017

Parents and Family Weekend

Parents and Family Weekend has long been one of my favorite traditions at Bloomsburg University. Watching students and their families enjoying each other on campus is idyllic and is a reminder of why our role in the development of students is so important. Then, last fall, I was the first time parent of a college student. This was an interesting experience for me since I had always experienced the start of college classes from the perspective of an administrator!

As the parent of a college student, I can say that I missed my son the minute we dropped him off at school. We looked forward to opportunities like Parents’ and Family Weekend to visit in a non-invasive way. We could reconnect with our son without invading his growing independence.

Visiting campus, we were also able to experience a “day in his life.” We could see for ourselves and put into context his walk to the cafeteria and class from his room in the morning, his evening at the library (or so we were told!), or his Saturday at an athletic event. Or we might even meet a friend or two we only heard about through a phone call or a text message.

And of course, we had to purchase a special meal (or two…plus snacks) on or off campus and visit the bookstore to get t-shirts and hats for a proud sibling, aunts, uncles, and grandmothers. Luckily for Bloomsburg parents this year, Parents’ and Family Weekend is early enough to where students haven’t yet run out of laundry detergent or other supplies. (Besides, if they do, they can use the university shuttle to Walmart.)

Not only are these visits opportunities for the parents, I think these visits are important for the student as well. They get to demonstrate their independence as they share their new home with you. They are proud and want to show their parents that they are becoming independent adults. Parents are often surprised at how much growth and development can happen in just a few weeks!

I hope you take the opportunity to engage in Parent’s and Family Weekend or any other visit during the year. While it may not be “cool” for a student to admit, they still need their families’ support and guidance. And for me, sometimes there’s no substitute for seeing them in person, in their new environment.

Whether or not you’re able to visit, please know that we’re always available to assist our parents and families. If you’re on Facebook, I encourage you to join one of the Bloomsburg parents pages. Other resources for your reference are listed below:
    — Dione D. Somerville, vice president for student affairs