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  • Dianne Lev

25 Years of the Center

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

In the Fall 2019 issue of Mandala, to honor the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing’s 25th Anniversary, I thought it would be fun to name 25 distinctive highlights. 20 were described in that issue. Some were examples of the Center’s innovative culture. Several recognized the University of Minnesota, where the Center flourishes. Others offered observations about the broader arena of integrative health and wellbeing. I encouraged readers to stay tuned for remaining points in the next issue and, well, this is it! Fulfilling that promise, I want to set forth five ongoing achievements that I find especially inspiring as the Center’s anniversary year draws to a close.

Dianne Lev

1) The Center’s Inspired Response to COVID-19 Restrictions

The Center’s community programming has been robust for many years—including outstanding Wellbeing Lectures, weekly StressBusters (now Mindful Mondays) sessions, and a consumer-focused website called Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing, which annually reaches more than 2.5 million people worldwide. During week 1 of sheltering last March, the Center team instantaneously migrated our wellbeing content—mindfulness, resilience, sleep, nature, and much more—into free resources that were disseminated to thousands of frontline healthcare workers, business leaders, parents, and educators. University of Minnesota President Joan T.A. Gabel consistently referenced the Center’s resources in her weekly messages. In addition, during this year, nearly 30,000 people have taken part in lectures, webinars, StressBusters, and the three-part Wellbeing Series on Planetary Health. Through evaluations, we learned that these experiences and resources were lifelines when people felt isolated.

A second demonstration of the Center’s remarkable capacity to respond with the right expertise at the right moment was evidenced by our Learning Resource Group! This team thrives at the juncture of instructional design and technology. When faculty and students faced the mandated online learning format, the LRG assessed and strengthened every one of the Center’s courses so that faculty felt confident in their delivery, and students received content in stimulating, transformative ways. Fall semester went resoundingly well. Now the team is helping to weave the Center’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion into its courses and programs.

2) Remarkable Education for Health Professionals

I arrived at the Center in 2008 feeling that I knew a great deal about nursing. I had experienced care in both inpatient and outpatient settings, and had worked beside nursing colleagues at the Red Cross and in other healthcare settings. Today, I have a much deeper appreciation for the nursing profession because the Bakken Center is the nation’s only integrative health center in an academic institution led by a nurse, Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer. In concert with nurse educators, practitioners, and nursing students across the globe, Dr. Kreitzer is leading a growing movement called Integrative Nursing. Furthermore, my understanding deepened because Development supported:

  • Faculty leaders conducting bold research via a fellowship established by nursing professor emeritus Dr. A. Marilyn Sime, who passed away in 2017.

  • Graduate students studying for their Doctorate of Nursing Practice degrees with a focus on integrative health and healing, as they explored their visions for becoming integrative nurses, supported by the George Family Foundation.

  • Nursing students who received scholarships that honored the life of Mary Jeanne Kennedy Anderson, a nurse and the Anderson family’s beloved wife and mother.

  • Design of a Coursera specialization in Integrative Nursing—reaching thousands of nurses worldwide—that was funded in part by Dorothy and Michael Perry.

  • Three International Integrative Nursing Symposia, with sponsorships from Medtronic, the Samueli Foundation, and many other groups.

A second profession about which I now know so much more is health coaching. The Center launched its health coaching certificate track in 2005, and the Masters of Arts in Integrative Health & Wellbeing Coaching program was approved in 2014. Graduates—who typically become nationally board-certified health coaches—apply their expertise with clients seeking to improve health and lifestyle challenges. Today, many people are looking beyond conventional medical care to deal with stress, anxiety, obesity, and chronic disease. Health coaches—who appreciate the long view of behavior change—can be essential guides on our journeys toward greater wellbeing. Resulting from my sharpened understanding, I recently decided to explore a long-standing health issue with support from a graduate of the Center’s coaching program.

3) Leadership in the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing

I want to celebrate the Center’s uniquely talented staff. I first recognized the herculean capacity of this team when the Center co-hosted the 2011 visit from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama with the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota. Every detail—beginning with a reception at Eastcliff and ending with the public lecture before thousands at Mariucci Auditorium–went smoothly. Time and again, I’ve witnessed how the staff brings a rich mix of skills, an unwavering drive to succeed, and an undaunted spirit to ambitious events like the Wellbeing Experience in 2018 and the unexpected Wellbeing Series for Planetary Health last September. How does this eclectic band of professionals manage to work together so well? We have what is known as social capital: a sense of trust, respect for each person’s knowledge, and a culture that makes stretching our norm. Mutual concern helps staff to remain resilient—individually and collectively.

4) The Role of Philanthropy in Positioning the University of Minnesota for the Next Era

Metrics matter, because we get what we measure. In fulfilling its mission to attract and steward philanthropic gifts that advance Minnesota’s public land-grant university, the University of Minnesota Foundation set a bold goal of $4 billion for its Driven campaign, which will be reached when the campaign concludes in June 2021. The Bakken Center’s Wellbeing for All campaign has been successful—with gifts from more than a thousand generous donors, we have exceeded the $10 million goal, currently by 30 percent. My boundless thanks to every contributor! The University and the Center are poised for educating the next generation of leaders; conducting life-saving and life-enhancing research; and sharing emerging innovations with the state and nation. The power and capacity of this University and the Bakken Center give me enormous hope for the future.

5) Opportunities for Integrative Health & Healing via the U’s Partnership with MHealth/Fairview.

One of the most inspiring projects I’ve had the honor of advancing involved adoption of integrative healing practices within the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at the MHealth Masonic Children's Hospital. Graduates of the Center’s DNP-IHH program brought a full array of healing therapies to pediatric patients whose lives were altered by rare, often devastating diseases. These nurses ensured that integrative therapies were also available to children’s families whose lives were turned upside down during extended hospital stays and long periods of treatments. I see vast potential for expanding the collaborations between the Bakken Center and MHealth’s hospitals and clinics, based in communities all across Minnesota. As with all innovation, philanthropy will fuel awareness, education, pilot projects, and evaluation so that eventually a blend of leading-edge clinical and integrative practices becomes our gold standard of care. This moment has never been more right for integrative nursing, medicine, mental health, and other disciplines in Minnesota.

That’s it! 25 years and 25 highlights. With this column and my heartfelt gratitude for all I have learned from so many, I sign off as the Bakken Center’s Director of Development.

Thank you for continuing to give generously—the frontiers ahead will need support from all of us. Thank you for doing everything possible to remain healthy and keep your loved ones safe.

Today’s extra effort will lead us into a bright new year.

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