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  • Mary Jo Kreitzer

Could Anyone Have Imagined?

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

Like many, I am very eager to put 2020, which was a year like no other, to rest. I am not sure that anyone could have anticipated the confluence of the challenges presented by a twin pandemic of COVID-19 and systemic racism, which were both further complicated by deep political divisions. Yet, despite the cumulative and collective losses, there are deep learnings and reasons to be grateful. In this issue of the Mandala, I will highlight 4 themes that are on my mind: reflection, celebration, transition, and anticipation.

Center Director Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer

Reflection: For many people, seeing the civil unrest unfold following the murder of George Floyd was a wake up call about systemic marginalization. As the Covid-19 pandemic spread in the spring, life changed as we knew it over the course of just a few days. In conversations I have with family, friends, and colleagues, a common topic is that these watershed moments have resulted in people reflecting deeply on life, values, and priorities. At the Bakken Center, one of the discoveries we made was that people desperately needed what the Center had to offer, and that we were quite well-positioned to work remotely and offer academic courses, community events, and even research interventions virtually.

Celebration: Our collective capacity at the Bakken Center to pivot, innovate, and respond to emerging needs is celebration-worthy! Our Bakken Center Covid-19 resource web page and the Taking Charge of your Health & Wellbeing website was populated with information for students, faculty, staff, and the broader community. University of Minnesota President Joan T.A. Gabel often included links to these sites in her messages as did businesses, cities, and community-based organizations. A student wellbeing guide was produced to coincide with the kick-off of the Fall semester. Bakken Center faculty readily responded to media requests to highlight information on managing anxiety, depression, loneliness, and finding ways to celebrate the holidays differently and stay safe. We have developed a strong, new statement on our commitment diversity, equity, and inclusion, and continue to work closely with the University’s Office of Equity & Diversity – many of our staff are members of the University’s Diversity Community of Practice. It’s difficult to put into words the pace and intensity of our work throughout the past 6 months and the unparalleled esprit de corps that has been present. Lots to be grateful for! Transitions: We are living at a time of unprecedented loss, turmoil, and uncertainty. Covid-19 has impacted our health, livelihood, economy, infrastructure, freedom, and security. As individuals, there are losses that range from relatively minor to catastrophic and life changing. Most tragic of all is the loss of life and the associated profound grief and loss. What makes this all the more surreal is the fact that this is happening to all of us – our families, our workplaces, neighborhoods, cities, states, the entire US, and the world. We are facing cumulative and collective grief that encompasses the world. Yet at the same time we are dealing with all the challenges noted above, life moves forward. Within the Bakken Center, we are mindful of births, deaths, marriages, moves, and retirements – big life events among our own team. While transitions can be enormously positive and life-giving, they may also be stressful. You will read in this issue about the retirements of two dear colleagues that have been with the Center a long time – Louise Delagran and Dianne Lev. We celebrate the contributions they have made at the Center and wish them the best as they transition to new life chapters.

Anticipation: Over the past 6 months, on top of everything else, the Bakken Center has been working on our next 5-year strategic plan. As we draw to a close this year of celebrating our 25 year anniversary, our focus is on the future. It has been a fascinating exercise to anticipate what the needs will be of people, organizations, and communities we serve. We don’t anticipate that life will be returning to what it was – soon or ever. Lots of learning and innovating has occurred. What, where, and how students want to learn is a key consideration, as is how the workplace will be transformed. We anticipate wanting to leverage the efficiency and flexibility that remote learning and working offers while creating space for face to face interaction for times that being in the same physical space is more optimal. As we plan for the Center’s future, we are diving deep into ways that we can ensure equitable learning opportunities for students and the community. Our creative juices are flowing and I will have more to share soon. In closing, I want to express my gratitude to all who believe in and support our work – students, faculty, staff, donors, community and university leaders. As difficult as these times are, at the Bakken Center, we remain hopeful and optimistic about 2021. While the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to be a major problem, vaccines are becoming available. This is a critical time for all of us to focus on staying safe and connected. Warm Regards,

Mary Jo Kreitzer, PhD, RN, FAAN

Founder and Director

Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing

University of Minnesota

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