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  • Rachel Brougham

Legacies of Learning and Development

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

Anyone at the University of Minnesota’s Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing will share that it’s hard to imagine the Center without Louise Delagran, director of the Learning Reesources Group, and Dianne Lev, director of development.

After a combined 30 years of constant changes and challenges, both Delagran and Lev retired from their respective positions at the Center in January. However, the legacies these two women leave behind won’t be forgotten by their colleagues, as their extensive list of accomplishments have set the Center up for long-term success. “Both Dianne and Louise are the type of strong and intelligent women that inspire the younger generation. They’ve both been by my side as I accepted new challenges early on in my career,” said Dr. Megan Voss, Integrative Therapy Program director, Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant at the Masonic Children’s Hospital, and assistant professor at the Center. “These women leave big shoes to fill. At the same time, they have paved the way for so much incredible work that will continue.” Louise Delagran, a visionary

Louise Delagran

When Louise Delagran began her role as senior education specialist and the director of the Learning Resources Group 18 years ago, the Center offered no online courses or learning modules. Delagran worked in the e-learning sector before coming to the Center, and upon her arrival, worked quickly to create online modules to benefit both students and faculty. Because of her forward thinking and ability to continuously adapt to new challenges, today 69 of the classes offered through the Center are available online. “It was always about creating a vision for the Center for what our instructional structure, strategies, and philosophy was going to be online,” Delagran said. Both Delagran and coworkers pointed to the Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing website, which offers free, evidence-based information to users from around the world, as one of her biggest accomplishments. “When she was hired, Louise inherited a project with a predetermined end result. Louise saw that it wasn’t going to be the best format for students and convinced our team to alter course, resulting in the Integrative Health Learning Modules for Health Professionals,” explained Pamela Cherry, administrative director for the Center. “Later, when the Life Science Foundation, now Charlson Meadows, wanted to fund a consumer version of those modules, it was again Louise who convinced the team that a website, not modules, would be the best format for that audience. The Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing site is still thriving today.” “This is an incredible resource that has reached millions of viewers over the years and has brought hope and relief to many,” Andrea Uptmor, previously part of the Learning Resources Group as senior writer and editor, added regarding the website. “It is wonderful to reflect on how far Louise’s reach has been on this planet!” Some coworkers describe Delagran as a “straight shooter” and a mentor who makes those around her feel appreciated, and knows how to work with an individual’s strengths and interests. “Louise will leave quite a legacy behind her in the people that she has mentored and trained,” explained Dr. Asa Olson, academic technologist. Olson added that those who worked alongside Delagran will continue to act in accordance with one of her philosophies: Seek opportunities to stay busy and prove worth. Kely MacPhail, academic technologist, said Delagran was always thinking about how the team’s local effort would help the Center achieve a greater global impact. “As we move forward, the Learning Resources Group will continue Louise’s legacy of helping the Center meaningfully reach a multitude of audiences through content intentionally crafted to meet different needs. And we will bring the same enthusiasm, forward thinking, and collaborative spirit she brought to each new endeavor,” MacPhail said. Center Director Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer described Delagran as an “academic technologist extraordinaire” with outstanding project management skills and exceedingly high standards for both rigor and relevance. Under Delagran’s leadership, Kreitzer noted the Center has been at the forefront of innovations in teaching for close to two decades. “As I reflect back on her contributions, they are extensive and include pedagogical, technological, and creative innovations,” Kreitzer said. “She taught us the value of ‘reusable learning objects' that could be used in both academic and community-based courses. By helping faculty apply their expertise in the classroom and in community-based learning, Louise helped us advance many community outreach programs including Mindfulness at Work and Introduction to Mindfulness,” Kreitzer added. Kit Breshears, communications director for the Center, called Delagran’s accomplishments “brag worthy.” “What Louise has done in her decades of service to the Center sets us up for decades of success. She has positioned us to be a truly inclusive, equitable, compassionate, educational environment here at the university,” he said. Dianne Lev, a cheerleader

Dianne Lev

Dianne Lev’s favorite word is “yes.” Lev, who has served as director of development, will retire after 12 years with the Center. “I’ve always seen this job as a privilege,” Lev said of her work. “I can hardly find words to express what it means when the stars line up and the moment comes and one of our donors say, ‘yes.’ There’s no words to describe that feeling. Our donors are special friends, and I’ve enjoyed building relationships with each of them immensely.” Lev said. Relationships are what Breshears said Lev will be remembered for around the Center in the years to come. He explained that so much positive energy and vibrancy came out of Lev’s office, it will feel empty there for some time. “We are deeply aware of each other’s strengths and how we challenge each other. Dianne has made me a better communicator because we’re able to disagree so eloquently,” he said of their working relationship. “Over time she has made me learn to question my own assumptions and to be very open minded to different approaches.” Lev charted new ground in fundraising during the first few years in her current position, and as the Center grew, she found her stride that led the way into new frontiers — including a visit from the Dalai Lama in 2011. Cherry called Lev a “force of nature,” and said no one is more passionate about the Center’s work. “I will never forget working with Dianne on the 2011 visit of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. It was an exhausting but incredibly rewarding nine months for both of us and I would guess that it is one of the highlights of both of our careers,” said Cherry. Kreitzer highlighted Lev’s successful stewardship of donors and gifts that allowed the Center to not only meet, but exceed fundraising goals. “Dianne loved the work of connecting donors with their deepest passions and will be remembered for her exquisite attention to small details that matter, handwritten notes, and many acts of kindness,” Kreitzer said. Other colleagues spoke of Lev’s honesty and dedication, along with her commitment to the Center and its goals. And most importantly, how her work will benefit students both currently and moving forward. “You can meet up with Dianne in a crowded room and for her there’s nobody else in that room,” said Patty Porter, vice president of development, medicine and health, in the University of Minnesota Foundation. “She really cues into details of people and what’s important to them. And for development work, there’s really nothing more important.” “She's willing and very happy to do what it takes to keep those relationships that are important to her at the forefront of her focus,” added Christina Owen, student services specialist. “Even when things might be a bit heavy on some days, she has a way of bringing joy, perspective, and insight to my life,” Owen added.

Nue Lee, former Development Assistant, shared the impact of Lev's mentorship. “I had the honor and privilege to work with Dianne during a formative period where as a young Hmong woman and first-generation college student, I struggled through the last two years of my bachelor’s degree. I look back with gratitude because I still carry the strong foundation Dianne helped me build as I worked alongside her. Dianne embodied wellbeing in her work, and that passed on to those who had the opportunity to build relationships with her. Now, I feel I am not only surviving, but thriving. I know I will not meet another dynamic female mentor as impactful as Dianne, and I am proud to carry a part of her legacy with me.”

Leaving legacies to foster success While those who worked alongside both Delagran and Lev say it was an honor just to be a colleague, they know both women and their hard work have set the Center up for a great deal of success in the future. “Both Louise and Dianne spent significant time investing in relationships to advance their work and it clearly paid off,” Breshears said. “Their mastery of that relationship building is what sets us up for success down the road.” Sue Nankivell, director of business development and community relations, said those at the Center truly are a family and work together as team. And the upcoming absence of these two women will be felt greatly among their work family. “While I couldn't be more excited for both of them and look forward to following what's next for them — they are both energetic, passionate, and talented, and have so much to give in their next chapter — I'm sad that we're breaking up the band,” Nankivell said.

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