March 17, 2019

It’s hard for me to imagine that as I write these lines, Spring Break is just a week away. Although Spring Break is supposed to mark the halfway point of the academic term, somehow it seems that with over two feet of snow on the ground (and more coming this weekend) warmer days might never arrive. How can it be possible that graduation is only two months away? Here’s to hoping we won’t be shoveling snow off the terrace at Coffman Student Union on May 10th. We’ll see…

I am excited to share with you a number of exciting things that have been happening here in our program over the past few months. On February 2, student adviser Robyn Meunier gave birth to her second child – a baby girl named Emery – or “Emmy.” We congratulate the Meunier family on their latest addition, and look forward to Robyn’s return to the program in early May, following her maternity leave.

In other news, program students Ean Sinn and Belle Ryberg, along with faculty member Giselle Wynia, recently participated in the “Frunge” frozen lake jump event, the goal of which is to raise money for the Children’s Grief Connection “Hearts of Hope” camp. We are thrilled to report that their participation in the Frunge raised $2,682 towards this important endeavor, which provides much needed support to grieving kids and their families. Thank you so much, Ean, Belle, and Giselle, for doing such a great job for a very important cause.

As I think many of you know, our program went through a comprehensive self-study process last year in preparation for a three-day site visit by representatives of our accrediting agency, the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE). The Site Visit Team report spoke very highly of the work we are doing here at the U to educate the next generation of funeral service professionals. Significantly, the team noted no concerns with respect to our compliance with accreditation Standards. The next step in the re-accreditation process will be our appearance before the ABFSE “Committee on Accreditation,” (COA) which takes place in early April. At this meeting, I will answer any questions members of the COA might have about our program, and will learn then of their decision regarding our program’s application for Renewal of Accreditation. I will share with you the COA’s decision in April, once it has been finalized.

I am also excited to share information about an upcoming news story that will showcase our program, to be aired on The CW Twin Cities (Digital Channel 22/UHF; Back in February I was contacted by a reporter from CWTC to discuss their interest in doing a story about our program, faculty, and students, and a career in funeral service. After some planning, a media crew from CTWC came on campus and interviewed faculty member Angela Woosley, and students Ean Sinn and Simone Simpson. (Ean even was able to speak a bit about the Children’s Grief Connection!) I had a chance to preview the news story (which runs a little over 11 minutes) and am very pleased with the final result. Angela, Ean, and Simone did a terrific job discussing both our program and the profession of funeral service. I am so proud of this story, and look forward to publishing it on our website after it airs in early March.

(Note: At the time of this writing, the story can be viewed here.)

In an effort to promote our profession to prospective mortuary science students, we now make available to funeral homes “recruiting kits” for placement in their chapels. These kits consist of program and career information brochures that we have placed in an attractive Lucite display rack, branded with the U of M logo. We make these materials available to funeral homes free of charge, and to date have distributed over 200 kits to firms across the state. Since beginning this outreach effort, we have heard from four prospective students who told us they first learned about a career in funeral service by picking up one of our brochures while at a visitation. We all know of the labor shortage in our profession, so I hope many funeral homes will request a kit for each of their chapels. You are welcome to stop by our office anytime to pick one up (or more, as need) – just let us know how many you would like, and we will prepare them for you. Likewise, we will also have kits available for pick-up at our booth at the MFDA convention in May. Some of our local vendors are also helping us by delivering them to funeral homes they call on. Please let us, or your local vendor, know of you interest, and we will be happy to provide these materials to you.

In closing, we look forward to seeing you at the upcoming MFDA Annual Meeting in Rochester in May. Let’s hope by then all the snow will be gone. And in the meantime, please be sure to “like” us on Facebook to keep up-to-date with recent happenings and events. Here’s to hoping that Spring might consider making an early appearance!

Michael LuBrant
Program Director