Program News - Winter 2021
Greetings from the Program of Mortuary Science at the University of Minnesota! As I write the lines, it’s a “balmy” -15 outside. I suspect that most of you, like me, are looking forward to spring and the return to warmer temperatures. In the meantime, I am enjoying the beauty of the winter landscape and brisk walks outdoors (most days, but not today!).
We have had a number of happenings here in the Program that I want to share updates with you about:
Virtual Student-Practitioner Networking Events
During the month of February we have 24 firms that signed up to participate in 20-minute student “Meet & Greet” sessions we are hosting online via Zoom. The meetings have been scheduled for alternating Fridays and Saturdays, and invitation information was e-mailed out last month to over 1,000 practitioners, program supporters, and Minnesota licensees. During these meetings, funeral directors are discussing with students their businesses and the communities they serve. In turn, students have been asking questions about the funeral homes and also potential work opportunities following graduation. The flow is relaxed and informal, but it does keep moving: We schedule six 20-minute sessions back-to-back, over a period of two hours.
So far, the feedback I have received from both funeral directors and students has been positive. In contrast to the “speed interviews” we have hosted in recent years, these events provide more time to talk and get to know one another (i.e., 20 minutes per firm, as compared to five minutes with “speed” interviews). Likewise, students sign up in advance to attend, so the sessions are more intimate with students participating in those sessions that are of the greatest interest to them. Additionally, all sessions are recorded so that students who might not be able to attend on a particular day can watch online at a later time. Please be sure to contact our office if you would like to receive more information and/or participate in future events.
Whereas our lecture classes continue to be delivered online remotely (via Zoom, as a result of COVID), we are teaching our lab courses on campus, and clinical rotations continue to be offered at funeral homes. As was the case last semester, Mike Mathews, Doug Meslow, Carrie McGhee and I are teaching lecture classes via Zoom. On-campus classes include embalming, restorative art, and human anatomy labs. Currently, 15 students are working in the field at rotation sites, and about half our students are on campus for lab courses at least one day a week. With respect to our on-campus lab work, this semester Carrie McGhee and Trista Kosiba are co-teaching our embalming labs; Louise Wojchik is teaching our human anatomy lab; and myself, Louise Wojchik and Chelsea Smolenski are team-teaching restorative art labs. We are now planning for May Term and Summer Session clinical rotations, which will enroll about 22 students over the late spring and early summer months. Student placements are pending, and will occur both in the Twin-Cities Metro area, and throughout the state.
Curiously, I am often asked if students get clinical experience at out-state funeral homes. And the answer is a definite YES! In fact, about two-thirds of our students are placed on rotation at firms outside the Metro area. Indeed, we have students on rotation all across Minnesota. One of the things I enjoy most about my work is making the mandatory site inspection visits which must occur prior to placement, per accreditation Standards. Those of you who know me know that I drive a 2001 Buick LeSabre with 378,000 miles on it (yes, it has that incredible, indestructible 3.8L engine) – most of which were logged doing clinical placements, preceptor trainings, and inspections. It’s great to connect with Program alumni and supporters, and I enjoy providing feedback to directors that can be of help as they prepare for state inspections. (Helpful Hint/suggestion: Check your drench showers and eye wash stations regularly. These two pieces of equipment are the ones I find have the greatest likelihood of malfunctioning when I do my inspections.)
At the present time, we have over 60 students enrolled in the Program, with seven new students matriculating this past spring semester. We anticipate graduating 25 students this coming May. Unfortunately, with COVID-related restrictions still in place, it is unlikely we will be able to host an on-campus commencement ceremony at Coffman Memorial Union. Rest assured we will, however, host an on-campus ceremony as soon as it is once again safe to do so. In the meantime, we will hold a virtual gift-opening ceremony for our 2021 graduates via Zoom in May, similar to what we did for our graduates last year. It was a very meaningful time for us all to be together, and last year’s graduates said they appreciated being able to gather with one another and wish each other well as they prepared to go their separate ways.
The Program will again offer virtual continuing education events online, via Zoom, starting later this spring. These events will include presentations and updates from the Minnesota Department of Health, Mortuary Science Section; preceptor training and information about working with students on clinical rotations; and other topics of general interest. Please keep an eye out in your email for more information to be coming soon.
As always, I invite your questions and comments. We hope to be able to see you later this summer as soon as it is safe to travel once again to conventions and other events. In the meantime, be well and know that we very much appreciate all you do to support our program, our profession, and the families we are called to serve during these challenging times.