Programs ‘UpLift’ students through well-rounded education

Leadership team represents wide cross-section of campus with themed events focused on global citizenship, interpersonal development and personal wellness; speaker Jack Martinez Arias to present September 21 on 'indigenous migrants'

September 16, 2021
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer

Uplift logoSaint Michael’s College continually improves and fine-tunes programming outside of the classroom to engage students in dynamic and interesting conversations that expand the life of the mind as part of a well-rounded education. This year’s efforts to do so have a new name and a wider scope than before, through a new initiative called UpLift.

This year’s programming lineup resulted from an initiative originating more than a year ago by Dawn Ellinwood, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. She said UpLift was originally going to launch in the 2020-21 Academic Year before the pandemic derailed it, but now it is back on track.


Dawn Ellinwood

Besides Ellinwood, the wide-ranging UpLift leadership team includes Jeff Vincent, director of residential life and community standards; Women’s Basketball Head Coach Shannon Bollhardt; Adventure Sports Center Director Eben Widlund; Heidi St. Peter of Academic Affairs; Kerri Leach and Megan Ohler of Student Life; Anna Lester and Lara Scott of Edmundite Campus Ministry and MOVE; directors Sarah Childs of the Center for Multicultural Affairs and Services, and Ingrid Peterson of the Career Education Center; Bridgette Akins from Bergeron Wellness Center; along with two students, Brandon Mitchell ’22 and Alexyah Dethvongsa’22.

Vincent explained the origins and purpose of Uplift. “As with all things in Student Life, we adapt to the needs of our students,” Vincent said. “The UpLift program has a rich history starting off as the GOT SKILLS program, evolving to the YOU COUNT program and now UpLift.”


Jeff Vincent

“Many of us in Student Life are working collaboratively to roll out the program’s latest iteration with the hope of excellent student engagement,” he said. “This campus across all departments, both staff and faculty, does an amazing job with programmatic efforts. The UpLift program is an effort to continue the education of all students outside of the classroom in a mission-driven way. The pillars of UpLift encompass a well-rounded Saint Michael’s student with the hopes of a skill set ready for the post collegiate world.”

SArah Childs

Sarah Childs

Those “pillars,” as the UpLift team describes them, are three themes that characterize all the programming: Global Citizenship, Interpersonal Development and Personal Wellness. Two upcoming events this semester are strong examples:

Sarah Childs said on September 21 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. will be the Center for Multicultural Affairs and Services Educational Seminar and Luncheon in the St. Edmund’s Hall third-floor Farrell Room. Professor Jack Martinez Arias will lead conversation and present on the topic of “indigenous migrants in country and out of country.” She said all students, staff and faculty are invited to attend.


Jack Martinez Arias (PHOTO BY NANCY L. FORD)

Another example is on October 6, when Career Education Center Director Ingrid Peterson said she has been planning an event together with Paul Olsen of the Business Administration and Accounting faculty. Said Peterson, “We have four alumni returning to campus for it. One of the reasons this program fits the UpLift theme is through personal development with our students having the opportunity to hear from alumni who work for “B Corps.”


Ingrid Peterson

She explained this is a term for “organizations making a difference in the world,” and fits well in the UpLift program since it “brings together learning around careers and finding a career that is meaningful in the world—Doing Well and Doing Good!” Publicity for the “B-Corps” event gives more details: “Learn how these themes have impacted the career paths of our alumni and how they appreciate working for a company that has a social purpose. Connect with alumni who are a part of companies making a difference including Ben & Jerry’s, Vermont Creamery, Mamava, and Burton Snowboards.”

 Ellinwood said the idea with UpLift is to expand such programming even beyond the previous Multicultural Affairs Office umbrella where they began under that office’s former Director Moise St. Louis and his YouCount, given the success of those events in past years. “We’re being very intentional in incorporating some of the most successful elements of that, such as incentives for students to attend like good prizes,” she said. Along with the upcoming CMAS and CEC events, “we intend for one or two out of Athletics this year, and the last one of the semester from Bergeron Wellness Center who have proposed setting up a ‘Gratitude Wall’ in the Alliot lobby the week of December 6,” said Ellinwood.

Natural Dovetail with “The Saint Michael’s Promise”

UpLift leaders said their programming organically contributes to fulfillment of a new statement from College leadership through the Admission Office called “The Saint Michael’s Promise,” which is: “We are committed to doing everything we can to prepare you for a lifetime of success and fulfillment after you graduate from Saint Michael’s. Whether you are planning to continue your studies in graduate school or enter the job market directly after graduation, we have dedicated resources, programs, and people who will work with you to help ensure that transition is successful. A fundamental key to that success is your sense of fulfillment — whether you are making a difference in the world and improving the lives of others. It is part of the St. Mike’s ethos and what the world needs more of — graduates who are equipped to do well and driven to do good.”

Ellinwood shared the UpLift Mission Statement, illustrating that natural connection: “UpLift enhances and diversifies the student experience through a myriad of opportunities including workshops, presentations, leadership opportunities and interactions with students, faculty, staff, alumni and the greater community.  Participants develop self-awareness, understanding and cultural competency while learning to live honestly, respectfully and inclusively as they Do Well and Do Good during their time at Saint Michael’s College and beyond.”

Ellinwood said when she convened the leadership group before the pandemic, “we were dreaming about a new program growing out of what we had for YouCount, with some similar elements but with even more campus offices actively involved. We’re trying to make this a campus-wide program and seeking lots of different perspectives.”


Shannon Bollhardt

She said Bollhardt in Athletics also has events lined up for this fall, likely in November, while Bridgette Akins, who is filling a grant-funded position in Bergeron Wellness Center this year as an expert clinician doing mainly pro-active and preventative work rather than being a personal counselor, will organize December’s wellness-focused activities.

Participation by students in UpLift programs is entirely voluntary, Ellinwood said, but based on past similar event attendance and expanded incentives, she expects anywhere from 10 to 100 people to attend any given UpLift event. In addition, “Since we in Student Life are working with Resident Assistants who have programming requirements, UpLift programs will satisfy some of those requirements, and for other programs, coaches will mandate it — so we will get students involved in different ways,” Ellinwood said.

Some incentives she mentioned might include faculty giving extra credit to attend UpLift programs, as has worked in the past, or organizers and Student Life providing students QR Codes, “and if a student attends four or five,  he or she will be entered into a drawing for one of 10 grand prizes.” Those might range from “a parking place, a gaming system, dinner with Father Brian, Senior Week tickets – all good stuff!” she said.

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