Alverno President Andrea Lee, IHM, PhD

From the President: Spring 2018

I am holding out hope that spring will pay at least a brief visit to Milwaukee on graduation weekend in mid-May. Looking out the window in mid-April, one might easily conclude that my hope is misplaced. Persistent cold weather notwithstanding, all the other manifestations of the hectic, pre-commencement weeks are here. Students presenting papers and other assessment-ready evidence of their work; year-end rehearsals, concerts and recitals; spring sports in full bloom, even if the fields are not; omnipresent anxiety huddled under the “can I get it all done?” umbrella. Events and more events. An academic year winds to an end.

As students and faculty finish classes, a host of committees and assorted task teams are working to implement our strategic plan under the able direction of Scott Zeman, vice president for academic affairs, and Jill Desmond, chief of staff. Our five priority areas, or trees — Academic Excellence and Women’s Leadership, Behavioral and Mental Health, Health Care, K-12 Teachers and Leaders, and the School of Adult Learning and New Initiatives — are beginning to bloom and, simultaneously, deepen their roots.

Our last issue of this magazine featured Alverno’s legacy and current innovations reflected through the K-12 Teachers and Leaders tree and clustered on its branches. In this issue, the Behavioral and Mental Health tree assumes center stage.

Some might wonder “why mental and behavioral health?” The response appropriately points to an urgent need in the region for highly prepared clinicians and to impressive and reputationally secure work already underway by Alverno faculty to prepare advanced practice nurses with mental health specialties, along with community psychologists with the same focus on wellness and health.

We are also excited and ready to roll out a master’s degree in music therapy as a logical next step to our well-respected undergraduate program, also to be expanded; a new undergraduate major in social work to address unmet human needs in the region; and a graduate program to prepare school psychologists.

The deepest answer to the “why mental health” question, though, returns us to the early years of the School Sisters of St. Francis in both the United States and Germany, where the pioneering work of Mother Alexia and Mother Alfons in approaches to healing those suffering from mental health conditions encouraged a natural evolution of those early healing arts and practices that endures today.

When considering the multiple strengths of Alverno College — existing and emerging — that connect with the mental and behavioral health focus featured in this issue: advanced practice nursing with specialties in mental and behavioral health; community and school psychology; social work and music therapy, adjectives such as respected, innovative and groundbreaking seem more than apropos. Under the visionary leadership of Kim Skerven, our faculty lead for the mental and behavioral health tree, Alverno is on the road to even greater recognition for this focus, grounded in an equally impressive legacy.

As behavioral health services move to more community-based and wellness-focused models, we will continue to expand programs in these and related areas, working always to design, implement and sustain integrated, multi-disciplinary approaches to wellness.

From all Alverno mental health practitioners already working in the field and thereby greatly reinforcing our reputation for excellence, to alumnae and friends with interest in and willingness to help, to our faculty who combine passion and competence in extraordinary ways, and to readers who will be introduced here to this legacy-inspired focus, thank you. We celebrate your work and remain profoundly grateful for your interest and support.

Spring is somewhere, I have to believe. As it comes, may it give birth to new energy and life in our common work to support the grand mission of Alverno College.


This letter originally appeared in the spring 2018 issue of Alverno Magazine.

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