3/5/21: Leaders Taking Action To Reduce Student Isolation

The last year has been challenging on us all – kids & parents, students & teachers, employees & employers. Though there were pretty consistent lock down across the country/world in the spring of 2020, since then, much of the response has been left up to the local government officials.

Those decisions have been a combination of influences from many different parties – yes government leaders, but also students, parents, unions, Board of Eds, business owners, etc. It’s led to different experiences one state to the next – even one city (or even town) to the next. 

So, decisions are often handed TO us. While that’s challenging, it doesn’t meant that other leaders can’t make the best of those decisions. That’s exactly what Col. Mark C. Anarumo, the President of Norwich University, did.

Dr. Anarumo, who is 50, & retired from the Air Force in 2020 is a recent arrival to this private military college. He decided that the best way to support students forced to quarantine in the dorms was to move into the dorms, himself. His plea to the students – to be treated like any other resident.

He took the lone single room that was available. And why was it available w the privacy of a single? Bc it was next to loud flushing toilets & showers from adjoining bathrooms – a room that no one wanted to live in. 

Some background – last spring, when Dr. Anarumo was still teaching at the Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs – he experienced the tragedy of 2 suicides in spring. Before that, in his 3 decades in the Army & Air Force, he’d experienced 11 previous classmate’s suicides.

Anarumo, as a leader, knew that, as he put it: “The benefits of quarantine needed to be weighed carefully against its toll on mental health.” What a novel concept. He didn’t just say “it is what it is.” So while quarantine was agreed upon across campus, he decided to move in w the student to relieve insulation. And in January, he made the decision that Norwich would offer a prorated refund of room & board to any student who decided to leave school & go home. 

Novel concept – leaders who don’t just make one decision bc “it’s needed” & wait out the outcomes, regardless of how tragic. But leaders instead, who follow “rules” but at the same time come up creative ways to improve MH given the challenging decisions made. This is a big departure from those districts or colleges who wait for disaster to strike, in order to change policy at all or just send out canned videos where students are talked at instead of discussed with. Would love to see more of this. Great lead by example story!

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