In January 2016 I began working in the College of Saint Scholastica HIIM Department, a community within a community. Somehow the year went by like a blink, and over the recent holidays I have started to consider how this trip around the sun has impacted me. I had relatively basic knowledge of the school when I started, and my background in HIIM is non-traditional. I’ve combined a variety of education, work, and life experiences to match the needs of the school and the department, and feel lucky to be able to do so.
The school holds tightly to its Catholic Benedictine roots and values, greeting everyone with “radical hospitality”. I have been treated to this in a new employee dinner with the school’s president (I hope that retirement is treating Larry Goodwin well!), lunch with the Board of Trustees, and many other social gatherings. As an example, the annual appreciation luncheon for CSS employees showed the deep level of investment that the school makes in its workforce and the same investment of that workforce in the school. Everyone dressed up and embraced the occasion. Along with many other opportunities to come together for convocation, commencement, or town hall meetings, it has been remarkable to work in a place so supportive and engaging. And, I’ve learned that the HIIM Department not only reflects but magnifies those same values.
For both school and department, expectations are high and consistently met or exceeded. Our HIIM Faculty members publish articles and textbooks at a prolific rate, and speak at professional conferences around the country. Students frequently earn competitive scholarships at the state and national level, and find meaningful employment or benefit to current positions straight out of their programs. I bet it would be impossible to go to a single professional healthcare conference in the country without bumping into alumni or friends of the program. This wide web of connections allows current students to complete beneficial professional practice experiences in a variety of unique settings, from traditional health systems to consulting firms and industry leaders. It provides a network of advocates and resources for job seekers and those looking for professional development. Alumni return to speak to current students, to present at the LaTour-Eichenwald Forum on HIM Leadership and Innovation, to keep a connection to the castle on the hill. I could go on extolling the specific successes of faculty, students, and alumni until I had a tome the length of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”!
Now, this is not to say that there is an overwhelming air of seriousness or focus on the ground floor of the Science Building. Rather, it is not surprising to be overwhelmed by a barrage of fake snowballs from colleagues upon arriving in the morning. There’s more coffee consumed in this wing than can be believed, as someone is always filling a cup in the breakroom or at Einstein. Saltines and peanut butter are consumed at a rate that borders on addiction, and any sweets that land on the table simply do not last. Any story that’s told around here is matched by two others, and it’s also literally impossible to go a day without laughing, unless you lock yourself in your own office.
As an analogy, the HIIM department is like an overachieving aunt or uncle, one whose holiday letter describes a year worth of travel and fun, before casually mentioning a potential nomination for a Nobel prize (and a handwritten note that both says and means “See you soon!”). This recap lands right below the picture of them giving a noted celebrity or political figure bunny ears on a red carpet. It’s worth both a chuckle and a bit of green envy, and you’re always excited to tell people of your relation to “Aunt or Uncle So-and-So”.
In the end, the family thing really carries through, whether it’s the department or the school. There are deep roots shooting out in every direction and kind faces around every corner. I did not know what it meant to become a Saint in HIIM at first, but I’m starting to get it now.