Our Alumni Board is soliciting nominations for the Program's Alumnus of the Year award. Nominations are due on Thursday, March 31.
To be eligible to receive this award, the nominee must be a graduate of the Program of Mortuary Science at the University of Minnesota.
We are soliciting messages of interest from licensed morticians to serve on the Program's Advisory Board. The Advisory Board meets one to two times a year to discuss program policy, trends in the profession affecting funeral service education, and feedback from graduates and employers about students' preparation for the workforce following graduation. Terms of appointment typically run for three years.
As I write these lines, Fall semester courses here at the University are now well underway and the campus is once again bustling with students, who returned for the start of classes on September 8th. Our Program welcomed 27 new students during our orientation session earlier this month. The incoming class represents greater ethnic diversity, which we attribute in part to our efforts to proactively recruit students from two-year and transfer programs throughout the state. Specifically, 19% of the incoming students self-identify as members of the following ethnic groups: American Indian / Alaska Native; Black / African American; and Hispanic. Minnesota residents continue to make up the greatest majority of our incoming class (66%), followed by students coming from North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, and South Dakota, respectively. In keeping with trends relating to the pursuit of higher education by gender across the United States, 59% of students in the incoming class are women, and 41% are men.
Student Services Professional in the Program of Mortuary Science on Tuesday, March 1. Robyn succeeds Molly Diethelm, who served in this position for the past seven years, and has now left the University to work in the private sector.
Robyn has spent the past decade working in higher education, with a focus on student services activities. Having graduated from the University (Twin Cities campus) in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, Robyn embarked upon a career in service to higher education. From 2006-2011, she was employed at Kaplan University (Chicago), where she assisted students in various capacities through her work in the Office of the Registrar. She was appointed Kaplan University's Assistant Registrar in 2009. Since 2011, she has served as the Admissions and Enrollment Coordinator for the University of Minnesota's Center for Allied Health Programs.
Past news updates from the Program Director
December 2, 2014 update
December 2, 2014 update
December 2, 2014
I recently received notification from our accrediting agency, the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE), that effective immediately, programs are no longer required to have all students sit for the National Board Examination (NBE) as a requirement for graduation. This change in ABFSE policy is due, in part, to recent changes made by the Conference that now limits information the Conference shares with schools about individual student performance on the NBE. For example, schools are no longer routinely informed as to whether a student has passed the NBE, only whether or not the student sat for the exam. Likewise, schools no longer receive data about individual student performance in any section or subsection of the NBE. These reporting changes are based on new Conference policies that went into effect this past summer.
As a result of these changes, at our most recent faculty meeting the decision was made to update our graduation requirements so that effective immediately, students are no longer required to take the NBE as a requirement for graduation.
All students are, however, strongly urged to take the NBE, and to do so within 45 days of completing all their degree requirements. We know that the longer a student (or graduate) waits to take the NBE, the more difficult it becomes to pass on their first attempt. Just about every state today requires the NBE to practice mortuary science, so it makes the most sense for students to take the NBE while the information is still fresh in their mind.
If you have any questions, please let me know.
For more information, please see: http://www.theconferenceonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/ABFSE-COA-Standards-Change.pdf
October 29, 2014 update
October 29, 2014 update
I am pleased to share with you news that our fall semester classes have all gotten off to a good start. This month we had 37 new students enroll in the program, which represents are largest incoming class since I arrived at the University in 1998. Our total enrollment for fall semester stands at 60 students, inclusive of new and returning students. Students in the new class come from six different states: Minnesota (24), Iowa (1), Michigan (2), Montana (1), North Dakota (2), South Dakota (2), and Wisconsin (5). Enrollment of female students continues to increase, with women representing 76% (n = 28) of incoming students. We continue to see more women than men entering funeral service each year – both here at the U, as well as across the county - as greater numbers of women pursue higher education. We welcomed our new students, their spouses, parents, significant others, and even their children, to campus for an all-day new student orientation in late August.
On a different note, I want to make sure that all MFDA members are aware of a change in testing policy with respect to the National Board Examination (NBE). Earlier this year the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards (ICFSEB) changed their re-take policy for the NBE. If a candidate fails either section of the NBE exam (Arts and/or Sciences), they must now wait 90 days – rather than 30, as was the policy for the last decade – to re-take any failed section(s). Whereas most of our students do pass on their first attempt, employers should be advised that if a soon-to-be graduate does not pass the exam, there is a three-month delay before the student is eligible to re-take the failed section(s). As I believe most people are aware, an individual must first pass the NBE in order to register for a funeral directing internship in Minnesota.
In closing, I wish to thank all the firms that welcomed our clinical students into their funeral homes this past year. During May and Summer sessions we had over 30 students out on rotations across Minnesota, working in cities ranging from Duluth and La Crescent on the eastern half of the state, to Moorhead and Marshall in the west. Thank you for all you do to help educate the next generation of funeral service professionals!
Michael LuBrant, Ph.D.
August 27, 2013 update
August 27, 2013 update
It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over and that in just a couple of weeks students will be returning to campus for the start of fall semester classes. This September, 30 new students will formally matriculate into our program. We have planned an exciting orientation day that will include interactive activities with our faculty, returning students, alumni, members of the MFDA staff, and representatives from the Minnesota Department of Health, Mortuary Science Section. With respect to some of the demographic characteristics of the incoming class, 67% (n=20) are women; 80% (n=24) are from Minnesota (students will also be coming from Michigan, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin); 66% (n=20) have completed 2-3 years of college; and 17% (n=5) hold a previous bachelor’s degree. We are excited to meet our new students at orientation this week, and look forward to their work in the program during the next one to two years.
I would like to bring to your attention an important change to our accreditation standards that becomes effective this fall semester. Specifically, at least once every two years we are now required to make visits to all sites where we place clinical students. The purpose of the site visits is to ensure that clinical sites have appropriate facilities to train students for the contemporary practice of funeral service. According to (revised) Standard 6.4.8: “Off-campus instructional sites where students receive college credit are to be physically visited by a representative of the program and approved prior to the start of instruction. Instruction includes management, funeral directing and clinical. These visits must occur at least biennially or prior to each use if the use occurs intermittently over a period of several years. Visits must also occur whenever physical changes to the facility are reported. Inspections of off-campus instruction sites must ensure the location has a valid, current license. In addition, inspections must ensure that off-campus sites are clean and adequate for instructional purposes. The inspection must ensure that appropriate equipment and protocols (drench shower, eye wash station, SDS [formerly MSDS] and blood borne pathogen program, ventilation system, proper protective equipment, etc.) are in place and functioning” (www.abfse.org). We will begin making visits to our program-partner clinical sites this September as we work to meet the requirements set forth by this standard.
Finally, I would like to mention some of the work that I have been doing with Honoring Choices Minnesota. As is discussed at www.honoringchoices.org, Honoring Choices Minnesota is an organization that is actively working to encourage and facilitate community-based conversations regarding end-of-life planning. As I wrote in my column last November, increasingly health care providers in Minnesota are participating in the Honoring Choices Minnesota program as a way of encouraging patients to discuss their health care preferences with loved ones and caregivers. This planning process involves the discussion of preferences for the care of one’s body at the time of death, including wishes for funeral services and memorialization. As funeral directors, we need to be aware that many people are now creating advanced care directives with their health care professionals through many hospitals and health care clinics throughout Minnesota. The Honoring Choices Minnesota advanced care planning document not only asks patients to indicate their funeral preferences, but also allows them to legally designate an agent to carry out their final wishes at the time of death. Into the future, it will likely become more common for funeral directors to work with families who bring an Honoring Choices Minnesota Heath Care Directive document with them as they plan funeral arrangements for a loved one. A copy of this document is available at www.honoringchoices.org/resources/. I would encourage you to download and read the directive form when you have a moment.
This past April, as part of an Honoring Choices Minnesota continuing education event, I was invited to give a presentation about funerals and death care options to an audience of about 40 health care professionals and community leaders, including doctors, nurses, clergy, and hospital administrators. They were all very much interested in learning about the role of the funeral director in the process of death care, and asked me many excellent questions about options for the care of deceased persons and their survivors. The more I have become involved with Honoring Choices Minnesota, the more I believe we, as funeral directors, have an incredible opportunity to build important bridges with health care professionals through our participation in this program. As experts in funeral and memorial care, we need to be at the table to share with other professional colleagues what it is that we do in our service to families who have lost a loved one. Many of the health care professionals I have met at Honoring Choices Minnesota events do not know what options exist for patients as they consider their end-of-life wishes. As health care becomes an increasingly interprofessional enterprise, it’s critical that we, as funeral service professionals, step up to the plate and take a proactive role in promoting the importance and value of funeral service to other providers of health care-related services. I would strongly encourage you to visit the website www.honoringchoices.org and go the “Search Videos” text box at the top of the page. Once there, type in the key word “funerals” and take some time to review the video presentations that have been uploaded. Working together with Honoring Choices Minnesota, we can do a great deal to promote the value of our profession to the people of our state. If you have any questions about Honoring Choices Minnesota, please do not hesitate to contact me.
I wish you all the very best as you enjoy the remaining days of summer, and I hope to see many of you at upcoming program and professional events this fall.
June 14, 2013 update
June 14, 2013 update
It’s hard to believe, but another academic year has now come to an end. On Friday, May 17th, the Program held its 105th commencement ceremony at the Theatre in the Coffman Memorial Union Building. This year, 37 students completed their Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Mortuary Science. Speaking on behalf of the students at commencement was Mr. Victor Sweeny, of West Fargo, North Dakota. Additional speakers included myself, faculty member Angela Woosley, Regent Dean Johnson, and Medical School Associate Dean Dr. Mark Rosenberg. A special greeting was delivered by Robby Bates, President-Elect of the National Funeral Directors Association, and Mr. Timothy Koch, the Program’s 2013 Alumni of the Year, wished our graduates well as they enter the profession of funeral service. The commencement ceremony was followed by a reception for the graduates and Mr. Koch, at which time cake, punch, and fellowship was enjoyed by the over 300 persons who attended this special event.
Only one week after graduation was the annual convention of the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association. Many students participated in convention, and of course the Program had a booth on the exhibition floor. It was a great experience for the faculty and staff to visit with all the alumni and vendors who do so much to support our Program here at the U. An especially enjoyable evening was had by all who participated in the opening-night boat cruise on the Mississippi River, and the bowling party the second night of convention provided a great time to socialize and have fun. As part of the convention’s continuing education activities, I had the opportunity to speak about my most recent research project on funeral service education. It was a privilege to discuss my research and how the results will be used to continue to strengten funeral service education both here at home, as well as on the national level through the work of the American Board of Funeral Service Education.
I just returned home from exhibiting at the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association Annual Convention, held in La Crosse, Wisconsin. There were quite a few U of M alumni who attended the WFDA convention, and of special note: the President Elect, Marcus Nelson (Dalh Funeral Home, Spooner, WI), graduated from our Program in 1998! I had several attendees inquire about our Program, and many gratefully accepted promotional information to share with prospective students.
Summer will be busy for us with visits to clinical rotation sites. We have been fortunate that many out-state funeral homes have been willing to accept clinical students for their required summer rotations. And this is a good thing, because we had 30 students to place for May Rotation, but there are only about 17 sites in the metro area (mainly due to consolidations and mergers) that are able to accept students. Given regional differences in approaches to funeral service across the state, I am thankful that we are able to have students participate in rotations beyond the metro area. I look forward to visiting our out-state funeral home partners over the summer where our clinical students are placed – And with sites ranging from Moorhead, to Chisholm, to Luverne, I will be putting quite a few miles on my car over the next few months!
We are now preparing to welcome the students who enroll in the Program this coming September. Molly has been meeting with students to discuss their course plans so that they can complete their degree requirements in as short of a time period as possible. Increasingly, students come to us having completed more than two years of college. We have seen an expanded enrollment in the one-year and 18-month curriculum tracks, meaning that more students are graduating either in December or late summer, rather than May, which is normally the case for our “traditional” four-year students. As always, know that you are welcome to visit campus any time to meet our students and host recruitment-related activities. Please contact Molly Diethelm (612) 624-6464 (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss campus visit-day options.
On behalf of all of us here in the Program, may you and yours enjoy a safe, happy, and restful summer.
Michael LuBrant, Ph.D.