News from the Program Director

September 25, 2015

Dear Colleagues,

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. 

During our new-student orientation session, we were fortunate to have a number of Program stakeholders present for networking and “meet and greet” activities.  In particular, I want to thank Darlyne Erickson and Coral Popowitz for coming to represent MFDA and the Children’s Grief Connection; Marguerite Slonine and Erika Fulgern from the Minnesota Department of Health, Mortuary Science Section; and Donna Dvorak, leader of the Program’s Alumni Society.  Students had the opportunity to interact with all our guest stakeholders for the purpose of learning more about the importance of professional relationships in their future role as funeral directors.  We felt that Orientation Day went very well for everyone, and we are excited to welcome our new students to the Program and our profession.

I am also pleased to let you know that the Program has become a part of the University’s Writing-Enriched Curriculum (WEC) initiative.  Faculty member Angela Woosley – who was recently promoted to the rank of Senior Teaching Specialist [congratulations, Angela!] – is working with the WEC office and funeral practitioners to develop writing initiatives in the Program for the purpose of better preparing students for the writing activities that will be expected of them when they enter the workforce.  All Minnesota licensed morticians with an e-mail address (approximately 1200 individuals) were recently asked to complete a survey focusing on writing needs within our profession.  If you participated in the survey, thank you so much for taking the time to do so.  We will use the data we gather to improve students’ writing skills.

Finally, I want to thank all the funeral directors who recently participated in The Good Funeral seminar with Thomas Lynch and Tom Long, held this past Wednesday at the House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul.  As part of our Program’s service mission, I received approval from the Minnesota Department of Health to offer up to four continuing education credits for morticians who attended this event.  We had 62 morticians from across the state present, which was an excellent turnout.  Personally, it was heartening for me to see so many of my former students in attendance.  As I was completing the CEU sheets, I noted attendees whom I had in my very first year of teaching here at the University (1998), in addition to several of our currently-enrolled students, many of whom served as greeters and ushers for the event.

Looking forward into the semester, we will be holding another “speed meet-and-greet” event here on campus for our students and active funeral service practitioners in a few weeks.  The tentative date is Wednesday, November 4th, from 1:25 PM – 4:25 PM. [More information will be e-mailed out in mid-October] Building off the “pancake networking breakfast” events we have held in the past, the “speed” format – much like “speed dating” meeting events – only allows for an initial meeting between student and practitioner for a couple of minutes, and then all students quickly move to another table to meet with a different practitioner.  By requiring students to move in rapid succession from one practitioner to the next, we ensure that everyone gets to make introductions with all attendees, and then there is plenty of time for conversation and mingling once the “speed meetings” have been completed.  I would especially encourage managing directors to attend this event, even if perhaps you do not have an immediate opening at your firm at the present time.  This is by far the best way to get to know the greatest number of our students, and to do so early enough in the academic term that many have not yet lined up an internship following graduation.  Please contact Molly Diethelm in the Program Office (612.624.6464) if you would like to reserve a table for this event.  Information will also be posted on our website:  Our website has recently been updated with a fresh new look; please take a moment to check it out when time allows, and let us know what you think.

As always, I welcome your questions and comments, and look forward to seeing many of you at the NFDA convention in Indianapolis next month.


Michael P. LuBrant,  Ph.D.

Program Director