Spotlight: Dr. Fedearia Nicholson-Sweval, Dean of Student Success
Dr. Fedearia Nicholson-Sweval
Nicholson-Sweval, the Dean of Student Success at Stark State was happy to share the success of a food drive that provided over 60 families from the college with a complete Thanksgiving meal in November. The bags included a gift card for a turkey, green beans, mushroom soup, french onion, mashed potatoes, canned gravy, cake mix, and cookie mix. The charge went out to over nine divisions of student success administrators and their areas to give to Stark State’s own student-created, student-run pantry on campus. The award-winning pantry conceived and created by Psi Beta Honors Society students in 2015 at Stark State received all the donations collected and benefited students directly.
Supporting students struggling with food insecurity and many other issues like housing, marginalization, and depleted mental bandwidth have been a focus of administrative and faculty leaders on campus. Nicholson-Sweval explained that Stark State has always consisted of caring and giving staff, faculty and students alike. Over the summer, administration, faculty and staff read the book Bandwidth Recovery: Helping Students Reclaim Cognitive Resources Lost to Poverty, Racism, and Social Marginalization by Cia Verschelden. It focuses on helping administrators create a learning environment that is helpful to students with depleted mental bandwidth. Nicholson -Sweval explained that the ‘common read’ book highlighted that students who have chronic stress in their lives from things like economic insecurity, housing issues, or discrimination affect their learning.
“What has surprised me in over 25 years of working in higher education, I have been able to see first hand this year the real needs of our students,” said Nicholson-Sweval.
“It’s been more up-close and personal for me and this book and challenge has helped me see how very diverse our students are – they are not just one dimensional,” she added.
Nicholson pointed out that it was important to them to focus on partnering with the food pantry to serve students was set to be a challenge and not a competition. She explained that while she was not raised in poverty, she understands the enormous impact of education on life choices.
“I want to see students have the opportunity to change their lives through education,” said Nicholson-Sweval.
Stark State’s students are not immune to mental bandwidth depletion and Nicholson noted that she and her fellow colleagues continue to educate themselves so that they can continue to help students in meaningful ways. Noting that there is a large number of first generation students at Stark State, tackling issues like food insecurity is unfortunately common.
“I think the fact that we have our own food pantry sets us apart. I’m encouraged by our very caring faculty and staff,” she said.
“We care about the students we serve. We can always learn more about how we can help,” she added.
Nicholson gave kudos to her fellow colleagues Dr. Nicole Cleland and Dr. Bryan Gerber who have advised the students from Psi Beta in running the pantry. Dr. Nicole Cleland, is the Psychology Program Coordinator, an assistant professor and current Psi Beta Advisor at Stark State. Dr. Bryan Gerber, is an associate professor and former Psi Beta Advisor during the implementation of the student-created pantry in 2015. He is a current Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society Advisor.
Nicholson -Sweval would like to see more of our campus community support the food pantry efforts as well as the opportunity for the pantry to add hours of operation to serve more students.
About Phi Theta Kappa College Project:
Stark State’s Phi Theta Kappa Honors chapter Beta Gamma Epsilon, completes a College Project yearly in collaboration with and fostering relationship between chapter members and administration. The project is to reflect the college’s overall mission. Beta Gamma Epsilon chose to focus on creating an awareness of food insecurity at Stark State by highlighting and partnering with student organizations, faculty, staff and administration to shine a light on the resources available through Psi Beta’s award-winning student-created, student-run, student-serving food pantry. Phi Theta Kappa sponsors a Mitten Tree during the holidays asking for donations to benefit the pantry. Collaborating with other student organizations about the benefits of the pantry as well as facts on how hunger affects those around us, specifically our fellow students and their families will be the highlight of our series of Spotlight On Food Insecurity. Our project will continue into 2020. Watch for our pantry food sculpture drive in the spring. If you would like to be highlighted or would like to nominate a student, teacher, staff or administrator here for their role in creating an awareness of food insecurity or the food pantry efforts, fill out this survey.