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Marijo Russell O’Grady | PACE UNIVERSITY

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"The Broadsheet" featured Pace University's associate vice president and Dean for Students Marijo Russell-O’Grady and her new book in "Meditations in an Emergency"

03/29/2019

"The Broadsheet" featured Pace University's associate vice president and Dean for Students Marijo Russell-O’Grady and her new book in "Meditations in an Emergency"

Battery Park City resident Marijo Russell-O’Grady has co-authored a new book that is timely and topical, albeit in a troubling way. With her colleague, Katie Treadwell, Dr. Russell-O’Grady (who holds a PhD in higher education administration) has written, “Crisis, Compassion, and Resiliency in Student Affairs: Using Triage Practices to Foster Well-Being,” a research-driven analysis of the experiences of professional educators who have lived through (and helped manage the response to) tragedies such as active shooters, major terrorist attacks, natural disasters, mass-casualty events, and student deaths.

Since 1998, Dr. Russell-O’Grady has served as an associate vice president and Dean for Students at Pace University’s campus in Lower Manhattan. So she was still relatively new to her job on a bright morning 18 years ago, when, as she recalled in a Pace oral history interview, “first I heard the noise, and I looked out and there’s a plane. I saw it pass Woolworth. I saw and felt the buildings shake upon impact. I see all these people running all over the streets. I remember going downstairs and seeing a former student, and he was crying. And he was kind of a tough guy.”

“And I looked, and the building’s on fire, and you’re seeing people out on the window ledges and you’re seeing people running for their lives,” she continued. “So I said to everyone in the front, get to the other building. Get back and go to the other building. And I said we should close this building. I said to everyone, get into cover, get out of here. I said get everybody on these floors out.”

“And so I went out and I went to the other building and told people to get inside, get inside, go into One Pace Plaza,” Dr. Russell-O’Grady recalled. “Don’t stay out here. Cause there’s just so many people running, chaos. And then I went to security, and the minute I got to security, people were in panic and were asking for masks, and people were calling, are we still having classes? And the phones were going off the hook, and people wanted masks and I’m like, listen. Buildings and grounds had already turned off the exhaust so we weren’t bringing in the bad stuff.”

“We were giving out water and masks,” she remembered. “Then we got people into the Schimmel auditorium, into the gym, into the cafeteria, and I remember large crowds, trying to get people into the lower floors. In the gym there was a rumor started that there was a gas leak in there, so people started to shove like the start of a panic, of a trample, and we said no. Get the air horns out. There is no gas here. We don’t have gas. We’re okay. And then staff started coming and they would give out free food. You know, counseling was dishing ice cream and food and just getting people food.”

Dr. Russell-O’Grady described the process she helped oversee at Pace that day, and in the weeks that followed, as “triage — doing what matters most in the moment during a crisis event.” This skill is sadly not specific to September 11, 2001. Ever since the 1999 school shooting massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, violence at educational institutions has been a recurring theme in American life, with crises on campuses and at schools an increasingly common event. In such circumstances, educators and administrators  are called upon to serve as the ‘first’ first responders.

Dr. Russell-O’Grady says of her book, “there are many lessons that can be applied to other fields. It is about being able to see and manage the ‘forest and the trees’ in times of crisis. As Clark Kerr said ‘a university reveals its soul during a crisis,’ and I believe this to be true. The care of that soul, and those impacted by a crisis, need attention as we bring a campus or a business back in operation. We live in turbulent times, and higher education professionals are poised to confront and manage these situations. The book reinforces, through storytelling about campus incidents, the need for care, to work with others, and to bring the community affected back from the ashes.”

Dr. Russell-O’Grady moved to the Financial District in 1998, and then to Gateway Plaza in 2009, where she was able to observe the community’s response to Hurricane Sandy, three years later. In the two decades she has been at Pace, she notes that the job has evolved. “I have a lot more training in sort of emergency stuff, which I had before but now it’s more specific to these kinds of things. But I would say that my number one concern always is to care for the students — are they okay? And two, are we safe? So I think it has intensified.”

When not acting as an advocate for student at Pace, Dr. Russell-O’Grady has served on the Downtown Little League’s board of directors for ten years. After rotating through stints as secretary, Opening Day coordinator and safety officer, she currently helps out with the Challenger League, which offers baseball for individuals with disabilities.

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Press Release:‘Crisis, Compassion, and Resiliency in Student Affairs’ Offers Strategies for Responding to College and University Crises with Mindfulness

03/15/2019

Press Release:‘Crisis, Compassion, and Resiliency in Student Affairs’ Offers Strategies for Responding to College and University Crises with Mindfulness

Washington, DC – Crisis events on college and university campuses have become all too common. In these most challenging situations, student affairs professionals are expected to be among the first to respond. A new book from NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education examines the significant personal impact campus crises have on staff and students, with recommendations for practices to foster well-being.

Crisis, Compassion, and Resiliency in Student Affairs: Using Triage Practices to Foster Well-Being by seasoned student affairs administrators Katie L. Treadwell, Marijo Russell O’Grady, and their associates features wide-ranging perspectives based on the authors’ personal experiences leading through unthinkable tragedies and high-profile incidents. Scenarios include active shooter situations, intentional violence, citywide terrorism, natural disasters, transportation accidents, student suicide and death, campus activism, and more. They share essential steps for responding to and managing crisis events and emergencies, as well as advice for maintaining personal well-being and achieving healing when the work demands 24/7/365 dedication.

“This book offers insight into the often unspoken need for grit, perseverance, and self-care. The authors demonstrate how compassionate leadership in student affairs includes granting one's self grace in the midst of grief, tragedy, and uncertainty,” says Radford University President Brian Hemphill.

The book explores how to apply triage practices—doing what matters most in the moment during a crisis event—to support the holistic well-being of students and staff through both institutional crises as well as daily critical incidents. Readers will benefit from instruction on applying frameworks, developing training and protocols, learning through reflection, and supporting staff well-being.

“The authors provide fresh insights and new perspectives on understanding traumatic events, with emphasis on how to use triage and other trauma-informed practices to support students, staff, and ourselves,” says DePaul University Vice President for Student Affairs Eugene Zdziarski II.

As colleges and universities grapple with difficult issues, the demands of student affairs work will continue to grow. It is more important than ever for student affairs professionals to have reliable strategies for promoting self-care and encouraging environments for mindfulness and well-being.

The book is available on the NASPA website or by calling (202) 265-7500 and retails for $44.95.

About the Authors

Marijo Russell O’Grady has been a student affairs leader and practitioner for more than 30 years, developing her professional identity at public, private, and religiously affiliated universities. She has been quoted in Business Officer Magazine and The Chronicle of Higher Education, and provided input on ECAR-EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research Post-9/11 Emergency Response and Business Continuity at Pace University and New York University (ECAR Case Study 2007). She holds BS and MS degrees in art education with a concentration in art therapy from State University of New York College at Buffalo, and a PhD in higher education administration from New York University. Since 1998, Russell O’Grady has served as the associate vice president/dean for students at Pace University’s New York City campus; she also owns www.innovativecollegesolutions.com, a consulting company.

Katie L. Treadwell researches and writes extensively about the aftermath of university crises and the subsequent experiences of campus first responders. Her work has appeared in The Chronicle of Higher

Education, Encyclopedia of Strategic Leadership and Management, Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, About Campus, and other higher education publications. She has more than 15 years of experience in student affairs administration, including significant roles in crisis response, residential life, sexual assault prevention, suicide prevention and response, alcohol risk reduction, and mental health outreach. Treadwell currently leads student conduct and community standards at The University of Kansas. She holds undergraduate degrees in journalism and religion, a master’s degree in higher education administration from Baylor University, and a doctoral degree in adult learning and leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University.

NASPA is the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Our work provides high-quality professional development, advocacy, and research for 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries, and 8 U.S. territories.