Professor, Student Enable Random Acts of Kindness at Dow

Warm and Fuzzy wall for random acts of kindness
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Daniela Arias-Rotondo and Hannah Hong ’22
helped students, faculty and staff pursue random acts of kindness with a wall of
warm-and-fuzzy messages to solve the winter blahs.

Some thoughtful planning from Assistant Professor of Chemistry Daniela Arias-Rotondo provided the students, faculty and staff at Kalamazoo College’s Dow Science Center with methods for solving the winter blahs that just might inspire you today, on Random Acts of Kindness Day.

Let’s face it. Winter has been difficult for most people in higher education, especially in the Midwest.

“I personally don’t like February in Michigan,” said Arias-Rotondo, who is fondly known on campus as Dr. DAR. “You’re sick of the cold, you’re sick of the snow and the lack of sunlight is hitting you. With COVID added to that mix, it’s been rough.”

As a result, she wanted to do something nice in February to serve as a pick-me-up for as many of her colleagues and students as possible.

“I was trying to think about what the chemistry department does throughout the year,” she said. “We dress up for Halloween and we have some activities closer to the summer, but we usually don’t have anything planned for the winter.”

That’s when Arias-Rotondo remembered that Hannah Hong ’22, inspired by Hong’s participation in a PossePlus retreat, developed a wall for warm-and-fuzzy messages last summer at Dow, where the students, faculty and staff—relatively lonely with limited numbers of people on campus—could post appreciative cards and messages to their peers.

“I was trying to figure out how can we bring some joy to the month, and with Valentine’s Day, I thought about bringing back the Warm and Fuzzies for the whole department,” Arias-Rotondo said.

Hong was thrilled with the idea. She readily posted a “Warm and Fuzzies” banner complete with entertaining chemistry puns appropriate for the holiday such as “We share a strong bond” with a drawing of a bond between atoms and “You’re the brightest person I’ve ‘xenon’ this planet.”

When the project launched, some feared it wouldn’t have much participation, but it was a hit. Within days the glass window outside the red couch room on the chemistry department’s floor was covered with fan mail intended for students, faculty and staff. That fan mail was collected on Valentine’s Day and distributed to their intended recipients, spreading cheer.

“It was a very inexpensive thing to do,” Arias-Rotondo said. “The cards were about $7 and it’s even cheaper if you do it with Post-It Notes. You could see how excited everyone was about them. It would be so fun to make this a campus wide thing. Maybe we could spread it next year to the Hicks Student Center with a bunch of different banners and cards. I think the students would really buy into it.”

Random Acts of Kindness Day, which for some involves a week of activities, encourages participants to make the world a better place by sharing light to make kindness a part of our everyday lives. Perhaps others can draw their own inspiration, today or any day, from Arias-Rotondo and her students and colleagues.

“This felt to me like buying that perfect present for someone,” she said. “You’re so eager to see them open it. I’m happy that people thought it was a good idea and that students were writing all these different cards and getting excited about them.”