Students and faculty at Plattsburgh State are proving that kindness transcends generations.
On the third floor of Hudson Hall, there is a board outside of PSUC Professor of Biological Sciences Nancy Elwess’ office, and Elwess calls it “the money board.” Students can either take money they need from the board, or add money to it. The board itself is brown, with dollar bills interspersed with Post-it notes stuck in random locations. Elwess has had the board up since the beginning of the spring semester and plans to keep it up until after finals week.
She said she found the cork board after cleaning out a colleague’s office after she retired.
Elwess said that, despite skepticism from other faculty members in her department, the amount of money on the board grew tenfold.
“It started with four dollars on there,” she said. “Within one week, it hit $40, and it was mainly from students.”
Elwess said she doesn’t question why people take money from the board, or how much they take, but she placed Post-it notes near the board so people can leave comments if they want. She said she noticed that some people are afraid to be seen taking money, so they will wait until she leaves or cover their faces with their hoods so she can’t see them.
“The money seems to disappear off of there when I’m in the lab or in a meeting or something. I’ll notice there’s a new note up, or the money I just put up on the board is gone,” she said. “I don’t judge anyone for taking money from the board. I wish there wasn’t such a stigma with accepting or taking help.”
PSUC Science Programs and Facilities Support Professor Shannon Nephew, whose office is feet down the hall from Elwess’, has seen the progression of the board from the start and how it has made an impact.
“The students come back and read the comments, and Nancy and I read them as well,” Nephew said. “It’s just a really feel-good kind of thing for everybody here. We worried that we’d put money on the board and nobody else would put money up, but it keeps going. We didn’t expect it to be so successful.”
She said it may be a good idea to have a board like this in central areas of other campus buildings such as Hawkins or Sibley Halls.
“It’s been a positive experience for this building, but especially on this floor because we see it so much,” Nephew said.
She said she and Elwess placed $5 bills on the board a couple of times, and those stay up longer than they expect. Nephew said students might be afraid to take $5 because it’s more than $1.
She said it makes people think about how much they really need versus how much they want.
PSUC biology major Francine Francis said Elwess is always thinking of the students and how she can help them.
“It’s nice to pay it forward. Elwess is one of those professors that is amazing at what she does. You can’t be around Dr. Elwess and not be inspired to be greater,” Francis said. “She gives of herself in all that she does.”
Francis also said Elwess makes sure her students are reaching their full potential.
“Elwess is one of those professors who pushes you to be better because they can see better in you, and I know the greatness that I have yet to attain is because I stand on the shoulders of giants like those,” Francis said.
Francis said Elwess helped her become a better person and to realize she wanted to be a science major in the first place.
“The success of this board reaffirmed my belief that the students that I’ve come to know from teaching in the chemistry building are kind, generous, trustworthy and honest,” Nephew said.
Email Markiesha Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org