Photos by Ralph Freso
There’s a story on every office door in the College of Education. They all are adorned with the occupants' handmade Christmas decorations.
Dean Dr. Meredith Critchfield’s cutout of Grinch doesn’t mean the boss is, umm, “grinchy.” She loves Christmas and had the idea for the Grand Canyon University’s leadership and faculty offices on the third floor of Building 42 to be, in fact, less “grinchy.”
A door decorating contest, with winners to be voted on by the entire staff.
The pandemic, she said, changed the climate of the workplace, drawing people away from community spaces. She wanted to bring back community – and add some joy.
“Many people have talked about how the workforce is never going to be the same again because people are going to want to work at home,” Critchfield said. “That is true, so in the office space we have to find ways to make it as joyful and pleasurable and productive for people as we can. Otherwise, they are never coming back.”
But why Grinch?
“My daughter looks and behaves like Cindy Lou Who,” Critchfield said of the little girl who confronts the green creature about his holiday cruelty.
“She’s watched the movie 10 times in the last two weeks. And I love how my daughter said, ‘You know, the Grinch needs love, too. Everybody needs love. Even though his heart was so small, he needed love. That’s all he needed to make him feel special. And then his heart grew, and he loves Christmas.’ She’s only 5, but she gets the Christmas spirit.”
Critchfield’s leadership row of offices carries the theme, with a big banner, of COE Cinema. Each one is dedicated to a favorite holiday movie.
Associate Dean Dr. Emily Pottinger took a different tack with “A Christmas Story,” about the Chicago kid who just wants a darn Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. Her door includes Ralphie, those big stocking hats with ear flaps and, of course, the metal pole that captures tongues on a double dog dare.
“My whole family has very quirky humor,” Pottinger said.
Down the next hallway, the theme was Christmas music, and variety was evident when Alexi Linn displayed lights and boy band faces for an 'N Sync Christmas, while Nathan Hollis II drew some laughs with his cutouts of Critchfield, Pottinger and other leaders singing Christmas carols.
“We take ourselves very seriously,” Pottinger said with a smile.
Online faculty even got involved by decorating their home office spaces or with virtual decorations for their screens.
The whole exercise created quite a spirit in the office hallways all the way to Canyon Center for Character Education’s Snoopy Christmas décor. It had them on all fours with scissors, construction paper and glue.
“Obviously, there is no better team for creativity than the College of Ed. This is what we did in our past lives,” Critchfield said. “We revisited what we used to do in our classrooms and brought it to life here.”
Lauren Balsley, executive assistant, watched student workers create quite a Christmas village of detailed tiny homes at the front desk and wouldn’t be outdone. She came in on a Saturday with her friends for a “girls' night” of decoration. Her piece is wonderful – George Bailey lassoing the moon for Mary on “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“I watched it every year with my grandma,” she said, “and I watched it right before I decorated my door.”
“Christmas Vacation” and "Elf" were represented, of course, but when Whoville took over an entire hallway, an overall message had emerged.
“The Grinch doesn’t have to be grinchy,” Critchfield said. “Not to say anyone in the college is grinchy, but we just had some time to be a little less grinchy.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
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