When College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) Dean Stephanie Hartwell started the Run With the Dean events to connect with the CLAS community, she wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
The program proved popular, with several faculty and staff members meeting regularly to run throughout Detroit. Now, several group members will be part of five Wayne State University relay teams that will run in the Detroit Free Press marathon on Oct. 16.
“I'm just thrilled that it's sort of taken off and that people in the college want to build this sense of community,” Hartwell said. “When we started Run with the Dean, a handful of folks came out. We thought it would be more students, but it was all faculty, and we developed a little bit. We just had a good time together. We ran in rain and snow, and on some hot days. We ran short distances and long distances all over Detroit, which was a ball.”
Hartwell credits Haiyong Liu, director of Wayne State’s linguistics program, for helping the group grow. Liu sent surveys asking where people wanted to run and helped organize events when Hartwell couldn’t make it.
“I give Haiyong all the credit,” Hartwell said. “It’s really taken off; I’m just a member of the gang at this point. When it first started, there were times when it was just me and Haiyong, so I really got a chance to know him. He’s got such a great sense of humor. He started taking pictures of the group and sending out surveys, and now it's become more of a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences fun run situation. I'm thrilled that people feel such a sense of community in the college and have fun doing it. We always have a lot of laughs out there.”
Liu ran in last year’s Free Press marathon with a team of Chinese faculty members. He said the team wanted to make a statement against some of the anti-Asian hate that was on the rise in the U.S.
This year, Liu decided to see if any other Wayne State runners wanted to form a team, and ultimately ended up with five teams.
"We have a lot of runners in the faculty, and this is just a way to bring people together,” Liu said. “I think it’s great for the morale of the faculty. Running is a great de-stressor, and it’s a great way to get exercise, so there are physical benefits. But then there’s also the social benefit. I got to know a lot of colleagues I wouldn’t know otherwise. Getting to know my colleagues outside of work makes coming to work more enjoyable.
“Usually, teams are made up of friends or family members. I think it makes us a little unique that we are all colleagues,” he added.
Professor of Psychology Chris Trentacosta participated in Run With the Dean and ultimately signed up for one of the marathon teams.
“The runs were a nice opportunity to meet colleagues from across the college and university,” Trentacosta said. “When Haiyong Liu reached out about organizing relay teams, I immediately offered to join because I thought it would be fun to run with other Wayne Staters who I had met during the runs. I'm excited and proud to represent Wayne State. I think it is a great opportunity to highlight the fact that we have several faculty and staff within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and across the university who enjoy running.”
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Charlie Fehl will run on a relay for the first year and on the same team as Trentacosta.
“I'm running to support a healthy and active culture in the Wayne State community,” Fehl said. “I am particularly excited about the chance to run as a WSU relay team member and to get to know how people in other parts of the university are promoting healthy lifestyles across WSU.”
Director of Planning and Space Management Ashley Flintoff is the captain of Team Aim Higher and said she looks forward to the team aspect of the relay.
“I really enjoyed connecting with other runners in the Run With the Dean outings and thought it would be fun to have a group of people cheering me on and to cheer for in the race,” Flintoff said. “Running, while an individual activity, is a social sport, and connecting with other employees who also run has been so much fun. Plus, it seemed like a good excuse to maybe get some cool team swag.”
Flintoff will pull double duty, running the first leg of the team marathon before running the half-marathon by herself.
“I have a tradition of signing up for the half marathon at 12:01a.m. on New Year's Day when they open registration,” Flintoff said. “When Haiyong mentioned coordinating to get more WSU relay teams, I was excited about the idea of doing this with a group. It turns out you can run both the relay and either the half or full marathon if you run the first leg of the relay. This seemed like a fun, unique way to participate and to say I've done both.”
Wayne State's relay teams
CLAS Women Warriors
Team Aim Higher
Fast and Furious Acarunners