Communication Department Launches Care Cart

From the outside, Xavier Hall doesn’t appear to be anything special. It doesn’t sport the glossy glass exterior of the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering building, the spiffy rolling chairs of Chaifetz School of Business or even the (relatively) reliable air conditioning of Des Peres Hall. But inside the yellowing brick exterior, the Department of Communication is housed: a department that—for majors, minors and students just passing through—has worked hard to make Xavier’s hallowed halls feel like home. 

Their most recent project is a rolling cart on Xavier’s third floor, stocked chock-full of necessities and free for students to take from in times of need. 

       In an email to Communication students on Feb. 11, department chair Dan Kozlowski, Ph.D wrote, “The Communication Department faculty and staff recognize that some days we all need something — because we forgot, we ran late, we’re low on cash. That’s why the department is launching a ‘take-what-you-need’ cart that is available for everyone. Stocked with small snacks, basic school and personal hygiene supplies, the cart is for you, any day you need something.” 

Three days later—on Valentine’s Day—the cart was officially launched. Donuts and “positivity cards” (bearing hand-written statements like, “We see how awesome you are!” and, “Find good people to grow with”) were provided for those who stopped by. 

     The black rolling cart, located off the west staircase (adjacent to the Xavier Annex), was thoughtfully filled with personal care products. Drawers labeled, “SCHOOL SUPPLIES,” “FIRST AID,” “HAIR CARE,” “MASKS,” “SNACKS,” “HYGIENIC PRODUCTS,” “MICROWAVABLE MEALS,” “NOTEBOOKS” and “FEMININE PRODUCTS” allow students to swiftly access whatever they need, whenever they need it. 

Marketed on flyers as “a cart for everyone,” the cart is not exclusive to Communication students. Rather, the department envisions it as something all SLU students can benefit from in times of need. 

        Keli Jackson, Associate Professor of Communication, got the idea for the cart during conversations with her sister—an elementary school teacher in an underfunded district. Jackson’s sister provides her students with necessities their families can not supply, inspiring Jackson to create a similar initiative at SLU. 

        “We do have students that have needs that sometimes are unmet,” Jackson said. “I felt like in the spirit of the pandemic—knowing things have been challenging and hard for people, that sometimes we don’t have the resources that we need—it would be good for us to have something for our students.” 

Statistics stand behind Jackson’s idea. According to a 2021 study by, 25% of college students experienced financial difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another 17% reported dealing with food insecurity. Some SLU students have expressed these struggles directly to their professors, like Jackson.

       “I have had students express to me some unmet needs that they may have. Sometimes we have students who have had changes in housing situations that can really be disruptive for a period of time. Many students will have issues with funding or tuition, or account holds that can sometimes make it hard for them to purchase books,” Jackson said. “I am aware, usually from one-on-one conversations with my students that might reach out, that they have had occasional issues meeting their basic academic needs, as well as housing, clothes, food, etcetera.” 

In the fall, Jackson brought up the idea of meeting these needs to Kozlowski. The department got to work making her “take-what-you-need” cart a reality. Department funds were used to stock the cart and tuck away some surplus, and staff brought in extras to bolster their supply. 

Kozlowski was unsure how the cart would be received by students, but after its first operational weekend, he noted that many items had been taken: proof that students are, in fact, utilizing the cart as hoped. 

         The cart’s success, though, begs a question: how will the department sustain it in the coming weeks? 

       Kozlowski says they’re open to collaboration with student service organizations who have the means and desire to contribute.

         In the meantime, Kozlowski says, “The plan is faculty and staff donations, other department funds we can use, and the hope is, if it’s something that’s useful for students, it’s something we can sustain.”

The “take-what-you-need” cart is just one way the Department of Communication seeks to support their students. From signs on Xavier’s bathroom doors encouraging breastfeeding mothers to reach out for private pumping spaces, to Halloween parties for students and staff to bond and relax, the department embodies the Jesuit mission of nurturing the whole person. 

      “The discipline inherently recognizes the important role communication plays in how we go through the world and care for, learn and share with others. But we also, thankfully, have an awesome group of instructors that are student-centered and care about students,” said Kozlowski. 

     “That’s important to us as we hire,” he continued, referencing the Department’s consideration of student feedback when considering job candidates. Potential new faculty give guest-lectures in Communication courses and meet with Communication students, allowing majors to have a say in who they learn from. 

Young adulthood is undoubtedly a stressful phase of life, and a rigorous collegiate course load is bound to add its own challenges. However, as the Department of Communication sees it, education is at its best when met with empathy.