Dear A&S students, faculty and staff,
What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, the World Health Organization had just announced the emergence of the novel coronavirus, and the U.S. presidential election seemed a far way off.
Since then, living amidst COVID-19 has become a surreal way of life. I no longer worry about forgetting to bring a mask anywhere; there’s always a back-up in my bag. And every day, I make space in my car’s cupholder for my tea mug among bottles of hand sanitizer.
Surreal in a different way is that we begin our spring semester having seen the nation’s democracy shockingly tested. On January 6, a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. A few short weeks later, President Biden and Vice President Harris took the oath of office on that same spot—signaling to Americans and the world that intimidation and fear would not define us and that our democracy, our “great experiment,” will endure.
If there’s one thing of which these crises have reminded me, it is that adversity reveals what is truly important. How I took for granted the simplest things like sharing a meal with friends—and much bigger things too, like a broad belief in equal rights or the certainty of our governmental system.
We will return to those days, but cannot waste the days we are in right now. In my September message, I noted that while it seems like we are in a state of suspended animation, that simply isn’t true. Whether you are joining us online or in person, now is the ultimate opportunity to dive into your work and make positive advances. That’s what current students like Louis Smith and Catherine Campbell are doing, and I hope that their stories serve inspire you, no matter your role within the College.
As associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion Kishi Animashaun Ducre recently observed on her blog, this historical moment provides an opportunity to “stand on the shoulders of giants.” So, whether you are inspired to improve the world through writing, research, advocacy or activism, NOW is your time to seize the privilege of being at A&S. There is no better place than with a college who has spent 150 years striving to help make the world healthier, more hopeful and more human.
The days are getting longer. Let’s use that time and light to spring into action!