Cloudy with a Chance of Optimism
May 8, 2020
Last semester, the UM-Dearborn community not only endured the typical April mix of sun and snow, we also drew upon our region’s adaptability to continue our mission in the face of a major public health crisis.
There’s a witticism that a typical spring day forecast in Michigan is “sunny and 60 degrees with a chance of snow.” As a whole, Michiganders are highly adaptable and determined. We need to be. Last semester, the UM-Dearborn community not only endured the typical April mix of sun and snow, we also drew upon our region’s adaptability to continue our mission in the face of a major public health crisis.
Armed with preparedness, quick-thinking and creativity, our students and faculty didn't miss a beat when the coronavirus pandemic forced us to move to remote learning. Staff stepped-up in effective ways to serve our students. Every action we took—from offering pass/fail grades to launching a student relief fund—was done with determination and purpose to recreate a healthy, safe and supporting environment in which to teach and learn.
Those efforts paid off for our students. April 26 saw nearly 1,200 new graduates enter the University of Michigan-Dearborn alumni family. In a message sent to them on Commencement Day, I told the class of 2020 that they will forever be known as the class who didn't quit. While it was disappointing that we could not have our traditional commencement ceremony, we celebrated their accomplishments virtually and will continue highlighting their achievements throughout the year.
Our university’s purpose and determination reach beyond enabling our students to graduate on time. Faculty and staff are helping to take on the current public health challenge. For example:
At the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS), Manufacturing Systems Engineering Lab staff applied their expertise to help frontline workers. Working from their kitchen tables, living rooms and basements, Eric Kirk, Jesse Cross, Shawn Simone, Faith Olson and Matt Brown used 3D printers to help replenish the dwindling PPE supply. Michigan Medicine received their first batch last week. The team is now looking to produce face shields.
While the CECS displayed their technical prowess, the College of Arts, Sciences and Letters demonstrated the importance of the human element during a pandemic. In the age of social distancing, Psychology Associate Professor Brenda Whitehead is documenting the experiences of the elderly during this outbreak. Whitehead is encouraging us to find ways to spread joy to those around us and reminds everyone of the importance of social interaction, especially for our older population.
The work of both Professor Whitehead and the CECS team are but two of the many examples that exemplify the common purpose that defines UM-Dearborn. They represent our remarkable faculty and staff and highlight the caring environment that inspires students to come here to learn. Thank you all for being part of what makes our university special.
I am confident in President Schlissel’s economic recovery plan for the University of Michigan as a whole. Moreover, our hard work over the past several weeks has generated an authentic and powerful optimism for our campus as the summer approaches. Current summer enrollment and credit hours are above our projections and senior leadership is sanguine that this portends a positive trend for fall enrollment. As we develop and consider various strategies for the coming academic year, I am encouraged, inspired and grateful knowing that a bold creativity and goodness of spirit defines our campus community.
We hope for the return to some semblance of normalcy in the near future. Guided by the advice of healthcare professionals, we will continue to prioritize the well-being of our students, faculty and staff in all our decision making.
On May 12, I will be hosting a virtual town hall to discuss fall semester teaching scenarios, FY2021 budget planning, fall recruitment efforts and other issues related to campus operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. I encourage you to join me and my senior leadership colleagues and ask questions or offer comments. To register follow this link.
It is my honor to lead this outstanding university. I wish you continued health and safety. Thank you for everything you do, both for our university and broader community. Let’s all proudly keep up the great work and hope there is no longer a chance of snow in our May forecasts!
I leave you with my primitive mash-up of some well known British authors - although rough winds will shake the buds of May, hope always springs eternal.
Go Blue - Go Dearborn!