I do my best to share information in both directions. And I focus on connecting to the right person to provide solutions.
Along those lines, the most important work I do is removing the obstacles that prevent our departments and my staff from doing what they do so well. The uncertainty and change of the past year, however, meant there were obstacles that simply couldn’t be moved – only managed. Our student services staff in the departments, for example, have had to manage through highly complex issues for international students, in an ambiguous landscape of shifting U.S. government policies and decisions. They’ve really engaged their skills around calming and reassuring students in an absence of information.
I worked with the departments to stand up the SoE Curriculum Planning group made up of faculty and staff to successfully navigate some of the particulars of this unusual year – namely, the transition to an almost fully online curriculum, a four-quarter year, and a quarter without a traditional exam week. The last led to a number of conversations with students and faculty on practical academic matters, where my goal was to listen to their concerns and to help them understand policy and best practices around this new timeline. In my conversations with our faculty, I found them to be thoughtful about taking the compressed quarter into account as they assessed students.
Anti-racism and racial justice matters are a critical focus for the entire School of Engineering. Our team, led by the Director of Equity and Inclusion Initiatives, Lourdes Andrade, assisted departments with town halls and provided support as departments spun up their own Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committees. I’m exceedingly proud of the efforts put forth this year on behalf of our students, our university and our future by my own team and the staff and faculty in all of the departments.
I’ve also been delighted to get to work with Jackie Hernandez from the Dean’s Office Administration staff to make progress with a pilot program, WINGS (Wellness Information Network for Graduate Students). WINGers are students in SoE departments who share information with their peers around well-being. It’s always been a challenge, but helping student wellness is especially urgent in the pandemic. WINGers are doing great work and now we’re working to create a template to help bring future WINGers up to speed more quickly.
The past year has certainly been an unusual one for all of us, but it has been rewarding to see our teams rise to the challenge.