September 27, 2020

Commencing Autumn Quarter 2020

As autumn quarter commences, we welcome and celebrate new community members and initiatives just as we do every year! Last week incoming students convened for orientation with inspiring virtual events organized by our dedicated staff.  The autumn retreat drew our faculty back together after summer projects and sabbaticals around our shared mission of teaching and public impact.

Yet, this is an unusual time that requires us to practice new levels of empathy, compassion and patience with each other and with ourselves. The ongoing pandemic keeps us from gathering together on campus. We continue to reckon with a legacy of racial injustice and systemic racism experienced by Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the US. And we are fast approaching what may be the most contentious election of our lifetime, following the loss of a national treasure – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. These realities and events have amplified our passion for public service and focused new energy in the direction of justice.

In June, I committed to anti-racism work as the cornerstone and overarching mission of the Evans School in the coming year. In support of this, Incoming Dean Jodi Sandfort and I have collaborated on a new initiative – the Dean’s Forum on Race & Public Policy. Our first panel discussion which focuses on Voter Rights, Access & Suppression is scheduled for October 13th. Anticipated future topics include: COVID-19 impacts and recovery, and operationalizing antiracism in organizations. These forums will provide a space to engage in timely and important community conversations.

This work does not stop at the Dean’s suite. Last week’s faculty retreat included a session in which instructors grappled with the interaction of antiracist actions and ideas, the tools and challenges inherent in academic training, and our teaching mission.  Staff have begun integrating antiracism work into their day-to-day operations—from implementing a Racial Equity Programming Assessment to setting aside more professional development time. And this week, our incoming cohort of Evans students, filled with passion and girded for the fight, joins continuing students on the path to graduate degrees and future contributions to public service.

There is so much ahead for us to do, acknowledging that racial justice and equity work is for generations and lifetimes. Yet, I am filled with optimism because the Evans School community is tackling these challenges together and as individuals, within our walls and in institutions across the state and country.

It is truly a pleasure and an inspiration to be a part of this community, and I look forward to standing with you in the fight for justice in the time ahead.