To say that the 2020-21 academic year has been an incredibly unusual and unsettling one thus far is a substantial understatement. When this academic year began in August, nobody was confident we would make it until Thanksgiving without another lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic. Despite these challenging times, we nevertheless persevered.
Our research labs, shuttered last March when the pandemic hit, began reopening in June and most are now operational again (albeit with smaller staffs, social distancing, and rigorous mask-wearing). Students, faculty, and research scientists are holding virtual lab meetings. They publish their research and submit their grants—whether it’s from a chair in their offices, a sofa in their living rooms, or the back porch on a particularly pleasant autumn day.
Many of our staff members have returned to at least partial in-person work during the fall semester, while others continue to work remotely. Regardless of whether physically working in our buildings as essential workers or working all hours day and night as remote workers, all of our staff members have toiled tirelessly to ensure departmental operations run smoothly.
It is especially important to acknowledge the amazing contributions of our faculty members who continued to teach our students—whether in-person, online, or both—despite the many challenges they faced, ranging from the sudden quarantining of their students to adapting to novel learning modes and technologies on the fly.
The word “hero” is often overused, but the dedication, hard work, tolerance, and grace our instructors displayed—all while essentially doubling their teaching loads due to online teaching—was nothing short of heroic. We all owe them our sincerest gratitude.
Also, a huge thank-you to our amazing students, both graduate and undergraduate, who had their personal and educational lives disrupted this past year, many forced to retreat to their small apartments to continue their training largely online. Despite these challenges, they pursued their educational goals with tenacity and good spirits. Many of them have been able to resume their research projects in their labs.
Lastly, I am extremely proud of the major leadership role taken on by the staff of the IU Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics (affiliated with Biology) in spearheading the COVID-19 testing on the Bloomington campus.
The fall semester has come to its end. We persevered. And while challenges no doubt await us in the new year, I am grateful for the creative solutions that the IU community developed to keep us all healthy and safe. The promise of vaccines in the near future provides hope of a return to normal.
As we put this trying and tiring semester behind us and head into winter break, please try your best to relax, unwind, and recharge. Although many of you will unfortunately not be able to travel to visit friends and family over the holidays, take time to connect via phone, FaceTime, and Zoom. Make it a priority to take care of yourselves and loved ones as we continue to move forward. I am confident that a time will soon come when we can resume the activities that inspire us … that keep our lives enriched and fulfilled.