It was with a mixture of sadness and anger that I learned of the recent unjust deaths of unarmed Black Americans. Our community thrives due to its diversity, and it is clear to me that only an inclusive community in which voices of all backgrounds are heard and respected can live up to its full potential. During this time of uncertainty and social distancing, I have urged everyone in MatSE to engage in conversations around race so that we can learn from one another and find better ways to support each another. It is incumbent on all of us to fight racism and xenophobia in all its forms. Together we can be strong advocates for change.
Even though it is through difficult times that change often occurs, I am optimistic that our true values will shine through especially after what I saw happen within MatSE in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I saw the best of our department when we all banded together in the space of a few days to take all our courses and labs online — all but essential experimental research was paused — and everyone began to work from home.
The sense of community within MatSE was apparent as we came together to teach our students in a high-quality, meaningful way and make new discoveries to advance the field. The Safety Committee worked overtime to develop responsible safety protocols for a resumption of laboratory work. Our faculty, staff and students treated each other with respect and empathy through the days that followed, some of which were good and some less so. We honored our graduating students with a video montage from MatSE faculty and staff that included heartfelt wishes and the wonderful playfulness that the MatSE family shares.
We are looking forward to a productive summer, and will continue to plan for whatever comes this fall. I hope that you and your family are safe, healthy and happy. As always, I appreciate hearing from you. I can be reached at email@example.com or 814-863-3117. I hope that it is not too long before I see you back on campus for a football tailgate, graduation, other academic events or celebrations.
Susan B. Sinnott
Professor and Head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering