CLAS Fall 2020 Resources

Sarah Sanders, University of IowaA message from Interim Dean Sara Sanders

Welcome to the 2020-2021 academic year. This year is like no other year I have experienced during my 17 years on campus. Since March, we have been endlessly planning to be ready for this very moment . . . the reopening of CLAS for in-person instruction. I know that for many of you, it feels like this summer did not actually occur—like that much-needed break simply did not happen. For that, I am sorry, as I recognize that we are entering the year exhausted from the work and planning. I know you have spent weeks sorting through emails with constantly updated guidance, educating yourself about topics you never thought your job would require, adopting and implementing new policies, and scanning the news for stories about events that led to both hope and despair. You have worked extremely hard to help us get to where we are. I want you to know that I see you, I am with you, I appreciate your efforts more than I can express—and I am here to listen to your concerns and to partner with you to find solutions throughout this year.

To our faculty and graduate assistants: Thank you for your academic leadership. Your passion for and commitment to your departments and disciplines remind us of why we are here at Iowa in the first place: the drive for knowledge and understanding. We in the Dean’s Office are here to support you in your teaching, scholarship, scientific investigation, and artistic production. We are eager to see your many creative responses to our present realities as you discover new ways to teach and to engage in the sharing of knowledge. Please lean on us as needed, and never hesitate to reach out with a collaborative spirit.

To our staff: It has never been clearer that you are the essential backbone of this college and institution. Nothing we learn, teach, discover, and share with the world could happen without your expertise, ingenuity, adaptability, and institutional memory. Throughout this pandemic and resultant budget crisis, you have ensured that our critical operations continue as smoothly as possible, often while facing stressful personal and professional challenges of your own. I have been amazed by the way you’ve rallied to solve problems and discover new ways of working during this difficult period. Thank you! 

The circumstances we face are not what any of us would choose, nor ever expected when we started working as part of CLAS. I know many in our community are feeling anxious, afraid, and to be brutally honest, frustrated. These responses are normal and expected. What else should we think and feel, living in a world turned upside-down by a global pandemic, economic disruption, continued horrific instances of racial injustice, and an “inland hurricane,” all within the space of six months?

As I used to say early in my clinical career doing end-of-life and grief work, we are living in a snow globe that never stops shaking. We don’t know where the snowflakes will finally land, when a sense of normalcy will return. But in the face of these circumstances, we must take a moment to see hope, to see the “silver linings” that arise during times of struggle. So many of these instances have already arisen, including peaceful protests leading to dialogue and change in our community; neighbors helping neighbors following the derecho; and ingenious efforts to prepare our campus spaces, IT infrastructure, and syllabi for face-to-face, blended, and virtual instruction that will deliver world-class educational experiences to more than 16,000 undergraduates and 1,900 graduate students. This hope, these silver linings, come from you and your extraordinary efforts.  

As we move through fall semester, it is my hope that we can build community in new and innovative ways. Like you, I miss the days of gathering as teams, colleagues, and friends. As we build our community this fall, I look forward to collectively reviewing the many lessons learned, and tally up the hits and misses. We know there will be hiccups and midstream corrections. That is what happens with any large-scale system change. But, from these hiccups, these misses, comes our ability to grow, evolve, innovate, and change. I know you will discover many pedagogical innovations, new efficiencies, and improved ways of working together. I hope you will take the time to sit in the presence of these moments of greatness across CLAS, congratulate each other for work well done, recognize the silver linings that will come through the moment of darkness, and share your insights with the Dean’s Office and your colleagues. We’ll be listening and learning right alongside you.

In closing, I want to one more time say "THANK YOU;" take one more opportunity to wish you the best; and once again recognize the contributions you have made to the success of academic year 2020-2021. Together, we’ve got this!