Giving thanks at a dubious anniversary

I was recently looking back through this blog’s archives, and couldn’t help but notice that it was one year ago this week that I was letting readers know of Fletcher’s forced shift to a remote format and covering some of the last in-person gatherings in our community. I recall it seeming a fast-unfolding set of circumstances. Although the initial directive applied through the end of the academic year, it still felt like we were dealing with a relatively short-term, albeit significant, disruption. Most conversations about the future were framed in terms of weeks, or for hard-eyed realists, months.

So here we are a year later, and there’s not a lot I can say that’s not already been said more eloquently elsewhere. The losses, hardships, and stresses so many have endured can’t be properly acknowledged in a blog post. At this year-ish anniversary of perhaps the most truly global crisis of any of our lifetimes, then, it seems most appropriate to offer a toast of sorts to the extraordinary efforts of so many that have allowed us to weather one of the most difficult periods in memory. I’m thinking of all our administrators who have worked around the clock to effect the many, many adjustments required to keep a complex organization functioning in a state of virtually constant emergency; of our faculty, who not only shifted to a virtual instruction format mid-stream with roughly a week’s notice, but who also responded nimbly to the pandemic by contributing their expertise both locally and globally to response efforts, and who quickly made plans for a variety of new course offerings addressing the moment; of Tufts’ “front-line” workers, the service and support staff who continue to work on-campus cleaning and sanitizing facilities, preparing and delivering food, and generally ensuring the integrity of the University’s health and safety protocols.

Most of all, I’m thinking of our students, who have courageously taken this leap of faith with us and continued to find ways to achieve their intellectual and professional goals. We’ve now graduated one class and welcomed a new one in a remote environment, and it’s a safe bet that very few of those students had that in mind when making plans for grad school. Yet over and over I’ve seen our students thriving and adapting, organizing virtual conferences, entering entrepreneurial and academic competitions, taking part in strategic planning initiatives, giving presentations, and most importantly supporting each other in all kinds of ways. It’s this stubborn insistence on embracing possibility and opportunity rather than bemoaning limitations that has kept our community afloat, and it’s heartening to imagine this can-do spirit flowing into a variety of professional spheres after Fletcher.

So here’s to all of you! Best wishes for better times ahead.

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