UW Environment Dean Lisa J. Graumlich
UW Environment Dean Lisa J. Graumlich

I write this from my home office, where I have fashioned a standing desk from an ironing board and a stack of books. In the next room, I can hear my 17-year-old daughter trying to make sense of the virtual classroom environment that has been thrust upon her. It goes without saying that COVID-19 is testing all of us in different ways. This is hard.

I know you have heard response plans from everyone in your orbit—from your local pizza shop to a florist you used once in 2015—so this message from me will be a little different.

I want to reflect on the powerful connections holding us together at this time.

Connecting with each other

In this new video conference-intensive world I’m now seeing familiar faces on the computer screen, meeting family pets and chatting with my colleagues’ children. In the past, these interactions were considered pedestrian or even disruptive, but this week they were cherished moments of levity in my day. Connecting with each other regularly and authentically will help us create much-needed intimacy that is crucial for ensuring we hold onto the hope and friendship that will carry us through the low moments that may lie ahead.

Connections between and within faculty and students

Since the University made the decision to conduct all Spring Quarter classes online, our brilliant faculty have moved at an astonishing pace to reinvent their approach, providing experiential education in an online world.

This week, the College of the Environment will be connecting with our students online, delivering hundreds of classes remotely and offering technology tools and services to ensure students are supported. Lectures proceed via Zoom and Panopto. Canvas and other tools allow students to chat and learn collaboratively in real-time. Faculty and TAs from across the College have been working around the clock to create the best possible experience for our undergraduate and graduate students. Staff continue to provide dedicated support of the College’s operations by working remotely or even in person for critical functions, such as monitoring for earthquakes via the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

Connecting with mother nature

I know that a walk outdoors makes me happier, calmer and heals my heart. Now that Spring is upon us, a neighborhood stroll offers blossoming trees, daffodils and budding tulips, chirping birds and an abundance of fresh air. I implore you to reward yourself for the time spent indoors with some grounding time outside with mother nature. I picked some great ideas from this story recently published on the College website. My two dogs, Addy and Leilei, are delighted with the extra walks that we’re taking them on, thanks to our new way of life.

Connecting you with our good work

While news of novel coronavirus continues to dominate our social feeds and our inboxes, you’ll find respite on the College website, where we continue to highlight the fascinating, inspiring and somewhat unsettling work emerging from across the college. As more events are moved online, please visit the events calendar to find out about the many opportunities we’re developing for you to connect with the critical research that drives our purpose at the College of the Environment.

When we can once again gather on campus, I hope that we will be building on the connections that were fortified in the time we were apart.

Until then, please be kind to yourselves and to each other, and let’s stay connected to the good in the world.

You can email me at graumlic@uw.edu.