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Gratitude for Our Community

Date: March 19, 2020
From: Dean Alexis Abramson

Dear Thayer Community,

One hundred and fifty-three years ago, when Sylvanus Thayer founded the Thayer School of Engineering to “prepare the most capable and faithful for the most responsible positions and the most difficult service,” he could not have envisioned this moment in time—when our community would be compelled to come together to find creative ways to teach and learn, to pursue research without laboratories, and to support our community, all while facing so many unknowns. But we’re doing just that.

Many thanks for your patience, support, and input. While not perfect, I believe that the new policies and processes we are implementing will help keep our community safe as we all navigate the challenges before us.

The sheer scale and scope of the events we have faced are unprecedented. We are challenged to remain true to our core values — visionary, human-centered, collaborative, and experiential — in the midst of a world health crisis. But over the past two weeks, I have witnessed our community pull together in inspiring and heroic ways. As I write this, our faculty are working tirelessly to transform their courses into online alternatives. They are leaning on the skills they have honed as engineers — their creativity, ingenuity, and natural inclination to solve problems — to explore how we might integrate experiential learning into remote teaching. Even more, they are formulating new plans to continue to advance research with limited presence in the laboratory.

I have witnessed, firsthand, our staff who have embraced altered versions of their role, and even taken on new responsibilities to support our students and faculty, as we all adapt to the now ever-evolving nature of our work. Many of our staff are working well into the late hours of the night, exploring the best ways for Thayer to support our faculty and students, provide our services remotely, and operate under these new constraints — all the while juggling family and childcare at home. I cannot express my gratitude enough.

Students, I feel your pain. In just a matter of days, your lives have been upended. You chose Dartmouth for our close-knit community and our unique, on-campus experience, and it’s heartbreaking that so many of you will be robbed of that this term — particularly our seniors. Know that we understand, know that we care, and that we are working hard to explore ways to make the best of this situation. I know that you all are resilient and creative, and I challenge you to seize this opportunity to learn new things in new ways.

We all need each other right now. Students, offer support to other remote learners across the globe, and reach out to alumni through social media. My fellow colleagues, as we care for ourselves, let us also continue to care for each other. Run an errand for a fellow staff member. Direct colleagues to timely and important information. Teach someone how to use Zoom, or Google Docs, or Slack. Practice social distancing, but stay connected.

While everything around us is changing, let’s remember to ensure continuity for ourselves and each other to the extent possible. Please stay informed by reading emails and checking the Dartmouth COVID-19 website for up-to-date information.

While we remain physically apart, we are still in this together. Lean on your available resources as questions arise — we want to hear from you.

I am so proud to be a member of the Dartmouth community. I can’t imagine working with a more resourceful, creative, and human-centered group of people to tackle these challenges.

Be well,