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Checking in With Dean Forbes - April 2020

It would be difficult to overstate the impact of this pandemic on how we fulfill each part of our mission including education, research and outreach. Feelings of dislocation and disappointment are to be expected, but despite personal and professional challenges, this community has risen to the occasion in ways large and small. We have demonstrated great resilience and adapted to dramatically changed circumstances with creativity. I want to share a few of the many examples.

At this time of year, Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve is normally bustling with K-12 students and teachers. Not so this year, but the Cedar Creek team is as busy as ever creating online modules and activities for students to do at home. They are doing incredible work at warp speed to serve the needs of students learning at home. You can read more about it here.

At its most basic, our current crisis is rooted in biology. As a college dedicated to the biological sciences, we have a role to play in advancing knowledge. BMBB Associate Professor Hideki Aihara is part of a group of University researchers who recently published a paper that illuminates how the virus that causes COVID-19 binds to its human receptor, a necessary step on the way to a vaccine or treatment.   

We also have a role in shaping the conversation around this disease. Marlene Zuk and Susan Jones recently contributed an opinion piece to the Los Angeles Times exploring the differences between 1918 and now to provide much-needed perspective.  

In addition, students in the Science Communication Lab, part of our Impact Exchange, launched De-Brief: Conversations Around COVID to provide the University community with opportunities to ask questions of experts in biology, economics, public health and other areas as an antidote to information overload. The weekly conversations give students and others a chance to process the steady stream of COVID-related news.

Students are also taking the lead in finding ways to continue building community. Students responded in record numbers to the call for topics for spring CBS Circles. Circles are student-led discussion groups on a wide range of topics. This spring topics include maintaining community and mental health during this period of isolation. 

CBS staff are playing a critical role as well by continuing to ensure that essential work required to operate continues unimpeded. Some have been called on to go above and beyond including our Research Learning and Technologies group, which has played an integral role in helping faculty move their classes online quickly, and CBS Student Services to provide support for students online during this uncertain time. 

The list goes on. Although it’s far from business as usual right now, we continue to do what we can knowing that this work is important and must continue. I am extremely grateful for your efforts.


April, 2020