Time to recharge and check in

Team Michigan Engineering:

Can you believe it’s mid-July already? The flowers are in full bloom here in Ann Arbor, the skies are bright and sunny (usually), and the air is warm. By all accounts, things are simply delightful. But I know that’s not the case for all of us (if not, most of us). 

The last several months have brought many challenges, including the looming threat of COVID-19, the devastating effects on our economy, the amplification of racial inequalities and tensions, and the uncertainty for our international community due to new and proposed regulations. And, this is really just a start for some of us. 

You may have heard the term “crisis fatigue” recently. It is the notion that repeated warnings about disaster and the weakening of our structures as a result can cause intense tiredness. Whether you personally are affected by the crises or not, the environment can have an impact on your mental and emotional health. 

I want to tell you all – it’s ok to feel this way. The constant stream of issues that need to be tackled and problems that need to be solved is exhausting. At times, it can feel overwhelming. As we look towards fall, this feeling may not be lessening for you – it may be amplifying as you try to tackle all the potential scenarios ahead. 

Some of you have concerns about coming back to campus for a public health-informed in-residence semester, and we wanted to understand them. So we surveyed faculty and staff to learn more. I want to share the results with you now. You can see them in the attached presentations, but at a high level they include:

  • Management of positive cases of COVID-19;
  • Promotion and enforcement of health and safety behaviors; 
  • Maintaining a healthy environment (PPE, HVAC, cleaning practices); and
  • Being in a high-risk category (self or family). 

I know these are items for which you want specific answers. This coming Friday, I hope you will join me for a virtual town hall with School of Public Health Associate Dean for Education and Millicent W. Higgins Collegiate Professor of Epidemiology, Dr. Sharon L.R. Kardia. My sincere hope is that, through hearing firsthand from one of our top public health experts, we will all gain a measure of comfort and confidence in our ability to return to on-campus operations in a safe and productive manner. 

We know it will not be “return to normal” – things will look and feel very different. But those differences will assure our safety. In Engineering, we will ensure that all faculty members, staff, students and postdocs continue to receive the level of support needed to preserve our excellence and reputation. We will do so with maximum flexibility and with as few personnel as possible reporting to campus on any given day in order to keep our on-campus density low. 

To accomplish this, we will need to draw on all of our values. This will not be effortless, and we will need to be diligent and thorough in our planning and daily operations. But I have every confidence that we are up to the challenge.

I look forward to the discussion on 24 July. In addition, I encourage you all to take time for yourselves. Spend time with the people and activities you love. Reset your mind, and refresh your bodies. Perhaps attend one of the new “The Coach Is In” virtual sessions being organized by our Director of Leadership Development, Dr. Heidi Sherick.

Meanwhile, my team and I will continue planning to make sure you are all safe and comfortable. I’ll see you at the town hall.