I hope this message finds you, your families, and your friends safe and well despite the challenges of COVID-19.
I am writing to support the message of President Burwell, which I’m sure has sparked a range of emotions and questions for you. As you now know, AU/SIS’s fall semester will be a blend of in-person/online classes and purely online classes. It will feature as much face-to-face engagement as safely possible.
After consulting with faculty over the next couple of days, our SIS assistant deans for undergraduate and graduate education will follow up with more detailed information.
This decision was undertaken with the health and well-being of our students, staff, and faculty as the priority. In addition to this crucial goal, we placed immense importance on a solution that would maximize opportunities for students to learn and progress toward their degrees. I believe that our plan will allow us to achieve both goals.
I know that we all wish we simply could return to a typical semester—to get back to normal. A campus experience has so many benefits that extend far outside the classroom, and taking advantage of those benefits has traditionally involved being in the same room with our colleagues and friends. However, in light of the public health crisis, I know you all will agree that teaching and learning in a slightly different manner than we hoped for is necessary.
Also, I know that the lessons of this past spring have reinforced our abilities to be nimble and flexible in our response to events. I was so proud of our students, faculty, and staff as everyone made a quick transition to online teaching and learning in March. The lessons learned during that time will pay dividends as we strive to deliver the excellence that you deserve going forward.
You will have many questions, I know. You’ll want to know how this decision will impact your class schedule, your living arrangements, and your life as it will be in August. Please stay alert for further messages from our assistant deans with more details about your fall classes, and I ask for your patience as we deliver those answers. As we start the fall semester, remember that your academic advisors and career advisors are here to assist you with different phases of your transition.
As you make your plans and prepare to join us this fall, please remember that what we do here—what you have chosen to do by pursuing a career in international affairs—matters now more than ever. This year has brought not only a global public health crisis and hundreds of thousands of deaths but also ongoing protests against systemic racism in policing and in society as a whole, as we’ve all responded with outrage and fresh grief to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and, most recently, Rayshard Brooks.
These are two monumental challenges that would, in normal times, require the dedicated efforts of millions to overcome. Add to these combatting climate change, securing elections, and ensuring voting rights in a presidential election year, and you have a year that many of us will look back on as transformational. The education you pursue at SIS will allow you to take on these issues and pursue lasting solutions with rigor and skill. Combine this with your passion for and commitment to creating positive change, and you will be unstoppable.
I look forward to this fall semester.
All the best,
Christine BN Chin, Dean
School of International Service