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From the Dean

Facing Challenges with Creativity & Dedication

Story by
Robert Stacey, Dean

As I suspect you know already, the University of Washington was the first university in the country to respond to the coronavirus by shifting entirely to remote instruction. Since early March, when we made this announcement, most other universities and colleges around the country have followed our example. The entire country is now embarked on a massive experiment in distance learning that would have seemed unimaginable only a few months ago.

So how is it going? The easy answer, of course, is that it is too soon to tell. But that would make for a very short dean’s letter, and I am not known for my brevity. So what follows is an interim report. We will learn much more over the next few months, however the initial signs are promising.

Portrait of Dean Robert Stacey on campus

"I, for one, have never been prouder to be a Husky," says College of Arts & Sciences Dean Robert Stacey, above. Media credit: Corinne Thrash

When we first announced this shift, we were in the last few weeks of our winter quarter. Faculty and students scrambled to finish up assignments online. Some final exams were cancelled, while others were reformatted to be administered remotely.

Teaching an entire quarter remotely, as our faculty have been doing since spring quarter began on March 30, is an even more complicated undertaking. But I must say that the creativity and dedication of our faculty in shifting their classes online has been absolutely inspiring. I have never doubted our faculty’s devotion to teaching, but the past few weeks have placed that devotion beyond any doubt. Our students are also showing flexibility and good humor as everyone adjusts to a new way of teaching and learning. A few classes, mainly in the performing and creative arts, have had to be cancelled because there was simply no way to offer them remotely. But of the approximately 4,000 classes the UW offers during an average spring quarter, fewer than 200 have had to be cancelled. The rest are going forward as scheduled.

The strengths and the importance of a great research university have never been more evident.

Our faculty and staff are also going above and beyond in other ways. Staff in our Costume Shop in the School of Drama are sewing gowns for health care providers, and 3D printers in our Arts Division are running full steam ahead producing protective plastic headgear. And remember those old-fashioned transparencies teachers once used on overhead projectors? Across the College, departments are donating stored supplies of old transparencies to UW Medicine to be repurposed as face shields for our doctors, nurses, and medical staff.

While the College of Arts and Sciences is doing its part to respond to the coronavirus, UW Medicine and the School of Medicine faculty, staff, and students are the true heroes. They are caring for those infected with the virus, risking their own health and sometimes their lives to do so. UW researchers in the Health Sciences have led the way in tracking the virus in Washington state, in predicting its course, and in shaping governmental policy to deal with it. You can learn more about these efforts, and find ways to assist, at uw.edu/together.

The strengths and the importance of a great research university have never been more evident, and I, for one, have never been prouder to be a Husky.