In the midst of a crisis, let’s pause to remember why our work matters.
Dear fellow Badgers,
As we begin a new fall semester, we are facing challenges few of us could have imagined one year ago. I know the pandemic has impacted the lives of everyone in our Badger community, bringing disruption to all and tragedy to some.
Here at the UW, COVID-19 has forced us to rethink and rework all of our operations, from classrooms to dorms to research labs.
When we’re immersed in the day-to-day demands of a crisis, we all need to pause occasionally and remember why our work is important. For those of us at UW–Madison, the students often provide the reminder we need.
So I was delighted when Alan Chen ’15, MD’20 got in touch in mid-July.
Alan first wrote to me as an undergraduate, to say he was having a wonderful time here and learning a lot.
Alan and his family are Chinese immigrants. He arrived here in the second grade, speaking no English, and grew up in Minocqua, where his parents saved up to open a small restaurant. They took one vacation day every year. One of their dreams was to see Alan become the first in the family to earn a college degree.
Alan earned his undergraduate degree here at the UW, and this May, he received his medical degree from our School of Medicine and Public Health. He is now caring for patients in a busy emergency room in Chicago and hopes to return to Wisconsin to practice emergency medicine with a focus on public health.
COVID-19 has temporarily changed much of what we love about UW–Madison. I don’t know when we’ll be able to cheer for the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium or greet one another with a hug.
But there are a few things I am sure about.
First, UW–Madison will continue to provide an outstanding education that is one of the best values in the country. Remote learning can’t replace the classroom (and out-of-classroom) experiences that the UW is known for, but our Smart Restart campus-reopening program worked with faculty and staff over the summer to design thousands of classes that will be engaging and rigorous.
Second, we will continue to be a center for leading-edge research. As I write this, we have 293 COVID-19-related research projects underway or proposed — including several clinical trials and a vaccine in development.
Third, our commitment to the Wisconsin Idea will remain strong, as we share discoveries and innovations with the state, the nation, and the world.
Finally, we will invest in creating a campus that is welcoming, diverse, inclusive, and antiracist. The nationwide protests demanding that the U.S. make good on promises of justice and equality have created an opportunity for all of us to listen, read, reflect, and work toward change.
In this moment of uncertainty, I take comfort — as I hope you will — in the values that have guided us for 172 years, allowing us to open the doors to opportunity for deserving students like Alan Chen. Those values will help us find the best way forward and continue to change lives.
Be well and keep in touch.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank
Published in the Fall 2020 issue