Dean's message

September 30, 2020

Wendi Heinzelman
Wendi Heinzelman, dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

There were moments back in March and April when the challenges of learning, teaching, and working remotely seemed almost insurmountable in the midst of the pandemic that closed our campus.

Could our University ‘rewire’ itself, almost from one week to the next, to handle the increased demands for Virtual Private Network (VPN) access to the University’s digital resources?

Would students, staff, and faculty members unfamiliar with Zoom be able to access and master the platform in time to resume classes and job functions with a minimum of disruption?

Would students, denied the lab access they needed to produce senior design prototypes or finish research experiments, be able to salvage something meaningful from their projects?

And even if they did, would there be ways to showcase their achievements?

The answer to all those questions, it turns out, was ‘yes’ – thanks to extraordinary efforts by our staff and faculty, by our University partners in IT, the Digital Scholarship Lab, the AS&E Web Help Team, and other offices– and by our students.

As a result, we’ve learned some important lessons about learning, teaching, and working remotely.

For example, many of our staff can do their work from home, and because of the flexibility this provides, do so more productively.

Zoom has been a boon. It has connected students with faculty, staff with supervisors, and University leadership with all of us at a time when face-to-face meetings were not possible. And it will continue to serve us long after the pandemic recedes—for example, giving us access to guest lecturers from distant parts of the globe who might not come here otherwise.

However, as dean, I can verify that continuous Zoom meetings 10 hours a day are physically and mentally draining – and in the long run counterproductive!

The learning curve will continue. But one thing seems clear: Remote learning, teaching, and working, used judiciously, means our campus is no longer limited by geographic boundaries.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to throw new obstacles in our path, in ways that challenge our University.  However, we’ve gained new tools to overcome those obstacles. And we’ve shown we can use those new tools effectively.

I am grateful, more than any words can express, to our entire Hajim School community -- for the sacrifices you’ve made, the creativity you’ve displayed, and the sheer resilience you’ve demonstrated in bringing us this far. You’ve done a remarkable job, and I am honored to be at your side.


Your dean,
Wendi Heinzelman