Dear GSE community,
In a few short weeks, the 2020-2021 academic year will begin online. To say that these past few months have been difficult would be an understatement. Since March 11, when we closed the doors to the Lincoln Center and Westchester campuses, we have seen our beloved city ravaged by a relentless virus, and our graduates robbed of an in-person celebration. We have witnessed the birth of a new civil rights movement fueled by the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. We have struggled with decisions about returning to campus and continue to wrestle with the agonizing decision about whether and how to send our children and teachers back to school.
These are extraordinary times. Yet, as I look to this upcoming year, I remain optimistic and I couldn’t be prouder of our community. If close to twenty years of teaching in education have taught me anything, it is that we educators, counselors, and psychologists are a resilient and innovative group, and I know that our bold reaction to the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism will change our future for the better.
Indeed, the actions of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni have demonstrated that “in service of others” is more than a motto. It is our way of life and always top of mind in all that we do. For example, we have met the emotional needs of first responders and the public by providing telehealth therapy. We have provided several webinars a week for teachers, parents, and other school community members on issues of well-being and anti-racism. We have worked tirelessly to ensure that our students continue to receive a high quality and transformative Jesuit education by finding ways to incorporate best practices in inclusive, equitable online instruction into their courses. We have written articles and grant proposals on ways to support our schools and communities in the face of the pandemic and systemic racism. And, ever bothered by injustice, our students and faculty have organized town halls to share very personal stories about microaggressions that they have suffered or witnessed in the halls of GSE.
As we prepare for the fall semester online, we are working on initiatives that will help us to strengthen our anti-racist and online pedagogies, enhance student governance and heal and grow as a community. I have also personally pledged to investigate and address the structural inequities that have disadvantaged some and advantaged others in our school, and to foster an environment where we all feel like we have the agency to make a difference with and for each other.
I know that this upcoming year will bring additional, unforeseen challenges. But I also know that in many ways, GSE is stronger than it’s ever been, and I very much look forward to getting into some “good trouble” with you all this upcoming year.
Akane Zusho, Interim Dean