Dear friends and colleagues,
Never have I been so proud to be a member of the University of Illinois community. Our faculty, staff, students, and alumni have stepped up to respond to the COVID-19 crisis with expertise, compassion, flexibility, service, positive thinking, innovation and a commitment to patience, perseverance and strength. The campus leadership and Graduate College have adopted policies to support our faculty, staff and students and have provided a solid foundation for confidence and trust in our institution.
The Psychology Department moved early and proactively to adopt policies to ensure the safety of our faculty, staff and students. The department Advisory Committee met on Tuesday March 10, 2020 to establish guidelines and recommendations for the upcoming months. Our discussion was informed by research and scientific articles that we read as well as by information from faculty connections with the global community. We read about “flattening the curve” and heard from friends and family in Italy, China and other countries.
Within hours, I sent an email to the entire department asking them to start working at home if they were prepared to do so, and if not to begin planning for it immediately. That day, we suspended human subject participation in laboratory experiments, essentially halting the progress of many research projects. Our business office, graduate and undergraduate studies offices, and our human resources staff made sure they had the computer equipment and access they needed to work from home. Thanks to these efforts, by the end of Spring Break we transitioned successfully to an online learning environment that allowed us to continue to provide a high-quality educational experience. The undergraduate studies office worked with faculty to solve technology problems and with students who had difficulties with access to ensure that no-one was left behind.
Our graduate studies office was committed to providing support to graduate students through virtual office hours for coaching and guidance, and programming for social connection and creative activities. We partnered with the Dance Department to offer a wonderful series of online sessions, along with providing art and poetry workshops. Several of our graduate students have now successfully defended their dissertations online with the full participation of their committee members. Students have offered highly professional presentations online in brown-bag seminars, classes, and interviews for postdoctoral positions or jobs.
The Psychology Department also contributed to the local community and beyond. Within days, several of our graduate students had prepared a comprehensive guide to self-care and mental health resources, which was widely shared on campus and nationally. Students in our department participated in volunteer opportunities in the community (e.g., phone calls to senior citizens) at the same time as they and the faculty made heroic efforts to transition their courses to an online format.
The Psychology Department also responded early on to concerns about racist and xenophobic behaviors with a town hall meeting, and our Diversity Committee provided a statement denouncing discrimination or expressions of hate or violence toward any group, and especially toward Asian or Asian American students, staff, and faculty as a result of COVID-19.
Our Department Alumni Advisory Board continued to support and partner with the department in myriad ways, and held its biannual meeting this Spring on the date as planned, online. The members of the board along with the alumni at large mentor students via the Ask an Alum program, share their wisdom and guidance with the department administration and provide educational and advancement opportunities. We are especially grateful at this time to everyone who has donated to the “Shape the Future Today” fund as it pertains to the timely and most pressing needs of the department, and to the generous donors who have helped the department maintain its excellence.
I am so impressed and proud of the remarkable resilience, commitment, and perseverance shown by all the members, past and present, of this department. Please join us for our online Commencement Celebration to honor the accomplishments of the class of 2020.
My warmest wishes to you and your families,