At a time when what is “normal” today would have been unimaginable just weeks ago, we at the Watson Institute are more determined than ever to deliver upon our mission, the promotion of a more just and peaceful world through research, teaching, and public engagement. And, though we are now by necessity working remotely — apart from one another, apart from our students, and apart from our broader array of global partners and audiences — we feel more than ever the importance of community, of remaining connected, and of learning from one another.
Like so many of you across the world, our staff and faculty have been working with extraordinary commitment, creativity, and goodwill to ensure the continuity of our operations. With respect to our research, much of which directly relates to the challenges surrounding COVID-19, we are sharing our findings through articles, podcasts, and videos, but also exploring ways you can interact directly with our researchers in real-time through virtual events. While we cannot meet face-to-face for the time being, we believe as fervently as ever that learning is a social experience.
On the teaching front, as we begin remote education for all courses of instruction, we remain as committed as ever to the fundamentals of liberal arts education: free and open debate, evidence-based argumentation, and critical thinking. But, we add to that additional amounts of empathy toward our students, some of whom are facing great hardship, all of whom have experienced great dislocation, and none of whom could have imagined a spring semester quite like this one. Just as we are experimenting with staying connected in our public programming, so too are we experimenting with new modes of connecting with our students remotely, whether during regular class meetings, office hours, or virtually any time that works. Nobody wished for the present situation. However, I believe it offers us a chance to draw closer together rather than farther apart.
For everybody in our community, no matter where you are in the world or how you might be connected to the Institute, I ask only one thing of you: participation. Let us know how you’re doing, educate us through your wisdom and insights, and, tell us how we can do better.
Working together, we will not just get through the challenges of the present but will accelerate our search for knowledge and insight that will permit better global outcomes for the future.
Edward S. Steinfeld