Wrapping Up a Unique Fall Semester, 12/10/20

Wrapping Up a Unique Fall Semester, 12/10/20

Dear Drew community,

As we close the fall 2020 semester, I want to reiterate my appreciation to the entire Drew community for making this unprecedented semester possible. It has been a difficult year for all in our community—and for everyone around the world.

Now more than ever, we can see the importance of connectedness, purpose, engagement, and resilience—and this is what a Drew education provides, even in a virtual environment. Though I have been with you only since last August, it is clear to me that a Drew education prepares students for meaningful lives in a complicated time. So, a Drew education is exactly what our world needs.

As I briefly look back at our unique fall, I am impressed with all our community has accomplished given the challenges presented by COVID-19. Below are a few highlights.

Drew in the National Spotlight

The value of a Drew education continues to garner national recognition, as evidenced by a slew of impressive rankings from renowned outlets.

We are also proud that our hometown of Madison was named one of the three safest college towns in America by the home security company SafeWise, mirroring last year’s honor of being named New Jersey Monthly’s Best Place to Live.

The Virtual Student Experience

Achievements during the fall did not occur solely at the institutional level. Here are just a few of the ways in which our students came together to thrive in our virtual world. Of course, there may be other accomplishments not yet brought to our attention.

Faculty Recognition

Members of Drew’s dedicated faculty not only adjusted their classes to remote learning—implementing technological tools and teaching strategies—but also earned recognition outside the classroom. Here is just a sampling of this news.

  • Sarah Abramowitz, professor of mathematics, published her book, Statistics Using R: An Integrative Approach.
  • Chris Andrews, assistant professor of sociology, was one of two faculty winners of the 2019 Kornitzer Prize for Nonfiction.
  • Carolina Arango-Vargas, assistant teaching professor of women and gender studies, received the Helen Safa Award for her paper, “When Sisterhood is at Stake: The case of a Colombian feminist NGO in times of global neoliberalism.”
  • Brianne Barker, associate professor of biology, received an award from Novo-Nordisk to support student research and conference travel as part of a Research Cluster to study blood-related disorders. Barker was also a frequently-quoted expert in Science News regarding COVID-19.
  • Allan Dawson, associate professor of anthropology, was elected president of the Northeastern Anthropology Association.
  • Jonathan Golden, director of Drew’s Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict and assistant professor of religious studies, received a Russell Berrie Foundation grant focusing on Black and Jewish relations in America through historical learning and community projects.
  • Jinee Lokaneeta, professor of political science and international relations, joined the Editorial Board of American Political Science Review and published the South Asian Edition of her 2020 book, The Truth Machines: Policing, Violence and Scientific Interrogations in India.
  • Kate Ott, associate professor of Christian social ethics and university scholar of everyday ethics, created and launched an anti-racism resource website, Breakdown Whiteness.
  • Rebecca Soderholm, associate professor of art, received a New York Foundation for the Arts “Keep NYS Creating Project Grant” for creative projects interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Traci C. West, the James W. Pearsall Professor of Christian ethics and African American studies, was one of two faculty winners of the 2019 Kornitzer Prize for Nonfiction.
  • Trevor Weston, professor of music, was selected to have his string quartets professionally recorded, and had a commissioned work premiered by Misuqa: A New Music Collective.

Other News

In November, we announced our plan to join more than 2,500 schools around the country by becoming an entirely smoke, tobacco, and nicotine-free campus in January 2021.

The Drew Theological School welcomed its largest incoming class in decades and was one of only 11 seminaries in the country to achieve Green Seminary Certification, representing the school’s commitment to environmental justice.

The Drew Theological School’s Religion and Global Health Forum continued its important work, launching the Never Stop Breathing campaign for health and social justice in August and hosting a virtual keynote event, “Is Being Black Bad For Your Health?” earlier this month.

The Caspersen School of Graduate Studies’ Master of Science in Finance program bolstered its offerings via an academic partnership with the Global Association of Risk Professionals.

Drew’s Special Collections & University Archives launched Drew Archives in 10, a podcast highlighting interesting items within the archives.

Important Conversations

Throughout the semester the Drew administration held virtual meetings with the Drew community to answer questions, address concerns, provide updates, and continue dialogue about Drew’s response to the social justice movement in The Forest and throughout the country. These meetings have included information about speakers, events, and programming that occurred this fall and that are planned for the spring; announcements about changes to staffing structures that will better support student needs; and progress reports on efforts to reinvigorate our existing Pan-African Studies program, including the offering of a variety of relevant courses in spring 2021. These meetings will continue to be held monthly during the spring semester, and Zoom links will be shared ahead of each meeting. We encourage you to attend to have your voice heard.

Looking Ahead

As we transition from the remote fall 2020 semester to the hybrid in-person spring 2021 semester, we are excited to be welcoming many of our community members back to campus in January. Please be on the lookout for additional communications regarding testing protocols and other important information.

As a reminder, for your safety and the safety of others, all members of the Drew community are required to complete the training listed on the Campus Training Hub prior to coming to campus for the spring semester. This includes signing the Community Pledge, completing the Moodle Course, downloading the LiveSafe app to complete daily health and safety assessments, and reviewing Drew’s Campus Restart Plan and December 3 Addendum.

Last week, undergraduate students received a message from the Residential Life & Housing office about move-in dates and procedures, pre-arrival COVID-19 testing protocols, and retrieving stored belongings. I encourage you to read this and future messages carefully as they contain information critical to a safe and healthy spring semester.

Next Wednesday, December 16, at 7 p.m. EST, members of the Drew administration will hold a virtual University Town Hall for undergraduate students and their families as we discuss the latest updates regarding the spring 2021 semester. The Zoom link can be found here.
Though this may be a very different holiday season for many of you, I wish you all joy, peace, and hope throughout this special time, in this challenging year, and in the future. There is a light at the end of this dark tunnel, and I am very much looking forward to seeing your (masked) faces in 2021.

Thomas J. Schwarz
Interim President