Fall 2020 Message From the Chair

September 4, 2020

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Dear GW Chemistry Community:

Welcome to another academic year here at the GW Chemistry Department. I am delighted to kick off the fall semester and recall our usual course offerings, research opportunities, seminar series, Retreat and other activities, but also want to take a moment to reflect on our current environment and to recognize that many of us may be experiencing virtual learning and current events very differently. Between the impact of COVID-19 on essentially every facet of our lives, and the turmoil surrounding racial injustices, many of us are challenged just to get through each day. Virtual learning, while enabling access for some, may not be the best environment for all, and indeed, some folks may not have reliable or safe places to work remotely. And racial tensions flaring up yet again remain an indicator that injustices and inequalities persist. These are challenging times to be sure, so in addition to providing a "welcome back" to the Chemistry Department, let me also take an opportunity to reflect on some of our shared values and actions in place to engage current events.

The GW Chemistry Department is committed to fostering an open culture of diversity and inclusion. As we note in our strategic plan, we recognize that science is best furthered only when we acknowledge and consider contributions from a variety of backgrounds and lived experiences. This recognition demands a commitment to supporting not only the Black community, but also to acknowledging a diversity of socio-economic backgrounds. Not all of us hail from supportive and well-resourced homes, and developing a cognizance of this can serve to enrich us all.

So, what are we doing? For starters, the department has created a Diversity and Inclusion Google Sheet of resources and shared experiences for the entire community to contribute to. This early step helped to capture the scope of issues within our community, but also provides some resources and action items for us to reflect upon and operationalize. I have reviewed the document and appreciate the courage, willingness and vulnerability people have demonstrated in their contributions. And we are grateful for the efforts of Dr. Jordan West, GW’s director of university diversity and inclusion programs, who is helping us navigate these waters and will be presenting “Making the Unconscious Conscious” as part of our fall seminar series.

Whereas we are here to learn, create new knowledge and expand the frontiers of science through our research, let us make sure we remain mindful of not only the diversity of our community, but also the diversity of ways in which people navigate current events and challenges. Perhaps this means some of us simply need to listen more, or that we take an extra moment in class or lab to actively acknowledge injustices/inequities as we see them. And maybe it means we take few minutes in each class to really get to know our peers— an extra heavy lift during virtual learning, but perhaps never more important. However we choose to engage, let’s make sure we are presenting the best versions of ourselves and that we are extending some extra kindness and grace.

All the best for a healthy, safe and productive semester,

Chris Cahill
Chemistry Department Chair

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