Michigan Engineering News

Bringing out the best of us

Physical distancing is all the more reason to stay emotionally close with others.

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By Sara Pozzi

Every day since beginning our social distancing protocols due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been amazed by the creativity and care that I see in our community, and I am sure you feel the same.

I see senior graduate students continuing their mentoring of junior students remotely. Staff members reaching out to students in a victory garden effort. Faculty members adjusting to teaching their class remotely on a couple days’ notice. And alumni reaching out to maintain their connection to Michigan Engineering.

For example, the other day I received an email from a former student who wanted to check in on me and hear about how I am coping with the situation that has evolved in northern Italy (where my family resides) and here in Michigan where we expect to see the effects of the pandemic increase in the upcoming days and weeks. I told her I am doing well, and, thankfully, so is my family in Italy at this point.

I draw a lot of energy, strength, and optimism from these connections. Humans are social beings – most of us benefit from social connections with other humans. When we talk about social distancing, we must be aware that what we really mean is physical distancing. Keeping six feet or more away from other humans has been shown to decrease the rate of spread of the virus. This temporary physical distancing is all the more reason to maintain and strengthen our emotional connections. Providing whatever support we are able to our family, friends, and colleagues is even more critical in this time.

I empathize with the students who have had to return to their homes on short notice. I know that some of these students are returning to less than ideal situations and having to deal with limited resources and/or unsupportive environments. I think, for example, of our LGBTQ students who may not yet be accepted as such by their families. Or of students returning to conditions of extreme poverty, or not having a place to return to at all. The difficulty of these situations cannot be overstated. 

Nationally, as a result of the pandemic, we have seen the increase of microaggressions and hate crimes directed towards members of our Asian and Asian-American communities. Although I have not heard of these behaviors within our Michigan Engineering community, we must all be alert of this possibility and help support the members of our community who could be most at risk. Clearly, these behaviors are not aligned with our values of inclusion of all members of our community. If you are the recipient of this type of behavior, we urge you to it report here

Although we are physically distant, please know that we are here to support all members of our community. Resources are now available to anyone in need. These include financial or equipment help for students who are struggling in the midst of remote learning. Office hours with our associate deans to talk through individual struggles. And counseling and psychological services offered remotely through CAPS and our CARE center.

We have some difficult weeks ahead, but we are in this “alone together.” I feel confident that each member of our Michigan Engineering community will step up to this new challenge, lead with our values, and bring out our best!