To the SEFS Community,

Welcome to Autumn quarter 2020 at SEFS! And what an Autumn quarter it promises to be. I want to start this somewhat long message by acknowledging that so many of you are struggling to keep up your productivity in very challenging circumstances. The watchwords I will continue to come back to as we embark on this quarter, and ask you all to heed as well, are compassion, empathy, patience, and community. Let’s recognize in our interactions, and in our expectations of ourselves, that each of us is doing the best we can with the goals and challenges we face. From what I saw in Spring quarter and over the summer, I can attest to the creativity and perseverance of this community. Remember to take a moment to breathe and enjoy the little successes, even if it isn’t quite what you had hoped. Reach out if you need help.

The UW is in Phase 2 in the Governor’s Safe Start plan, which means that we continue to expect you to be working and learning remotely unless you are engaged in critical work that cannot be done from home or in an approved in-person course. To perform work on-site (or in the field) you need to have a critical service designation and a health and safety plan in place for the work you are doing. Advisors and supervisors can send requests with Health and Safety Plans to Dan Brown (danbro@uw.edu) and Jenn Weiss (jenweiss@uw.edu). For the best up-to-date information on the situation related to the pandemic, check out the UW Coronavirus resource page, College of the Environment’s Covid resource page, and the SEFS Together page.

Recognizing the challenge of finding productive time, for all of us but especially for care-givers, we have designated Fridays as no-meeting days in the School. We will keep from scheduling any school-wide committee meetings on Friday and ask you to avoid scheduling Friday meetings as well, for the sake of preserving some flexible time, to be allocated as needed.

Following on our listening session and open DEIC meeting at the end of Spring Quarter, we have made a concerted effort to hear and respond to the needs of our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and faculty. I recognize that we don’t always deliver on our commitment to promote equity and inclusion by eliminating individual and institutional discrimination, and reduce our role in sustaining and supporting systems of oppression. Specifically, I and many others in the school have participated in training and discussions this summer and spent time reflecting on anti-racist actions we can take within SEFS. I’m committed to making improvements and recognize that progress in this work requires all of us working together. I want to thank the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEIC), the SEFS Grad Council, and numerous members of the faculty who spent extra time this summer developing specific recommendations we can act on. We are working to realize several of these recommendations and will be announcing each step as we finalize them. One will be a set of resources for reporting times when we are not living up to these goals. In the meantime, I encourage you to reach out to anyone in the leadership of the school if you see or experience something that is not up to the standards of our collective commitment.

I have some updates on key staff positions in SEFS. First, I want to congratulate Amanda Davis (Assistant to the Director) on 15 years of service in the UW, and Jill Christenson (front desk in SEFS) on her retirement. Our sincere thanks to Liz Collier who has served as interim graduate advisor over the summer and will continue for some time even as we welcome Katherine Kim as Manager of Student Academic Services and Graduate Advisor (as of Sept 30). We also welcome Erin Hatheway as grants specialist with primary responsibility for managing the McIntire-Stennis program.

We are reinitiating the SEFS seminars as virtual webinars (Wednesdays 3:30-4:30), with a focus on presentations and discussions from members of our own community and our outreach to and collaboration with partners outside of it. The hope is to use this time to stay connected with each other through this period of remote work. Please join us for some time together as you are able.

Be on the lookout for my open office hours on Zoom, in which I invite students, staff, and faculty to meet with me without appointment. If you need to meet at any other time, please reach out to Amanda Davis (adavis4@uw.edu) to set up a time.

Finally, we seek to continue our academic and institutional work amidst the most contentious national election campaign any of us has seen. Remember that the most important thing you can do during this election season is vote. I encourage each and every one of you to do so, if you are eligible, and to encourage your family and friends to do so as well.

Here’s to as successful an Autumn quarter as possible.