To our BME students:

The quote “May you live in interesting times!” (unknown origin) seems particularly thematic as we move forward in this new strange world in which we now work, study and live.

We do find ourselves in interesting times, both good and bad. Our current “interesting time” has suddenly and radically altered our lifestyles, our work routines, attention to social engagements and personal hygiene, and also how we educate and learn. But I hope that this change has not altered our collective ambitions, and specifically your dreams and your futures as young eager minds seeking a vocation, a role, a job or an education. As your BME Chair I am determined and committed to my team. You are important even essential members of this team. Without students, without teaching, mentoring and pedagogy, without knowledge transfer and training, we are not a university, we cannot be a team, and I am not a professor or faculty. Nor a chair of anything. Faculty need operational context in these times; students need the same. So, we shall work together in our important learning community = same spirit as before, with different techniques and strategies.

I urge you to remain important players on our academic team; to continue to engage and perform in our academic community. It is indeed challenging for you and for me to change mid-term, to navigate a new system, in a world filled with unknown risks and some new perils. The normal, taken-for-granted social aspects of our educational community — our daily seeing each other, greeting each other, our sense of “group” or “collective” in classroom settings, our identity together as a “course”, faculty-student interactions – these will all change. I miss them already actually. We realize how social our academic community is, and how our current “distance” or “remote” situation might leave us vulnerable to disengaging because we don’t have those normal social attractors, physical classroom confines, or peer or faculty pressures to participate as we did on campus together.

Yes – I feel it. Many of our BME faculty write to tell me they feel it too. Our educational co-existence with you is defined by it. Nonetheless, we are anxious to convey our sense of responsibility to you as faculty and mentors as we (honestly) struggle to rapidly make things right for you in teaching in this new virtual teaching role for the next month. We also want you to know that we are trying our best to produce a new sense of engagement with you, starting this week: an educational forum that is important to you, that is impacting for you, and that fulfills what we started together in January, socially, intellectually, and pedagogically. We want to stay together as a BME community; we want you to remain in our BME community as we try to reach you from remote laptops and cameras. It’s not the same – we all know it. But it is our new reality now.

So – we are all going down this road together this week for the first time. Yes – there could (will likely) be hiccups. Please be patient, be positive, be resilient and persistent to engage, participate and contribute. Faculty can’t feel as though we are talking into a laptop microphone/camera – likewise, you can’t feel as if you’re streaming some boring YouTube video with the appropriate lack of interest or attention. I urge you to engage: interface with us on-line as you would in our usual live classrooms. Provide suggestions to improve our delivery. We’re trying to produce an effective product for you on the fly with little time to prepare for this new venue.

When you experience difficulties, our advisors are prepared and standing by to help you, as well as our faculty and staff, in producing an effective pedagogical learning environment and useful learning community for you, despite the teleconference mandates. This means addressing your emotional or physical health challenges, stress, technical problems, logistical issues, personal complications….. bring it on. You are the same BME students you were last week. You are important to us, and you remain on our BME team despite our challenging mode of interactions. Our advisors, staff and faculty are committed to help identify issues and provide resources to get you through this complex time.

For those of you graduating this Spring: I don’t know what will happen with our CoE Spring Convocation ceremonies – it is typically a fantastic annual celebration of our collective and mutual academic success – releasing our well-trained, minted and highly qualified BME students to the world to pursue myriad incredible things. I always look forward to it and to personally expressing my warm congratulations and goodbyes to so many brilliant people heading into new journeys. Should annual festivities not come to pass this Spring as Convocation, I will be devastated for all of us participating. But, should this become a reality, I want you to know on behalf of our BME faculty and staff, that we think highly of you and what you as BME graduates are now enabled to do in a world that needs your talents more now than ever. Your BME education has prepared you for our current situation, and for future interesting times you will certainly encounter in your walks!

Let’s do this together!

Respectfully as your chair, and on behalf of our concerned BME faculty and staff,

Chair, Biomedical Engineering