September 29, 2021

A very warm welcome to fall quarter at the University of Washington and the School of Social Work!  We are excited to be together in person again, after over 18 months of studying and working remotely. COVID-19 has radically changed our lives in countless ways. We will be able to resume some of our prior routines once again, but many everyday practices are forever changed or have taken on new forms. Did we ever think remote communication through a platform such as Zoom would be so commonplace for everyone, from scientists to our grandparents to grade school children? Most of us have washed our hands more in the past months than ever before in our lives, and now don our masks as routinely as we tie our shoes. The new normal for connecting, relating, and learning has required all of us to learn new skills, enhanced awareness of social interactions, and endless patience.

We have not only lost many of our “old” ways of being, but many of us are grieving the loss of family, friends, and co-workers to this virulent pandemic. We extend our gratitude and support to all in our community who have cared for those who are ill or alone, and our deepest sympathies to those who have lost loved ones during this long pandemic.

COVID-19 has struck especially deeply into economically disadvantaged, BIPOC communities already suffering from the pandemics of chronic racism and other longstanding structural inequities.  And while much has indeed changed, some things remain resolutely the same. As a strong and active social work community, we stand steadfast with our immigrant and refugee neighbors who are fleeing poverty, political unrest and persecution, and natural disasters—just as we stand steadfastly against the roll back of protections for voter rights and reproductive justice.  We support the movements to preserve freedom and safety for those most vulnerable. And as the earth cries out to us through wildfires, glacial melting, and coastal flooding—reminding humankind of our critical responsibility to protect the precious spaces for which we are stewards—we stand in staunch solidarity with communities and movements that respond with urgency to those cries. 

In spite of the many challenges we face, I am very hopeful that the year ahead will be rewarding and fulfilling for all of you who have chosen the UW SSW as your place of learning and working. We are committed to providing the very best social work education possible, grounded in racial justice and freedom, peace, and healing as guiding principles. To our students:  please know that everyone at the School—including our dedicated office staff, world-class researchers, and award-winning teachers, and all of our deans—are here for you. 

In the still-challenging days ahead, I ask everyone to care for, support, and advocate for each other and our communities as we face the future as a strong social work community. We celebrate our community’s creativity, resiliency and courage as we work to overcome and heal from the adversity we have faced with the coronavirus.  And as President Cauce wrote recently, “Our capacity for kindness, empathy and compassion is great, and our ability to chart our path forward together is strong. I am grateful to be undertaking this crucial work with you.”