A message from Dean Donald Leo

A message from Dean Donald Leo

Dear UGA Engineering Community,

The last few weeks have been extremely challenging for all of us.  It is hard to believe only three weeks ago we started Spring Break, wished our students well, and let them know we would see them back on campus soon.  As we all know, since that time events have overtaken our university, our communities, and our nation in ways hardly anyone could have expected. Foremost on our mind in these uncertain times is the hope that you, your family, and those around you are safe and healthy. 

I want to assure all the friends and supporters of engineering at UGA that you can be extraordinarily proud of how our faculty, staff, and students have responded to recent events.  In the last two weeks our faculty have used the creativity, ingenuity, and innovation that we expect of engineers to transform over 150 sections of courses to online learning.  No small feat in any discipline, the task was made even more challenging considering an engineering curriculum contains a significant amount of experiential learning – laboratories, design courses, team-based learning, and written and oral communication.  Our faculty have put considerable thought into how we teach these topics online and still retain the excellence you expect from our college and university. I am confident we are ready.

The nearly 50 staff members in our college also deserve significant praise for all of their efforts in the past two weeks.  Within days of the decision to suspend classes, our staff had moved to telework to ensure the safety of our campus.  Many of them, as with our faculty and many of you, are simultaneously dealing with all of the other unexpected changes that have occurred in our communities: lack of day care, sudden school closings, the need to social distance.  Even in the face of these challenges, the quality of the staff support in our college has remained excellent.   In addition to keeping our college operating on a day-to-day basis, I am proud that our staff are now transforming many of our student success programs – employer interactions, mentoring programs, and events such as the senior design showcase – to a virtual format.  We are striving to ensure we can continue providing professional development opportunities for students even as we look to the remainder of the semester in an online format.  

Our students deserve our thanks and appreciation as well.  The transition to online learning was necessary but not voluntary, and I am sure many students are apprehensive about the remainder of the Spring Semester.  The motivation and mental wellbeing of our students is first and foremost in my mind, and we are exploring ways to ensure we retain the special sense of community that bonds our college even though we will not be together on campus.  I am confident that by continuing to engage our students and being supportive of them we can navigate the next several weeks together and bring the semester to a successful close.  

There will be challenges ahead.  As an engineer, I am naturally a realist and a pragmatist.  I recognize that perfectly transitioning an educational program into a completely new format in two weeks is a daunting challenge. I am sure there will be bumps in the road.  But our faculty, staff, and students have worked hard to prepare and, being good engineers, we have put systems in place to deal with problems as they arise, and you have my word that we will work closely to ensure that we deal with any challenges that arise quickly.  

The word ‘unprecedented’ is often used to describe recent events, and in my lifetime that is certainly the case.  We are fortunate that, to date, we are not aware of anyone in our engineering community falling ill.  We are hopeful our good luck will continue.  Please stay safe and healthy as we work together over the next several weeks to finish the semester strong. 

 

 

Donald Leo
Dean and University Foundation Professor in Engineering

 

Posted March 30, 2020