As I sat down to write this reflection, I looked at the calendar, and realized it’s been over one year since UWSP joined the ranks of academic higgledy-piggledy brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In some ways it still feels like 2020. COVID is still here, the delta variant is on the rise, and there are still concerns, especially for those not eligible for vaccination. But there is hope. I’ve got two doses of the Moderna vaccine in my arm, I’ve returned to in-person work, and I feel hope for the first time in a while. So, I’ll reflect on the year that was—spring 2020, the last time I taught inorganic chemistry during a pandemic, and the year that will be.
I taught intermediate inorganic chemistry in spring 2020, and I went in energized to apply what I had learned from the VIPEr Fellows 2019 workshop. I had more LOs incorporated into the course, including an additional literature review. I was hopeful (maybe even…excited?) to finally get some solids into the course. And then, the pandemic hit, and two weeks of spring break later, most of the country was in a brave new world of remote instruction.
For me—and I know this isn’t typical—it was easy going. I’m comfortable with computers and technology and had been dabbling with online content delivery as an ancillary component to my general chemistry courses for a few years. What I worried about most was how the students would adapt to an online environment. The transition was much harder for them than it was for me, but in the end, I was humbled and amazed by their resiliency. They approached it with the same level of interest pre-pandemic, if not more—inorganic chemistry became a welcome distraction from COVID-19! Seriously, each class session on MO theory, electronic absorption spectra, and catalysis became a welcome distraction and therapy session for all of us; we were truly in it together!
So what happened since spring 2020? The short answer is, lots. The long answer is…lots! One year later I find myself almost completely out of the classroom, and as the Assistant Dean for the newly formed School of Biology, Chemistry, and Biochemistry. While I hope I’m able to teach a little bit each year, most of my time will be focused on administrative tasks. Though I’m not teaching inorganic chemistry (that’s been taken over by an outstanding early-career colleague), I still pop into the VIPEr equity, diversity, and inclusivity (EDI) Discord channel from time to time. I’ve become much more in-tune to EDI initiatives as part of my own personal journey. I find the VIPEr EDI discussions to be fruitful and informed and have helped me think about inclusivity in new ways. Even though EDI isn’t why I applied for a VIPEr fellowship (I still love teaching inorganic chemistry!), the community has been incredibly helpful and supportive, and I’ll be forever grateful for that.
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