A Message From the Dean
Oct 23, 2020
You’d think that by now, the start of another academic year would be routine. This is my eighteenth year at Xavier, my fifth as Dean. Many of our college’s faculty and staff have decades of experience. And our students, of course, have spent much of their lives in classrooms. None of us had ever done anything like this, though!
After last spring’s emergency pivot to remote teaching, Xavier’s faculty spent the entire summer re-designing their fall courses. I joined them. Our current pandemic seemed like the right time to design a new course on the Black Death.
We worked right up to the arrival of Xavier’s second-largest incoming class in history, together with an extraordinary group of new faculty in the college.
Our students had more than a pandemic on their minds when they returned. Another divisive presidential election year; the health of loved ones; the stain of racial injustice spotlighted by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor; uncertainty around the employment and the financial well-being of their families—all these have weighed heavily on them this fall. Add it all up, and it’s been—in our students’ words—a “roller coaster” of a semester.
So in this issue of the CAS Alumni Newsletter, we offer you a glimpse into life on campus. See what has changed, and also what remains exactly as you remember.
Hear directly from students about their experiences. Get to know David Inczauskis, SJ, a Jesuit regent teaching Spanish and Philosophy. Read how Xavier faculty commemorated the Nineteenth Amendment. And learn how—despite the pandemic—alumni are transforming science education through the largest gift in the college’s history.
The classes themselves this fall? Some are entirely online, to protect the health of faculty and their families. A few students similarly requested all-online schedules. More than 70% of courses, however, still meet in person—if not quite in the normal way.
We all wear masks, and students maintain social distance. That reduces occupancy limits. So in many classes, half the students participate by Zoom on any given day.
Professors like me, accustomed to walking around the room, now restrict ourselves to the “instructor zone” marked on the floor. Big-screen monitors and cameras allow us to engage the students logging in that day. And before each class, we sanitize all the desks!
So how are we in the College of Arts and Sciences? We are persevering. Like many of you, Xavier’s faculty and staff took pay cuts, part of the university’s collective belt-tightening this year. We’re working harder than ever, using new tools and techniques to do what we’ve always done: support our students and their learning.
Our students? We’re tremendously proud of them. Despite all they are carrying, Xavier students have proven far more responsible outside of class than anyone could reasonably expect young people to be. They have kept us all safe on campus. Inspirational.
A few weeks from now, students will leave for Thanksgiving. Final exams will be remote. None too soon. All of us are fighting exhaustion at this point, even as we remain full of hope.
The sources of that hope? Our mission as a Jesuit Catholic university rooted in the liberal arts tradition. And you, the college alumni. Thinking of you reminds me of the people that today’s students are in the process of becoming.
Together, for others. Wearing masks. Six feet apart.
David Mengel, Ph.D.
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences