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From the Dean’s Desk

photo of John Toscano
Interim dean John Toscano

For the past eight-plus months, since the coronavirus arrived in the United States, various words and phrases have become a regular part of our lexicon: flattening the curve, unprecedented times, the new normal, social distancing, and of course—the ubiquitous Zoom meeting. One word that I have not heard quite as much but that I have witnessed a great deal of at Johns Hopkins is resilience.  

I was named interim dean of the Krieger School in February, when we were just starting to hear about the coronavirus. Once the decision was made to move undergraduate courses online in the middle of the spring semester, we all had to make a major pivot. Students had to move out of their dorms, professors had to implement new teaching modalities, and staff members had to arrange to work from home—all so that we could continue our critical missions of teaching, discovery, and creating new knowledge in a safe manner. 

It wasn’t easy, and I was continuously impressed by the patience, hard work, dedication, and yes, resilience of the Hopkins community. The uncertainty of COVID-19 combined with family and professional obligations left many feeling anxious and worried about the future. Individually and collectively we had no choice but to find our way forward. Krieger School faculty and staff worked tirelessly to achieve as seamless a transition as possible, and our undergraduate and graduate students resolutely rose to the challenge.  

Although we spent the early days of summer beginning to plan for a hybrid model of learning for the fall 2020 semester (part online and part in person), the scientific evidence made it clear by early August that the safest path was to keep all undergraduate education online again. And so we set forth with the aim to employ innovative technologies to deliver an engaging and challenging Hopkins educational experience. You can read about some of our efforts in this issue.

In addition to delivering a robust online learning experience, many of our professors were compelled to use their expertise to better track, control—and ultimately push to eradicate—the coronavirus. To that end, a number of scientists and scholars shifted their research to address COVID-19 concerns. 

Research, discovery, and evidence-based science—these have always been the foundation of Johns Hopkins. We will continue to pursue them during this time of uncertainty. We will continue to persevere. And we will continue to be resilient.