Closing circles. Shutting doors. Finishing chapters. It does not matter what we call it. What matters is how each of us did our part to leave the past in the best place possible. Despite the innumerous words we can use to describe 2020, there is pride in knowing just how much our faculty, staff, and students did to ease the pain and bring hope to the vulnerable. There is pride in knowing our students maintained their educational course, found ways to demonstrate the goodwill of humankind through volunteer efforts, and lifted the spirits of each other.
Even in times of uncertainty, all of us have opportunities to dedicate our time and energy to causes that fuel our internal fire. I look back on 2020 knowing those who contribute to the success of our department tried daily to live out this passion for the safety of our families and communities. While the world has lost far too many individuals at the hands of a pandemic and ongoing injustice, the lessons learned through these tumultuous times were never lost on our students, faculty, and staff. This past semester beamed with humility, empathy, and a diligent quest to leave our mark on those in need. I believe each of us realized, “Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others” (Plato). The daily living of this quote allowed the Department of Social Work to pay respect to all those impacted by events of 2020. We paid respect in the way social workers know best by enhancing human well-being and helping others to meet their most basic human needs.
As we say goodbye to 2020, we prepare for a future that will bring more heartache. However, we are also preparing for a future that fosters hope, recovery, and anticipation for brighter days ahead. While the start of 2021 was marred by hate and violence in our nation’s Capitol, demonstrated by lawlessness and immorality, these actions can serve as an early reminder about the role social workers must play in teaching and living out civil discourse and respecting and loving our fellow human beings.
Over the next year, higher education will play an integral role in promoting democratic values, the evolution of new ideas, and actions that allow our communities to thrive. For nearly 50 years, the Department of Social Work has been pivotal in educating civically minded students—students that use their collective voice to promote change and enhance justice. This year we need to maintain our firm commitment to these ideals. We also need to let those impacted by the acts at the Capitol building know our hearts and thoughts are with them as they process this traumatic experience. We are confident that our actions in 2021 can set the precedent for how each of us stimulates prosperity for our future.
On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students in our department, we wish each of you a Happy New Year and continued health and safety.