Masks. Distancing. Plexiglas. Zoom.

Chadwick Menning- Department Chair Sociology

To say that this past year has required adaptation would be a colossal understatement. Courses moved online, and instructors broadcast in-person classes from their classrooms to those who could not attend due to space constraints or quarantine requirements. In at least one case, the students were physically present, and the instructor Zoomed in, appearing on a giant screen in Emens Auditorium like the Great and Powerful Oz, with a graduate assistant facilitating in-class activity. These and other creative innovations were made possible by the technology of our times, and the relentless effort of dedicated faculty, staff, and administrators who worked together to get the job done, and safely.

Through the winter and spring, we built skills out of necessity, and helped each other through the isolation and the stress. We kept each other company on Zoom, and saw each other’s living rooms, pets, and children in our virtual classrooms, forcibly blurring the front stage and the back stage of our self presentation in novel ways. At times, we also shared our grief, and were saddened by the passing of Dr. Whitney Gordon and Dr. Ronald Burton.

Within this tumult, vulnerability, and loss, there were moments of fantastic success. For the second year in a row, one of our faculty earned a major university award: Dr. Richard Petts was honored last fall with the BSU Outstanding Research award. Also, on the basis of her consistent efforts and excellence, Dr. Kim Hennessee was promoted to Associate Teaching Professor. For her dedicated work on behalf of the North Central Sociological Association, Dr. Melinda Messineo was awarded the 2020 Aida Tomeh Distinguished Service Award. This spring, graduate student Ayrlia Welch took second place in the national AKD Graduate Paper Competition, and one of our instructors earned his doctorate in Adult and Community Education. Congratulations, Dr. John Anderson! In addition, Drs. Fang Gong and Jun Xu collaborated with the Office of Inclusive Excellence and others to establish the BSU AAPI Affinity Group—just in time to celebrate Asian American Heritage Month.

We made it. And, through resilience and adaptability and mutual support, we thrived.

As I write this, we mark the lifting of mask mandates on campus for those who have been vaccinated. Summer has started. Juneteenth has been added to the calendar of federal holidays, and we have just celebrated Father’s Day. There is a sense of hope, as many of those who have been relatively isolated now look forward to social interaction that has been largely unavailable to them since March of 2020. It is a time for cultivating old ties, and perhaps for forming new ones as we plunge, head-on, into the new normal. The age of ubiquitous masks, distancing, Plexiglas, and Zoom may be fading, but we shall not soon forget its lessons.

Thank you, friends of the department, for your consistent interest and support. We appreciate all that you do to help us fulfill our missions in teaching, scholarship, and service.

Yours in good health,

Chadwick L. Menning, PhD

Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology