So much has changed over the last year, the world is barely recognizable to what it was last February. In mid-March, as the novel coronavirus began to rip through Harris County, the University of Houston made an unprecedented move to transition all instruction and services online — a difficult but necessary decision. In the weeks that followed, the world around us seemingly came to a halt while we braced ourselves for what will likely be the greatest natural disaster of our lifetime.
Times such as these are what test the strength and resiliency of the Cougar spirit. Our community was forced to quickly adjust to a new normal while coping with the loss of plans made and long-celebrated traditions. But rather than being deterred by these new barriers, the Cougar Engineering community found new ways to adapt and thrive. Classes moved online, meetings went virtual, and we improvised ways to connect and celebrate our successes. In the midst of all this change, we have learned many important lessons while realizing our capacity for resilience and strength.
The lessons imparted in 2020 were not just about facing new threats, but also confronting those that have been long ingrained in our society. On May 25, an innocent Black man lost his life at the hands of police brutality. Out of that horrible atrocity came a sweeping movement calling for reform and change. Ending systemic racism will not come easily but we must persist and incite meaningful change where we can. Let us pledge to not shy away from combatting what we know is wrong while also taking the time to celebrate our trailblazers who helped shape the Cullen College into what it is today, an institution which thrives on the success of its students, regardless of race or gender.
There is still much that we do not know about the road ahead and how life will continue to change as we learn to live with the virus. Let us not focus on what we cannot control, but rather, on how we choose to carry on from this point forward. As with all things, this too shall pass, and when it does, what will be our story? What will we say about our response and successes? What new perspectives did we gain? How did we support our students? How did we help the community? What research did we contribute? But perhaps most importantly, what did we learn? It is my hope that the answers to these questions are ones we can look back on with pride and that our stories will help pave the way for a better future.
Joseph W. Tedesco, Ph.D., P.E.
Elizabeth D. Rockwell Dean and Professor