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From the College of Natural Sciences

First Day Message from Interim Dean David Vanden Bout

​Updates from the College of Natural Sciences dean's office on a day of transition cover educational, research and staff priorities.

This month brings several notable milestones. Next week will mark one year since the pandemic shut down our campus and changed much of how we work together, teach, support students, do research and live our lives. This month is also when we say goodbye to a terrific leader, Dean Paul Goldbart. I want to provide some updates on initiatives Paul and others here in the dean's office are working on this semester.

I know many have taken to heart, as I have, something Paul likes to say from the writer Simon Senik: "Returning from work feeling inspired, safe, fulfilled and grateful is a natural human right." As interim dean, part of my job will be keeping up the tradition of safeguarding that right. Two years in, our initiatives to support new, mid-career and emerging-leader faculty are well established. We also are continuing and expanding efforts to support staff in doing their best work while forming communities and leveraging opportunities to learn from one another, such as through Lateral Communities.

Faculty hiring is moving forward across departments with exciting candidates who will enhance research here at UT and often better our ability to support the diversity of our students and state. This is but one part of the ongoing work here in CNS to advance inclusion and equity, which you'll continue to hear more about from me and from our Office of Strategy and Planning in the weeks ahead.

Our research labs are preparing for new flexibility in cohort scheduling now that the campus is at research level 3. Many of our campuses and buildings were affected by the winter storms and are now receiving repairs to ensure a safe return to all operations. I especially want to thank the college facilities team, led by Andreas Matouschek, who became associate dean for research and facilities in January, along with our campus partners in facilities who worked quite literally non-stop to get our buildings up and running.

We are doing many things to advance our approaches to undergraduate and graduate education. This spring, we welcomed Kristin Jenkins as the new director of the college's Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Science. We also are continuing the Texas Mindset Initiative, a partnership with the College of Liberal Arts, which involves faculty in efforts to help students persist in STEM and graduate on time. And we are renewing our focus on effective mentorship, including for our graduate students and postdocs.

Finally, this spring brought the launch of the Texas Science Festival, a new college-led effort to connect with the public and share our science broadly. Thank you to all who are participating in this event and our other outreach events like Explore UT. In the weeks and months ahead, many of us will be gearing up to celebrate another set of students who are graduating, tackle new initiatives and projects and, of course, get vaccinated when we can.

Let me conclude by saying how proud I am of the work all of you have contributed to over this last year. Through COVID-19, racial and social unrest and the recent winter storms, you have continued to educate, support and stand up for our students, advance critical research and serve the public through science and learning. I'm honored to step into this role for the second time with all the confidence that comes from working with such a strong community.

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Thursday, 08 December 2022

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