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From the College of Natural Sciences

Supporting our Students in the Days Ahead

Amid a challenging semester for everyone and leading up to the national elections, Dean Paul Goldbart, joined by Senior Associate Dean David Vanden Bout and Associate Dean Dan Knopf, sent a message to all faculty.

We are grateful for the work you are doing to move forward UT's educational mission even as you continue to balance teaching with research, service and all the change brought about by the coronavirus.

Our students, too, are juggling many demands these days. We have heard from several of them how much they appreciate those of you who are working to stay in close communication right now and check in on them and their learning. Some of you may be hearing from students struggling with mental health concerns, or simply with staying engaged in today's remote learning environment. We have heard from many students that they are struggling with their workloads. The flexibility and compassion you demonstrate towards students now will be remembered for years to come as they reflect on this part of their UT experience.

November will also bring opportunities to model college values of inclusion and belonging. The upcoming election serves as a reminder that our diverse community consists of individuals representing political views from across the spectrum. In science, computing and mathematics classes, there may or may not be dialogue about politics. Still, in these deeply divided times, guiding respectful exchange in the classroom may fall to you. We ask for your partnership in maintaining a tone that is respectful of differing points of view and supportive of our students as they navigate yet another emotional turning point this year.

Our students, who are already stretched thin, may be even more distracted after the election. You may wish to take advantage of current opportunities to be flexible with your classes if you sense that synchronous lectures and high-stakes assessments may be challenging. In other words, treat election week like other events, such as major holidays, when students' attention may be elsewhere. 

We warmly encourage you to review available resources to support you as teachers. The College offers a simple, flexible survey, which you can use to gather input directly from your students and learn more about how they are doing. (No one but you sees the results.) We hope also that you will participate in next month's Teaching Discovery Days, a week-long event filled with conversations, teaching demos and workshops especially to support you and your CNS colleagues. We look forward to seeing you there.

We wish you well and thank you again for your many efforts to ensure an excellent education for our students. 

Paul M. Goldbart, Dean
David Vanden Bout, Senior Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education
Dan Knopf, Associate Dean, Graduate Education

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Tuesday, 31 January 2023

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