President's Corner is a new regular column from President Deep Saini.
Dear Dal community,
It’s been 10 months at Dal and yet in some ways it feels like I haven’t even started! Before I arrived in January, I had been so looking forward to the opportunity to get to know all of you, but the current public health restrictions have prevented me from bumping into students, faculty and staff on campus, or dropping by offices, labs and classrooms to say hello. I hope this new column — where I’ll share a bit of what’s been on my mind — will give you a chance to get to know me better. It’s also an opportunity for me to acknowledge examples of the outstanding work happening across our community.
I came here, with a list of aspirational ideas, to embark with you on the exciting journey that Dalhousie was already on. As the proverbial "best-laid plans of mice and men" go, COVID-19 had other thoughts. Memory of early frantic efforts to move our teaching and work online have since been overwritten by a cascade of unforeseen challenges that had to be faced and managed. Lessons learned at each step had to be quickly turned into tools to deal with the next round.
We are all aware of the personal toll this has taken on everyone. I must confess that not unlike the rest of you, I too have had my moments of frustration. For example, my wife and I moved back to Canada to be closer to our family, yet they are more inaccessible today than they’ve ever been. My new grandson, who I am yet to hold, knows me only as the fellow in the iPhone! But, every time I start sliding into a low, I find inspiration in the words of my daughter, who, with her husband, is living the all-too-familiar experience of a professional couple with two young children: “Dad, yes, there are long-hours, red eyes, chaotic kids and the mess on the kitchen-table, but thank goodness, we are still able to work and none of us is sick.”
And I personally have a whole lot more to be grateful for. Despite challenges and tension, I am surrounded by an institution full of amazing people who’ve given it their all to keep everything going — and then some more. Disasters averted never make the news, so even though there may have been mistakes along the way, compared to most of the world, we at Dal are in great shape — thanks to your thoughtful and continuing hard work. This will surely also get us through whatever lies ahead. The words of Mark Watney from the 2015 movie The Martian resonate:
“At some point, everything's gonna go south on you and you're going to say, this is it... Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That's all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”
So, my first shout out this week is to all of you; thank you all for your perseverance with the math!