Year-End Reflections: On Resilience and Hope

Lantern on table at night

Dear Wolfpack Community,

Is it really May? I find it hard to keep track of the days, let alone the  months, during this peculiar time, as I am sure most of us do. 

I write at the close of this academic year to send both congratulations and words of continued encouragement to all of you. The resilience and can-do spirit shown by our faculty, staff, and not least of all, our students has been a source of inspiration for me over the whole year, and especially since March. You have shown that in difficult times — perhaps the most difficult we’ve ever had to face — you will not give up on your goals. You are an essential part of a resilient Pack.

To those in our Muslim community, I wish you Ramadan Mubarak. It is my hope that you are with your families at this time, but even if you are not, I hope that you still feel a sense of togetherness and community. I invite all of our readers to read our article in this issue about Ramadan to learn more about this beautiful holiday. 

To our graduating seniors and graduate students, please know that nothing about this takes away from your accomplishment. It is not a typical graduation, yet I know it holds a meaning that is as of yet untold to you. It may even be a catalyst to something even more than your imagination would have allowed you to imagine in the time “before.” I graduated from law school in 2009, when the Great Recession hit. I had just spent four years working full time and going to law school at night, in my desire to fulfill a dream of becoming a civil rights attorney. The economy was in shambles, and there were few jobs for new attorneys. It is in looking back that I see this moment of great disappointment was the crossroads that led me to fulfillment of my life’s passion in a new and different way, a path I would have never thought was available to me — to be the vice provost for institutional equity and diversity at this great university, and to get a chance to serve each of you as we strive toward a more just, equitable and inclusive world.  

I’ve been attending so much recently to shaping the new “normal,” all the while knowing that we had been “normalizing” systems and ways of being that didn’t serve all of us. And that leads me to think that this time will, hopefully, be called not the Great Depression or the Great Recession, but rather, the Great Realization — when we realized that we are interdependent, and that we are here to serve one another, and that we are all equally valuable. Let’s let the year 2020 be meaningful, even in its difficulty, in that hindsight is also 20/20. Can we pause now, look back at what came before this time, and not lament over what we have missed, but rather, have it be the Great Look Back that will propel us all to a better future?  I know the class of 2020 will be instrumental in shaping this, and I look forward to being right there together with you.

Give to the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity

Donations to funds supporting the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity benefit all of our centers and units, enabling them to provide critical support.

If you consider yourself to be one of the more fortunate members of our community, please consider making a gift today for Giving Tuesday to one of our funds. Your gift of any size could make the difference for someone who is struggling to stay afloat during this extended period of uncertainty and loss.

And if you are in need of assistance, please reach out. You are not alone. We are here for you, even now — especially now. We pride ourselves in being a supportive community that helps one another. Here in the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity, our work doesn’t stop because we aren’t on campus. Unfortunately, we have seen that inequities don’t disappear when we do; in fact, they are often exacerbated by challenging circumstances. Please consult our Coronavirus Response: Equity Resources page as a companion to the university’s Coronavirus Updates page for issues that may affect you.

As I close out this entry, in our last Diversity Digest of the academic year, I want to highlight that there are many, many great programs, efforts and people working every day at NC State to make us a more inclusive and welcoming university.  We were pleasantly surprised when our annual Recognizing Excellence in Diversity (RED) event, where we highlight the work of many folks who are striving toward that vision, had three times the usual audience for this celebration due to its availability on YouTube Premiere. What did this teach us? That there are benefits to having to rethink how we do things, even if the circumstances are not what we had expected or hoped for. You could say we learned from hindsight. We invite you to view the video of this event to celebrate with us this year’s recipients of the Chancellor’s Creating Community Awards.

I wish you continued resiliency, health and well-being and hope that we will soon look back on this period as one of growth, of caring for one another, of digging deep and finding our strength and of reaching out for help and finding that caring hand.  Let it be a story that we tell to inspire ourselves to move forward together and come back stronger than ever.

Sheri L. Schwab, J.D., M.Ed., ‘97
Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity
Title IX and ADA Coordinator
NC State University