A Message From Dean Dillard: November 2020

We are entering the holiday season—a time that has always been about coming together to share a meal and spend time with family, and this is probably the most unusual Thanksgiving any of us will ever experience. We’re being advised not to do what is our natural tendency—to gather with the people we care about the most. This is a hard request after nine months of sheltering in place. This has been a difficult year for all of us, and as we move deeper into the winter months, I wanted to take a moment to once again reflect on our gratitude for those moments, gifts and the people who bring us joy.

Every year, I am grateful for our dedicated staff, but this year especially I want to acknowledge the work everyone has done to keep our offices running remotely and for adapting quickly to change. This pandemic has brought forth many unforeseen challenges and additional work to manage labs, barns and building spaces safely and productively. Our advisors continue to engage students in creative and innovative ways through webinars and online events. Our development and engagement teams have partnered with departments to find unique ways to maintain relationships and connect with alumni and donors, and our departments remain diligent in their work to keep facilities running, students supported and research moving forward.

I am grateful for our faculty who have adopted new ways of teaching via video and Zoom. Teaching remotely requires thinking beyond the scope of traditional face-to-face engagement, and while technology has created new opportunities for connecting, we recognize the challenges of trying to develop meaningful relationships with students and colleagues through a Zoom screen. And I am grateful for our students, who continue to navigate full schedules and a learning and social environment unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before.

We are heading toward the end of a very long year full of many cancellations, but in the midst of 2020, there have been some bright spots. We asked some of our staff for examples of what they are grateful for and to let us know what brings them joy right now:


I am grateful for Brain Breaks. The elementary school puts up cute videos in Canvas with silly songs and dances to get your body moving between remote school assignments. Those bring joy to my days, and make me thankful for family.


I am grateful for family dinners. Every night, we sit around the table and talk about what happened in online school or discuss the latest news. Even though we are all ready to resume life outside of our home, I am really grateful for the opportunity to slow down and spend this time with my family.


I'm several quarts low on joy these days, but I am grateful my far-flung family is healthy, well and safe. I've always believed that love means showing up. I'm learning that love can also mean staying away, even when it hurts.


I am grateful for the teachers teaching my first and third grade children during this pandemic.


I am grateful for the continued health of my family and friends and that the new year looks hopeful.


The main thing I am grateful for is that my family and I have stayed healthy so far! I’m also grateful to work with so many amazing students, faculty, and staff. I realize what a privilege it is to do work that I find fulfilling and to do this work with people who are so dedicated to creating a better world for all of us.


During these times, I am especially grateful for my family, roommates, and close circle. Also, I am very grateful for nature and for being able to get outside and go for walks or little adventures. 


I’m grateful for my colleagues in the Dean’s Office. We often have difficult decisions to make, and hearing their perspective and the balance they provide makes a huge difference to how comfortable I feel in my work. 


I’m grateful for the sanity and grounding that time in nature provides. It might be hearing the geese flying over, or simple big-sky horizons, and occasionally it is punctuated by amazing critters that are hidden to all but the most patient and alert. 


I’m grateful for the enquiring minds, joy and sense of fun of my eight- and 10-year-old boys and their ability to remain bright, optimistic and curious without the worries of adults.


I am grateful for my family, especially my seven grandkids!  We’ve spent more time together than usual since COVID. Seeing all their smiling faces is the best!


I am thankful for having great colleagues that I interact with on a daily basis and living in a safe country to express my mind freely. I am grateful for having my family with me and their health.


People are getting outside more and enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of nature as the seasons change. Yesterday, I heard the familiar trill of sandhill cranes so high in the sky that I couldn’t see them. I could hear them, though, just as I have in Sacramento for as long as I can remember. The great migration goes on year after year, a testament to the rhythms of nature and an affirmation that life goes on in reassuring ways.


This pandemic will pass and we will move on to a new day, forever changed and humbled. I am grateful for the role that institutions like the University of California play in our lives. This is where sanity can be found in reason and optimism and commitment to the future. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend most of my career here sharing information and insights about the great work by dedicated and enthusiastic people—faculty, staff and students alike. 


In a regular year, I would see my family a few weeks in the summer and a week over the holiday break, but this year, I've gotten to spend spring and fall quarter with them. This year has been full of twists and turns, challenges and disappointments but it’s important to still look for silver linings. So, this year, I am grateful for extra time with my family. 


My hope is that everyone finds a way to let go of this difficult year, if only for a day, and see the light of a better tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving to all!