Dean Hartwell's message to alumni: Summer 2020


Dear CLAS alumni,

We are living in historic and complex times. Many Americans continue to consume news about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide protests against pervasive racial injustice from a place of privilege and at a distance. But these issues hit home, painfully and personally, for many others, including our students and alumni. I’m proud of everyone on the frontlines in both of these fights and hope that the diverse liberal arts and sciences education provided by our college has promoted empathy, engagement and healing.

I am inspired by the immense courage demonstrated by Black members of the CLAS community. When campus leaders convened last month for a candid conversation about the dire need for reform following the death of George Floyd, it was professors Melba Joyce Boyd and Ollie Johnson from the Department of African American Studies who took the lead. When peaceful protests emerged in downtown Detroit, it was two-time CLAS alumna, Nakia-Renne Wallace '20, who took on a major role in leading Detroit Will Breathe protests. And when Reddit came together last week for a discussion on the history and legacies of racist violence in the United States, they turned to Professor Kidada Williams.

CLAS knows how to come together and make a difference. When sociology student and Wayne State employee Darrin Adams passed away from symptoms of COVID-19 back in April, our faculty created the Department of Sociology's Darrin Adams Memorial Scholarship fund to honor this dedicated man who inspired classmates and faculty alike. I donated to the scholarship and hope others will too. Darrin had a memorable smile and embodied the kind of analytic and empathetic thinking abilities that the best CLAS students develop.

Wayne State the place will look different this fall, but our mission and work ethic will be the same. The university recently announced its plan for students to continue learning, and safety remains the top priority. Students will still receive a premier education from Wayne State this fall — whether that instruction occurs on campus, remotely or through a combination of the two — and we will still provide ways for them to maintain vital social connections with their fellow Warriors even when physically distant. 

Finally, while we have so much work to do here on Earth, in CLAS we believe the sky is never the limit. Literally. This summer, I’ve been enjoying virtual WSU Planetarium shows, and other virtual astronomy events including Journeys with Professor Emeritus Jerry Dunifer, and astro-imaging with alumnus Mark Christensen. I’ve also been telling everyone about the chance to support a new state-of-the-art projector for the WSU Planetarium: Two of our fabulous alumni are matching donations up to $25,000 and in total, over $11,000 has been raised for the new planetarium projector, so far. If you can, please support this wonderful community and campus resource.

Despite all the problems we must still solve and all the pain that will take so much time to heal, I see glimmers of hope in our WSU experts, our compassionate faculty who go the extra mile, and our brilliant students who I have had the joy to teach this summer in my Drugs and Society course.  They are the future, and, I can tell you, the future is bright.

“See” you this fall.


Dean Steffi Hartwell, Ph.D.

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