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Fall 2020 Message From the Dean

Message From the Dean

Unprecedented. Challenging. New normal.

I cannot even count the number of times I’ve used those words and phrases to describe the circumstances of 2020. Since March when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in North Carolina, our lives have been turned upside down and backwards many times. The virus continues to bring new challenges almost daily, and from what we know, that will continue for the foreseeable future.

Dean Peter Harries
Dean Peter Harries outside the James B. Hunt Jr. Library (Becky Kirkland photo)

In this issue, we share some details of how the last seven months have unfolded at NC State, especially at the Graduate School. Though our year-in-review piece is usually filled with exciting events and accomplishments, this year we tell a tale of moving to remote operations in March, planning for the return of students in fall, only to see a swift return to online undergraduate instruction and a sparsely populated campus when clusters of COVID infections made it unsafe for students to remain.

For graduate students, life was somewhat different. While research labs were closed in the spring and classes taught online, graduate students saw a return to semi-normalcy over the summer as labs reopened at reduced capacity. Even when in-person undergraduate classes moved to online instruction, graduate classes that were meeting in person had the option to remain in-person or switch to online. You’ll read about all that in Hindsight is 2020.

There are some bright spots as well. You’ll learn about how undergraduate and Ph.D. alumnus Ralph Baric is among those leading the search for a vaccine and treatments for COVID-19 at UNC’s Gillings School of Public Health. Baric shares the promises that his research hold, and how NC State helped prepare him for a career studying coronaviruses.

You’ll also read about a how a group of graduate students interested in mental health has developed a series of videos to help their fellow students cope with the additional mental health burdens that COVID has created. The students had planned NC State’s first Graduate Mental Health Symposium, which had to be canceled in March due to the pandemic.

We introduce you to alumna Bridget Lassiter, the first woman to serve as superintendent of the Lake Wheeler Field Lab, one of NC State’s largest educational farms, located just minutes from campus. And you’ll meet Drew Grantham, a former NC State gymnast, now a student in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program; Hafizul Islam, our 2019 Three Minute Thesis champion whose research focused on equitable distribution of food at food pantries; and alumnus Bruno Ferreira, who created videos to draw visitors to farms that supply some of the state’s best restaurants.

Support Graduate Education

Your gift helps support the workshops and events that add value to graduate education at NC State.

On Sept. 16, we celebrated as our annual Day of Giving, rescheduled from March, raised over $23 million for the university. Thanks to all who supported the Graduate School on this day. Your gifts will help us to provide important professional development opportunities to our students and postdocs.

Things are different here at NC State, and a lot quieter. But our mission to serve graduate students and postdoctoral scholars hasn’t changed. We still deliver the same level of customer service and support from our home offices that we did on campus. The challenges of the pandemic have encouraged us to adapt to new ways of operating, but no matter where we are, we are still stronger as a Pack!

Be well,

Peter Harries
Dean, The Graduate School

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