On Gratitude

On Gratitude

September 8, 2020


Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Students,

The poet David Whyte writes that gratitude “is not a passive response to something we have been given.” Instead, it “arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. [….] Gratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live together and mesh together and breathe together in order for us to take even one more breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating human being is a privilege, and that we are miraculously part of something, rather than nothing.”

Indiana University Bloomington is a miracle in ordinary times. These are not ordinary times, and as we begin our third week, I write, on behalf of President McRobbie, our trustees, and myself, to thank the entire IU Bloomington community for the “millions of things [that have] come together” to reanimate our community. The past two weeks—indeed, the past several months—have stretched us beyond where we ever thought we could go and required individual courage and forbearance on all of our parts. And most of all, the work of so many individuals inspires gratitude.

Every one of us has a list of people for whom we are grateful—people in every department and office, and across the entire campus. Let me encourage you to send each of those people a quick thank you and note of encouragement.

This is my own extremely incomplete list and I encourage you to write them, as well:

  • David Johnson, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, and his terrific staff, who recruited this year’s highly diverse entering class under the most difficult conditions;
  • The tireless staff at Residential Programs and Services, led by Luke Leftwich and Sara Ivey Lucas, who got our students safely into the residence halls in a set of maneuvers that resembled a game of Tetris, and are now working to ensure their safe on-campus experience;
  • The imaginative and compassionate staff of Ashton, led by Kyle Newnum and Zach Lynn, who have built a safe, courteous, and effective space for our students in quarantine and isolation;
  • The entire staffs of IU Events and the Student Health Center, led by Doug Booher and Dr. Beth Rupp, for the ongoing mitigation testing that follows on our massive arrival testing effort;
  • Everyone in the Division of Student Affairs, led by Dave O’Guinn, and especially Kathy Adams Reister and Leslie Fasone, who have worked with all of our students to help them understand the rules and possibilities for this new normal;
  • Catherine Dyar, Kirk White, and the Covid Response Unit, which has met each new event with imagination, answered endless emails and questions with compassion and courtesy, and solved the most complicated issues with grace;
  • The data and safety gurus of Public Service and Institutional Assurance, especially Graham McKeen and Kate Dorrity, who link so many pieces of our response efforts;
  • The Facilities Operations team, working to keep our buildings safe, and the Call Center team, handling unprecedented numbers of questions;
  • The entire communications team, led by Vice President Karen Ferguson Fuson, Rebecca Carl, and the indefatigable Chuck Carney, who have led the efforts to ensure our students, faculty, and staff understand what is required of each of us, and have led so many webinars;
  • The UITS teams, led by Rob Lowden, who have built system after system on demand, while maintaining all the systems on which we have never been so reliant; and
  • Our medical response team, Dr. Cole Beeler, Dr. Aaron Carroll, Dr. Lana Dbeibo, and Dr. Adrian Gardner, who are working literally around the clock to allow us to continue to do the important work of the university.

Likewise, thank you to our faculty, and our graduate teaching assistants, however they are teaching, for their extraordinary efforts to find exactly the right way to open a pathway to understanding in their fields.

  • Thank you Ed Comentale and Joe Hiland of the Arts & Humanities Council and IU Corps’ Cassie Winslow-Edmondson and all of the student volunteers for singing and dancing our campus awake and alive with its brilliant First Thursdays Trail;
  • Thank you to Lisa-Marie Napoli and PACE for launching the commemoration of a century of the franchise for women represented by the Constitution’s 19th Amendment, and to Wendy Gamber of the Department of History; Lauren MacLean of the Department of Political Science; and Stephanie Sanders of the Department of Gender Studies for co-teaching a course in this fall’s Themester on Sex, Race, and Voting Rights, to help us think critically about what more we need to do as a country;
  • Thank you to Carolyn Walters and all our librarians and staff for making our library  collections available;
  • Thank you to David Brenneman and his staff for reopening our beautiful Eskenazi Museum of Art;
  • Thank you to our Jacobs School of Music musicians who are busking at tents around the campus and our dancers who are performing there as well.

Finally, thank you to our students for all you are doing to be kind and supportive to one another in an anxious world. Thank you to Ellie Albin, a first-year student whose editorial in the IDS urged patience and kindness towards faculty members. Thank you for wearing your masks and keeping your distance, and using your creativity to find ways to be safe and social outdoors, for exploring the beauty of this campus, and finding the art and music open all around. When you see so much attention go to the small number of students who behave unsafely, thank yourself and your friends for doing all they can do to keep us together and in class.

We are part of something, rather than nothing. For that, we are grateful. I invite you to find someone to thank today for that miracle.

With unending gratitude,

Lauren Robel
Provost & Executive Vice President