Dean’s Message – November 2022
On gratitude, climate change, human rights, and more in this month's message from the dean.
In the spirit of November, I have been reflecting on the things for which I am grateful. This can be difficult during times when world events make you question the progress of humanity on this planet. We continue to see mounting evidence of climate change, which has been referred to as the “greatest public health challenge of the 21st century” by the Association for Schools and Programs in Public Health (ASPPH). As stated in their report on Responding to The Climate Change and Health Crisis, all aspects of our ecosystem (human, animal, environment) are being affected by this problem, which will require a comprehensive, interdisciplinary and innovative approach to address. This will require scientists, industry, communities, academics and policy makers to work together in a systematic fashion – which can only be done if there is trust, engagement, willingness to change, and an earnest desire to be experimental.
While we do not have all the answers, I am grateful that here at UMass efforts are underway to reduce the campus’ carbon footprint. I urge you to think of what you can do to mitigate this issue either through your teaching, research, or personal habits. I am happy to report that as we plan for our renovations in Totman, this is front and center on the minds of all who are working on this project. All construction will be carbon neutral.
What is happening in Iran is simply intolerable. The actions of their government to squelch women’s rights and youth movements are antiquated, violent, and reflective of fear and insecurity. The Iranian people are brave in their protest because they are all very aware of the risk of staying complacent. As stated in the message of our Chancellor and by several leaders on campus, we stand in solidarity with those fighting for basic human rights. One just has to read the contents of this month’s newsletter for the wonderful contributions of women in the scientific disciplines of public health and health sciences. Clearly excellence, creativity, and innovation are not dependent on gender. And for that, too, I am grateful.
How many of you have been watching the World Cup? (It is too bad that most on the games occur during the day when we should be working….) Over the Thanksgiving break, it was fun to watch the games in real time and to see how people from across the planet can come together in support of these amazing athletes and the pride they take in playing for their country. At times, I am exhausted from watching the players run. It makes me think of the amazing research being conducted in our Department of Kinesiology by the likes of Mark Miller and Jane Kent, who are studying muscle function as we age; and of Richard van Emmerik, and his study of gait and locomotion; and of Katherine Boyer and Wouter Hoogkamer and their work on running mechanics and shoe design. I’d be grateful if he could help design a pair of running shoes that would make me go faster….
As we head into the month of December, we’ll experience a variety of holiday traditions filled with music from our various cultural backgrounds. I love music, which always serves such fond memories and lifts our spirits. We have learned from the innovative work of speech language pathologists Kelly Richardson and Lisa Sommers in our Department of Communications Disorders that singing has therapeutic benefits on individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Meanwhile, audiology faculty like Sara Mamo, Richard Freyman, and Karen Helfer have showed that hearing loss is tied into mental and physical decline as we age, which highlights all the more the importance of screening for hearing at all ages and working to resolve these issues. I hope you celebrate the joy of this season through the music you love.
Last but not least, please join me in sharing the friendship, respect and compassion of the holiday season upon us. We have our 2nd annual Holiday Breakfast on December 19th for faculty, staff and student workers. We will also be collecting toys during the month for those less advantaged through the Toys for Tots campaign. Boxes can be found in the Arnold House foyer. If you have other ideas for the rest of the year for community service we can do together please send me an email at deansiegariz [at] umass [dot] edu.