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When challenges arise, DU responds with ingenuity and resilience

Photo by Wayne Armstrong

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

Albert Einstein

I have a particular interest in resiliency. Challenges are inevitable—from small, everyday obstacles to larger crises that define an era and transform society (a global pandemic, for example). 

As an educational institution, we are at our best when each moment is a teaching one. Through the rigors of the classroom, our students learn how to encounter and work through difficulty. They further develop these skills on the field or rink, in the lab or studio, on the stage or, dare I say, even via the Zoom screen. 

I am privileged to see “under the hood” of DU every day. But never have I been more proud and, frankly, more in awe of this community than during the past 12 months. Through our efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, we have modeled for our students—and the world—what it means to find opportunity in difficulty. In particular, I am deeply proud of how our faculty have applied the research to which they have dedicated their lives to help combat the virus. (Not to mention pivoting to online, hybrid and hyflex learning with barely a moment’s notice.) This just further proves how essential what our faculty do is to society and how important the knowledge we create and the students we educate today will be for the future.

Earlier this year, the FDA gave emergency-use authorization to a revolutionary antibody test developed in collaboration with Resilience Code, local medicine and human performance clinic, and DU scientists. This groundbreaking test can predict if a patient will experience mild or more serious symptoms of COVID-19, helping physicians better tailor their care.  

Through the expertise and guidance of faculty scientists, we established the DU Spit Lab to conduct saliva testing with an extraordinary 99% success rate. Students are also directly involved. The spit lab requires a significant number of individuals to conduct and collect the tests, upload data and manage the collection sites. Students fill these roles and gain valuable hands-on experience and access to faculty members as mentors. 

We are continuing to use wastewater testing as a means to track the spread of the virus. Collaboration between faculty and staff with expertise in analytical chemistry, facilities professionals and work-study students all play an integral role in this effort. We have relied on the expertise of faculty who study aerosol physics when evaluating how our HVAC systems should be modified. We have tapped faculty experts on systems and pharmaceutical science as well as healthcare communication. And faculty across the liberal arts have used their knowledge to help the community navigate the complex psychological and emotional toll this crisis has taken on all of us. Talk about resiliency. Talk about seizing opportunity. 

Could we have predicted a challenge like this one? Maybe, maybe not. But we could have predicted that we would have everything we need to meet it because, at our core, we are committed to expanding knowledge and collaborating across disciplines to do so. We are committed to serving the public good and to involving our students in that work. We are committed to being an institution where faculty, students and staff can be involved in the never-ending but essentially human effort to make this world a better place. With these as our guideposts, what challenge could we not meet? 

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