In the New Year, Let’s Embrace the Chance to be Together
In the first half of our academic year, we benefited from a simple, but profound fact: We were together in person more often. And it was a great feeling—one that we had taken for granted before COVID-19 upended our lives.
The halls of our campus grew increasingly busy. Our labs gave off the whirls, ticks, and beeps that come with new discoveries. Our classrooms were alive, whether you were learning the biology of malaria parasites or debating the nuances of health policy. We sipped coffee together in the Daily Grind and huddled near the Wall of Wonder to watch the World Cup. We reconnected with colleagues in hallway conversations and met up at events at the School and also off-site.
In November and December, we shared a joyous reunion with alumni at the APHA conference in Boston, brought together thousands of family planning advocates in Thailand, and charted an energetic path toward a healthier nation at the Bloomberg American Health Summit in Philadelphia. It had been years since these gatherings happened in person, and the difference was palpable—great minds reunited, new connections were made, and fresh ideas were born.
Now, as we begin our third term, we are continuing the shift to being in person more regularly, while embracing the flexibility in our schedules that we have come to appreciate. Change is never easy, and I know that while some are excited and ready, others have doubts and concerns. In a world that’s still evolving because of the pandemic and the social disruption we are experiencing, we must be patient with one another. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that certain aspects of our work and community cannot be replicated online.
When we enter shared spaces, we harness the power of collective energy and ignite the kind of sparks that can only come with proximity and chance encounters. That’s why, as we look at what’s ahead for the Bloomberg School, getting back together in person is top of mind. We are planning to expand our campus and think of new ways to nurture collaboration and community. In the coming months, I will share more about this exciting undertaking and continue to seek your input as we create new spaces for learning and discovery that will shape our interactions for decades to come.
COVID-19 took so much from us, including many chances to learn, work, and connect in person. This year, I encourage all of us to be open to the opportunities before us. My greatest hope is that we can go into the year ahead with the same fervor we bring to any new project. I especially hope that we can all embrace being together, in moments both big and small.
Nothing can replace that feeling of connecting in person, whether it's thousands of people at a family planning conference or a dozen students cheering their home countries in the final moments of a World Cup match. When the Bloomberg School comes together, we are reminded of who we are: passionate, brilliant, caring, hopeful—and restless to change the world.
Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75
Bloomberg Distinguished Professor