Message from Robert S. Boyd - COVID Lemonade
The last month or so has been one for the record books. The COVID-19 pandemic is an event that will make enormous changes in our society and have global impact. The word “unprecedented” is being worn out with use. Its impact is being likened to recent events such as 9-11 and the 2008 financial crisis. What is clear is that we face an enormous challenge.
Events shape us. The question is how to respond and that is what I want to address here. My parents were born in the early 1920s, and during their early years they and their families weathered the Great Depression. This made them very careful with money and engrained in them a philosophy of thrift that they passed along to their children. We were taught not to be wasteful, to reuse and repurpose items, and otherwise not take things for granted. I recall stories about the value of a quarter (price of a movie ticket!), that there was something called “penny candy” that was called that for a very obvious reason, etc. My parents also weathered a second global crisis (World War II), were fortunate enough to survive it, and took advantage of the educational opportunities offered to veterans to establish the foundations for their careers (as well as the family they created in the 1950s).
The point of my story is that we are entering a similar epic crisis now and can look to the past to seek insight into how to respond. If my parents were alive today, they probably would quote the saying: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” or “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” So that’s what I thought an appropriate theme here would be: COVID lemonade. We are told that summer jobs for students largely have evaporated, that many internships are canceled, and lots of other plans have had to change suddenly.
So what can our students do in response to this crisis so that they emerge with something positive from it? One response is to strengthen their educational background and qualifications so that when the economy recovers they will be in a better position to take advantage of new opportunities. This might include adding a minor to give breadth to a current degree, adding a certificate for a similar reason, or obtaining a graduate degree. I note that the University is eliminating the student services fee for courses taken this summer so that students have an opportunity to save money by taking summer classes. Many studies have shown that investments in education like these pay off when you take the long-term perspective of decades or even a lifetime. In my own case my parents’ support of my college education has been a blessing that I’ve appreciated more and more over the years, and especially when my own three daughters went to college.
I know that looking at the long-term perspective is sometimes hard, and especially so when times are uncertain and while a crisis is unfolding. But thinking about the future and taking positive steps can be a counterweight to the daily stresses. Resilience and adaptability are useful life skills, and now is an excellent time to practice them. I hope everyone is taking steps to help others, including our loved ones, but also takes time to take care of themselves. And now is a good time to consider making some COVID lemonade to counter this epic crisis.
Auburn mathematician uses $220,000 NSF award for research in commutative algebra and algebraic geometry05/23/2023