Dear SPH faculty, staff, and students,
Today marks my first day as interim dean of this strong and vibrant school. Under John Finnegan’s leadership, the School of Public Health (SPH) began exciting initiatives, tackled persistent challenges, and laid the groundwork for great opportunities. Our school has a deep history of advances in science and education, a commitment to authentic community engagement, a track record of translating our research into important policy and practice, and enormous potential to improve the human condition as we look to the horizon. I am honored to steward it through the next 18 months.
While I’m interim dean, we’ll continue to advance the important initiatives we’ve set in motion, including our culture-changing Strategic Plan for Antracism; innovative academic programming, such as our proposed undergraduate major in public health; and our growing academic portfolios in data science, infectious disease, and health equity and antiracism. These community-driven efforts are essential for the health of our school and for its future as a leader in the field.
It’s tempting to postpone further initiatives until a new dean arrives, but, given what is happening at SPH and in the world, we can’t wait 18 months to advance our school. Reminding ourselves of our common mission, we’ll need to collectively ascertain priorities and strategies related to: improving our ranking among the top 10 schools in the nation; investing in public health workforce research and development; leveraging and expanding upon the collaborations we have both in and outside of the University; working to actively and strategically pursue philanthropy, legislative support, and major grants; and preparing the school for a national/international dean’s search.
Working in public health these past two years has left us exhausted. Going forward as a community, we will need to contend with real feelings of burnout and disengagement and how COVID has affected school morale. But we can use this pivotal time in our school’s history to pull together ever more strongly, weave our community back together, and set a new direction for our school.
In the next year and a half, my personal mission as interim dean is to be transparent, inclusive, and engaged. I look forward to working with you to harness the great strengths of our school — its expertise, work ethic, boldness, and core belief that health is a human right — to show our value to the state, the University, potential partners, and the students, faculty, and staff eager to come to a school as innovative and dedicated as ours. We want potential dean candidates from across the country eagerly vying to lead this exceptional school.
We will have many more opportunities in the months ahead to share thoughts and ideas. Thank you for your support as I start my tenure as your interim dean. My real and virtual office doors are always open to you.
Interim Dean and Mayo Professor