From the Dean
June 1, 2021
David M. Van Slyke
It’s hard to know how to begin this letter, as we come to the end of an extremely challenging academic year and look forward with hope for better times.
As I write this, signs of spring echo our optimism for growth, renewal and fresh beginnings as some of our worst failures and hardships from 2020 seem to be turning a corner—the Derek Chauvin murder trial has concluded with a conviction, the majority of adults in the U.S. are inoculated against COVID-19, local school children have returned to learning in-person and unemployment dropped to 6 percent. It is beginning to feel like things are moving in a positive direction.
At the same time, we know that we still have hard work ahead to address the challenges and divisions that remain. Among them, combatting bias and increasing diversity, equity and inclusion at Maxwell and beyond; strengthening our capacity for working through differences in political opinion and ideologies; addressing deep societal gaps and disparities in healthcare, housing, hunger and poverty; and grand challenges, like climate change.
Yet, I am hopeful. I am buoyed by the spirit of generosity and tenacity that ties us together. As I read the stories of our alumni, students and faculty on the pages of this magazine, I see the familiar ways that the Maxwell community not only steps up to help in times of need, but doubles down on these efforts when the going gets tough. You fed the hungry at local food banks and international organizations like the World Food Programme (winner of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize); you ran for national political office (and won!) in deeply competitive races; you combatted inequality in your own workplace and informed the Maxwell School’s strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion.
In one of the worst years in our collective memory, the Maxwell community responded in unprecedented ways. In fact, we had one of the best years on record in terms of individual giving, attendance in alumni forums (held virtually this year), faculty participation in media interviews on public affairs issues, and overwhelming support for new initiatives like our Alumni Ambassadors program. Your commitments led to positive outcomes, including increasing applications to our undergraduate and graduate programs and Maxwell’s standing as the #1 School for Public Affairs in the country, reaffirmed in the latest U.S. News rankings.
I’m always grateful to be part of a community dedicated to each other and to the public good, but even more so this year, when things seemed to be at their lowest. I hope you will find similar comfort and inspiration as you read this issue—it is our first without longtime editor Dana Cooke, who retired last summer after 20 years of service (see story, page 3). As you join us in saying goodbye to our dear friend, with deep gratitude, I look forward to your continued engagement and feedback as we embrace new beginnings and chart the course for the future.
Here’s wishing you peace, health, prosperity and happiness in the year ahead. Thank you for all you do.
David M. Van Slyke
Dean, Maxwell School
Published in the Summer 2021 issue of the Maxwell Perspective