At the Dec. 4 meeting of the Board of Governors, four members of the Wayne State community were recognized who, despite the challenges of the pandemic, “have found innovative ways to adapt and continue to serve our mission, who have maintained an unshakable optimism despite the negative and frightening news, and — most of all — who have helped others through this difficult time.”
Their stories were called Profiles in Warrior Strong, and helped acknowledge positive happenings during a time filled with so many negatives. Interim Provost Laurie Lauzon Clabo introduced the recipients and asked them to share their experiences.
Assistant Professor of Psychology Lars Johnson was recognized, in part, for his research productivity during the pandemic. Johnson is one of the co-principal investigators for a large grant received over the summer from the National Science Foundation that will help create systemic change to increase equity among women faculty — particularly underrepresented minorities — in STEM disciplines. Johnson also received an NSF RAPID grant to study how job-related stressors impact police officers and, in turn, the communities they serve.
“I’m just happy to be in a supportive place like Wayne State during a time like this,” said Johnson. “The communication is second to none. I talk with other colleagues and they’re always impressed by what’s going on here. I think the response to the pandemic by the leadership here has made it possible to figure out research and teaching during all of this.”
Despite the fact that most classes are online and most faculty and staff are working from home, it was noted that Kamali Clora, a fourth-year public health major with a music minor in the Irvin D. Reid Honors College, still seemed to be everywhere.
In addition to serving on Student Senate, where he is the director of student services, Clora participated in a town hall panel offering strategies to help students be successful in the classroom and manage stress, created an instructional video on how to properly wash hands, served as chairperson of the new polling location in the Damon J. Keith Center, and led the implementation of several social justice initiatives.
“With everything happening this year, it makes you want to stand up and lend a hand,” said Clora. “That’s what it’s all about: genuinely wanting to help and elevating the voices of the voiceless, and that’s really how we’ll all survive this.”
When the pandemic first hit and most employees were sent home to work, custodian Michael Seldon volunteered to work so that police officers, researchers and others still reporting to campus wouldn’t have to empty their own trash and clean their areas.
“If you’ll remember, at that time there was a lot more uncertainty and fear about the virus, so in my mind, his actions were nothing short of heroic,” said Clabo.
When asked why he chose to come into work at the beginning of the pandemic, Seldon said, “If I stayed home, then the buildings would become germ-filled. So, I took care of my home, and then I came in and took care of my other home.
“It’s just a wonderful feeling. I enjoy working with people and definitely trying to be a problem-solver toward anything that may affect us all.”
Jennifer Hart, an associate professor in the Department of History, was recognized for going above and beyond to adjust her classroom delivery and support students — all while remaining active in several campus initiatives.
Hart said that this has been both one of her most productive research years at Wayne State, as well as one with unprecedented pressures related to teaching and service. She said her students and colleagues have been key to her continuing to thrive.
“I think COVID-19 shows us more than ever why care and kindness are important as pedagogies, as leadership strategies, and as institutional goals,” said Hart. “No one can learn without them, so I’m incredibly inspired by the dedication and countless hours that my faculty, staff and administrative colleagues devote to ensuring our students are cared for.”
Clabo concluded the Profiles in Warrior Strong presentation by noting that there are many people doing great things across the university, and additional people will be recognized at subsequent board meetings.