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MIS Newsletter Note: From Our Director

Is it really 2022? It’s been a minute since our last newsletter. I’m not sure when we last sent one, but I know we haven’t sent one since I took over as director of the program in 2020. And yes, that particular correlation is also causal. We appreciate your patience!

Mark Nance.

Of course, the last couple of years have been eventful. Like the world around us, COVID changed our way of living, learning, working and playing. There is plenty of evidence that the pandemic has been hard on students. Efforts to keep ourselves and our society safe meant severely reduced social interaction, not to mention diminished earning abilities as many “student jobs” were shut down. Students missed classes, as they or their instructors fell ill. While we all became more comfortable with Zoom, the interaction is not the same as in the classroom. We all missed the unplanned conversations and connections that happen as we move about campus. Our ability to travel abroad was severely diminished, as was the program’s ability to host international students.

There were silver linings. People in the U.S. took advantage of public spaces like we haven’t seen in a long time. NC State scattered clusters of Adirondack chairs and tables so people could find ways to safely socialize. More than a few of us had virtual trivia nights with friends or family. All of that was possible before, but the difficulty of life under a pandemic showed us the value of those options.

That’s one reason why I’m so proud of the students who graduated during the pandemic. For those who graduated in spring 2020, the pandemic disrupted their final semester, but we stumbled across the finish line. (How do we run capstone presentations and graduation on Zoom?) For Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 graduates, we got better at Zoom and found creative ways to interact. (Friday afternoon coffee hour on Zoom, anyone?) For this spring’s graduating class, most of their program was via Zoom, and in-person classes required masks. None of it was ideal, nor was it what we expected.

And yet, to paraphrase, we persisted. On the administrative side, we’ve worked to strengthen the professional development side of the program, as we’ll highlight in this newsletter. We’ve funded regular professional development workshops. We’ve built out our network of internship hosts. We’ve found funding to help students afford internships and travel abroad. (More on that funding part soon, I hope!)

More importantly, the students have persisted. This year we had one of our largest graduating classes: 23 students! That should give us all some much-needed hope. COVID continues to ravage communities around the world, as do economic crises, environmental degradation, human rights violations and war. But also raging are fights for more equitable economic practices, more sustainable development, greater protection of human rights and an end to needless war. The MIS program at NC State aims to train and inspire the next generation of leaders that will pitch in and help solve those challenges.

Whether faculty and staff, alumni, or current students, you all are a part of that effort. Our persistence in the face of an incredibly difficult two years suggests to me that, as my child chalked on the sidewalk early in the pandemic, we can do hard things. I thank you for being a part of that collective effort and look forward to working with you more in the year to come.

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