Dean's note
Since I arrived at Rutgers in 2015, I have been impressed by how much joy and passion SC&I faculty put into their teaching and research. The virtualization of our practices this semester has challenged us to work out how to sustain this passion when we are atomized across different locations, each with our local challenges, connected through a web of overlapping communication platforms, working through sometimes unreliable WiFi, taking care of children, pets, or feeling simply a sense of isolation. The experience has been scary, uncertain, and confusing. It has been an extraordinary achievement to get through this semester delivering extremely high-quality teaching to a cohort of students whom themselves face multiple challenges. I would like to express my deep gratitude to the faculty, staff, PTLs, and others with whom we are sharing this adventure. I feel humbled by the commitment shown, the energy, and the care for the academic enterprise. 
SC&I is not going through this in isolation, of course. The crisis highlights our interdependence with local communities and people in occupations with far more risk, most dramatically in the local hospitals and clinics but also in a multitude of service settings.
For example, I personally treasure the Hidden Grounds baristas who have kept the place running for pick up and carry out throughout the pandemic. 

Vaccines are arriving. That several highly effective vaccines are in major production (with the important involvement of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences and Johnson & Johnson) is wonderful news. Our challenge will be to start back after the break with this bright future starting to glow, but initially, we will be overshadowed by frightening rates of COVID and the prospect of another semester run virtually. It will stretch our community and our resilience. We will need to look after one another.
Nevertheless, 2021 will eventually bring relief. As most of us get vaccinated, we can expect a fall that brings students back to campus. It may not be quite like before. Faculty and staff will be in their offices, maybe not with the same density. There will be life and community, and some face-to-face mingling. We will be celebrating something that we took for granted and we can now see is so precious. 

A Prepared Mind is Indeed a Collective, Cooperative Undertaking
Fortune favors the prepared mind. So goes the adage attributed to the famous biologist Louis Pasteur who made fundamental discoveries for the principles of vaccination. A researcher never knows when inspiration will strike but all recognize the importance of their context of discovery. An important part of life as a researcher involves sustaining a prepared mind. All researchers set their context accordingly –the routines, the data sets, the books, the observations, the equipment, and the conversations. However, this is not just an individual task. Setting a context of discovery is an important collective, cooperative effort of a community of researchers. This is one of the great aspects of research at SC&I. Recently there have been some important developments at SC&I for this otherwise hidden aspect of research life. 

We have a new working group that focuses on Power and Inequality in Media and Technology. They have collaborated with the Rutgers Institute for Quantitative Biomedicine to advance research on misinformation and the pandemic. Led by Assistant Professor of Library Information Science Britt Paris and Assistant Professor of Journalism and Media Studies Khadijah White from SC&I and Associate Research Professor Shuchi Dutta from IQB, the initiative has delivered a series of compelling research workshops and brainstorming sessions. Another new working group focuses on exploring digital life and unpacking the meaning of the digital era. Led by Assistant Professor of Communication Jeff Lane and Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies Melissa Aronczyk, the Digital Ethnography Working Group has developed an engaging series of writing workshops that bring together faculty and graduate students from Rutgers and around the world. The result is a pioneering effort that is redefining ethnographic field research methods. One of our established research entities, the Health and Wellness Cluster, is currently chaired by Professor of Communication Itzhak Yanovitzky. The cluster is developing new activities to advance research at the intersection of the important achievements of its senior members and the emerging work of our exciting new cohort of talented researchers in this area. This excitement is further embellished by our significant collaborations with faculty from Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences and the launching of our new Master of Health Communication and Information.

With faculty and our IT staff, SC&I is embarking on a strategic initiative to rethink IT for research. This has already led to the initial startup of a research workbench, which integrates new services for conducting and managing research projects. The aim is to reduce the overhead of starting up new, innovative projects while scaffolding ways for our researchers to collaboratively invent and share best practices for research conduct.
A prepared mind is indeed a collective, cooperative undertaking. This is an exciting and serious part of what we do at SC&I. 

Help Students Succeed with an End-of-the-Year Gift
We know that communication, information, and media play a vital role in helping each of us address crises, whether they are personal, institutional, or social. Our commitment to serving our mission and helping our students succeed has never been stronger. So how can you help? Consider making an end-of-the-year gift. If you are currently planning your estate, consider making a bequest gift. If SC&I is in your will, let us know about it. There are countless ways to support the school and our students. Our Assistant Dean for Development, Rob Eccles, would love to discuss your involvement.
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