President Frances Bronet addresses the Pratt Institute community in this video message as we work together to move forward through collaboration, empathy, and understanding.
Hello dear friends,
We have been through so many unexpected and unprecedented changes in the past month with the rapid march of COVID19.
From our early concerns for our students abroad to the significant decisions that we made on Monday to cancel all events and move learning online for the rest of the Spring 2020 semester, and now the news that a member of our community reported testing positive for the virus — none of us would have imagined before the semester began how our world was about to turn.
This video was going to be my “State of the Institute” speech. I was going to report on student success, enrollment, academic affairs, our budget and our master plan, research, the Navy Yard, media placements, technology, fundraising efforts and our amazing partnerships from industry to the Department of Education — all that represents our community and all that we are — that is, in ordinary times. But these times are far from ordinary, and they call me to reflect on the extraordinary efforts that I am witnessing.
Pratt’s campus is strangely empty at the moment. Empty except for those essential employees who are making a significant sacrifice to be here to maintain the cleanliness and infrastructure of our buildings, helping students navigate their way on and off campus, and supporting the faculty as they prepare to move their curricula online. The students who have cooperated with our efforts and so quickly relocated their homes and studios have been amazing. The staff that has been managing this crisis from the beginning and all who continue to do so embody our commitment to the Pratt community, to protecting the health and safety of the students, staff and faculty, and to helping our students progress in their academic programs.
To these essential employees, I say, “thank you.”
To all of the campus community, I say, “Thank you for your cooperation and generosity of spirit
...and I miss you already.”
Over the past week in particular, I’ve been struck by how willingly the faculty and staff have stepped up to the challenge of remote learning, and what that will mean for the complex disciplines we teach and the vibrant, connected family that we are at Pratt. The students are ready. For many of you, this is a familiar landscape, and you have let us know you are great partners for this journey. We are, after all, collaborators and problem solvers.
As you know, a fair amount of our curriculum is based in discussion and critique. And we depend on each other’s energy, insight, engagement, and creativity everyday. We are now redefining what makes us Pratt while the usual ways of being Pratt face-to-face aren’t available to us.
I am watching our collaborative, creative spirit as it focuses squarely on the new and unprecedented problem at hand. Faculty from every school have mobilized with the teams from Information Technology, the Provost’s office, and the Learning/Access Center to develop creative new ways to teach and learn online in time for the week of March 30th when they will launch.
Remembering our most vulnerable, including our own community of freelancers is crucial. The Pratt Center for Career and Professional Development is looking at ways to collaborate and innovate around what will be a fluctuating and emerging new economy.
I am grateful that our faculty, staff, and students are adventurers; creative, thoughtful experimenters and critical thinkers. Focusing this collective intelligence on the challenge at hand will allow us to make our way not only through this crisis, but into the changed world we will find on the other side.
How changed will it be? Our very strategic plan designed less than a year ago was clear “‘society is increasingly asking for remarkable and ever more complex tools through which we can perceive, interpret, and act upon the world in which we live.” The problems we confront individually and collectively challenge us as never before.
Today, we have been plunged into clarity. Our 130 years of resolve, to create and implement and be relevant, is urging us forward. And this is where our collective visionary research, planning expertise and creative work advance, and that all of us become partners in imagining and realigning a judicious future.
And we must act with agency and generosity. Artists, designers, researchers, social innovators and urbanists — the paradigm has now, indeed changed. Openness and inclusivity are more important than ever. And remembering our goals for societal equity, the sustainability of the planet, our food and water supplies, how we plan our cities and share information remains paramount.
Doing this in a completely shifting terrain will call upon every ounce of our collaborative and deliberative democratic environments — in this time of urgency — we need to be relentless about how we make a difference together and for the common good.
At this moment we are being called upon to act with self-discipline and to realize our own part in this public health effort. Pratt has responded to a call from the New York State Governor’s office, and we are making some of our facilities available for possible use by hospitals, the National Guard, and the Army Corps of Engineers. Campuses have not seen this type of mobilization since the early 20th Century, when world wars and pandemics forced universities to convert some of their dorms into infirmaries and training centers.
And as we take dramatic action now, we can also anticipate our future.
We’re a community of builders and I see this time as our moment.
I believe that in this moment we are witnessing a stunning sea change in our world, a moment that will catapult us into the 21st Century, this century that we have been preparing for since it began twenty years ago.
Even as the day-to-day touches of our work and our classes are transformed in this moment, all of us — students in particular — will be participating in creating our future, framing what the world is going to look like. You are creating this new reality. You will be the constructors of this world.
And fundamentally, somehow we must figure out how we will do this while we are apart.
Your personal and intimate contacts, clubs and teams and interest groups in constant communication will stay intact, if not reshaped.
We will need to define quickly what it means to be Pratt in this new reality and how we move forward, without that face-to-face interaction we now thrive on. I know this is difficult for you. You know me well enough to know it’s difficult for me. To be without you is to be without my family.
I know this is particularly difficult for those of you who are graduating.
Class of 2020, I know Monday’s news that commencement would not happen as planned on May 16th at Radio City Music Hall was devastating to you and your families and friends. I know that you’re concerned that without it, you may never see, touch, hear one another again. And those of you who are the first in your families to accomplish a college education, I know your families feel it and you feel it most of all.
It’s important that you know - we hear you. We are committed to exploring with you ways to mark and celebrate your commencement. Imagine together, and like the new world we’re creating, you will have a part in defining what it will be. Schools all around the globe will be re-imagining their commencements for their Classes of 2020, and I am certain the Pratt community can rise to this challenge. This moment in time will be one that all of those impacted will have as a common global academic connection.
We have heard from so many of our remarkable alumni, donors, and friends and are grateful to know they appreciate our ongoing efforts. We remain deeply touched by the continued support and encouragement from all corners of the globe.
We’ve also been in contact with our academic and industry partners and our resilient surrounding community. As we work to maintain these critical connections, our long-term mutual engagement and reciprocal support will sustain us while our usual face-to-face daily interactions are interrupted now and into the future.
So many have asked how they could help, from our trustees to our parents - yes, some with great trepidations - should my child come home now, how does this work, and some with great coordinating offers, can I shepherd, what do you need?
I must take a moment to thank the senior administrative team and the Coronavirus task force who, from the beginning, have been working tirelessly to maintain and protect the safety and well-being of our community with each changing moment of this crisis. And to our faculty and students — who will drive us into a new arena, partnering into discovering new models for communication, for leading, for sharing, for innovating. Thank you.
I quote Leonard Bernstein,
“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”
You will join a world of pioneers, of adventurers, building a hybrid universe, rooted in justice and experiment, aesthetics and environment, social and cultural care. Taking action, taking care of each other, building our social contract, and figuring out how to surmount this challenge are how we as Pratt move together. And the same creative energy and spirit, as always, will see us into the next phase, as we meet one another in the online learning and work environment, and in our future. As listeners, makers, implementers, creators — if anyone can imagine community now, and how we move together, the Pratt family can.
Thank you for your patience, grace and empathy during this unprecedented and challenging time. I am so very proud to be part of this Pratt community.