This issue is chock full of hope for the future, the importance of planning for it, and finding purpose in laying the groundwork for future discoveries. There’s also a healthy dose of appreciation and wonder of the natural world, particularly the world beneath the surface of the Salish Sea.
As WWU alumna and a postdoctoral scholar in ambulatory biopsychology at Penn State University. Dusti Jones points out in the story on wellbeing, one of the amazing things about the human species is that, over time, we have become very creative. We’ve adapted to survive. And that core capability is what people have relied on since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic—coming up with incredibly imaginative ways to find connections even when we can’t be in the same physical space together. From “cloud clubbing” in China and virtual dance challenges among doctors and nurses in Iran, to spontaneous balcony performances in Italy, social connection is key to our resiliency and helps us feel less stress when we are suffering.
Our human urge to creatively adapt is also the basis of the work of John Misasi, associate professor in WWU’s Engineering & Design department. John and his student team, as well as researchers around the world, are trying to figure out not just what to make out of plastics, but more importantly, what to re-make out of them.
Plastics have become a severe transboundary threat to natural ecosystems and human health, with studies predicting a twofold increase in the amount of plastic debris (including micro and nano-sized plastics) by 2030. However, such predictions will likely be aggravated by our current excessive use and consumption of single-use plastics, including personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, during the pandemic.
What was long viewed as a positive—that plastics are environmentally resistant—is now viewed as a growing problem. In short, we’re not going to recycle our way out of our dependence on plastics. It demands a creative solution, and the work of this Western research team gives me hope for the future.
Another thing that gives me great hope these days is how our Western community has come together to respond to the unprecedented demands placed on us by the pandemic, and especially on our essential frontline student healthcare and facilities maintenance workers. In these pages you will see portraits of some of the people of Western who have endured long hours and personal risk to ensure that we can continue to deliver a world-class education and services to our students safely.
These people embody the very best of who we are. And I know that we will get through this crisis because of them.