by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director
In early June, the University of Iowa campus opened, and we returned to our offices at the Belin-Blank Center. The first day back was a little like the first day of school! Things had changed, yet there was a sense of continuity and familiarity.
Sitting in my office on the 6th floor of the Blank Honors Center, I can see a sweeping view of the campus out my window. I reflect on those contrasting ideas of change and continuity as I look out at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. There, clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccine occurred. I’m grateful to the frontline professionals and researchers who made it safe to return to campus after 16 months of remote work. They changed our lives and allowed us to continue to serve and pursue our mission in person.
Shifting my view to the ground below, I see the top of a beloved 150-year-old copper beech tree. This tree suffered tremendous damage during the derecho of August 2020, yet the campus arborists did not give up on it. Although 25% of the tree was gone in an instant, it is full of leaves today. Its branches now represent survival through a challenging year, a metaphor for change and continuity.
The tree reminds us of our connection to the land, made up of the homelands of multiple tribal nations, upon which early Iowans built this campus. We acknowledge this complicated history by sharing the UI Acknowledgement of Land and Sovereignty. “To recognize the land is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory [we] reside on, and a way of honoring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial.”
I reflect on the past 16 months, during which we continued our mission by adapting student and educator programming in response to the pandemic. The most recent of these efforts was the inaugural Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality in May. Over the past few months, we also welcomed new staff who will help us continue our dance of continuity and change.
School is out, and summer is beginning. At the Belin-Blank Center, that means our summer programs have started. We have ongoing online programs for educators and students and the first of our in-person student programs begins again in late July. Our staff, like many people, are easing our way into a changed world. We continue to think about what that means for us. What will remain consistent, as always, is our commitment to nurturing potential and inspiring excellence.