Welcome from the Dean

Photo of Interim Executive Dean Laura Lawson.
Interim Executive Dean Laura Lawson.

September 1, 2020

Dear SEBS students,

Welcome to Fall 2020! Greetings and welcome to our incoming first-year students, new transfers, returning undergraduates, and graduate students. Speaking for all our faculty and staff, we are glad you are here and we look forward to an exciting and busy year.

The start of the new school year has always been an exciting time for me, and I hope it is for you too. As a child, I remember nervous anticipation, especially in years that involved a new school. It meant a lot to go up a grade—do you remember looking at the kids in the year below you and feeling like they were so young compared to you now? As a college student, the first week was a time of preparation, a little panic, and lots of excitement—finding the right classroom, ordering the books, figuring out a manageable schedule, etc. For those of us fortunate to teach, we still feel that excitement as we make the final edits to syllabi, say hello to returning students, and adjust to the new daily schedule. Today, as I look out over Passion Puddle, I miss seeing all the students and faculty walking around campus but I know our physically extended community is still experiencing that nervous anticipation, that drive to prepare, and the excitement of connecting with each other over our shared interests to learn and explore, regardless of our virtual context.

We have a lot to do this year. Wherever you are, you are navigating your studies and doing what you need to do to achieve the future you want to live. Meanwhile, your very idea of the future may be in flux due to public health concerns, political and economic uncertainties, and acknowledgement of social inequity in our country. Your lived experience is shaping how you see yourself in the world and how you see the future. Our collective responsibility this year is to make the work we do relevant and meaningful by arming ourselves with tools and approaches to address pressing concerns facing us, from climate change to personal wellness, from socially-just communities to ecosystem health. And we must do this through a commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and equity.

In our school's recent strategic plan, we articulated a shared vision for "a healthy sustainable future that balances the wellbeing of all living organisms with the health of the earth." We will accomplish this through our commitment to research, education, entrepreneurship, outreach, and engagement. As interim executive dean, I also want to share some priorities shaping our work this year. These include anchoring social equity and inclusion in our classrooms, research labs, and campus context; supporting practices that assure health, safety, and wellness; developing our campus as a living lab for both course-related activities as well as everyday experience; and promoting our SEBS community through virtual and, eventually, in-person experiential learning and engagement opportunities. I will share more about these priorities in the days ahead.

I would like to have the opportunity to hear from you and to have conversations with students about their experiences. Toward that end, I have set up monthly zoom calls from 3:30–4:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month. Please email Joyce Carlson in the Dean's Office if you are interested in joining the meeting. She can be reached at jmcarl@sebs.rutgers.edu. Let her know by end-of-day on the Monday prior to the call. The dates for this semester are:

  1. Tuesday, September 15
  2. Tuesday, October 20
  3. Tuesday, November 17
  4. Tuesday, December 15

Again, welcome to SEBS for those of you who are new, and welcome back to all our returning students. Best of luck in the coming year!


Laura J. Lawson
Interim Executive Dean
School of Environmental and Biological Sciences
pronouns: she, her

For appointments, please contact:
Joyce Carlson
Senior Executive Assistant