This year is unlike any we’ve experienced, with the novel coronavirus, economic devastation, and struggles for justice. So many people have suffered or died from COVID-19; I know of a friend’s sister who got very ill, and a fellow Coug’s grandfather who succumbed to this pandemic. Like many of you, I read the charts and numbers about the hundreds of thousands of people felled by COVID-19. But I need to recognize every number as a person, to feel empathy even if it seems overwhelming.
That empathy must extend to the families hurt by the disease and the economic fallout, to the health care and essential workers, to the students displaced from their college home.
Empathy’s not enough, though. We need action. It’s the spirit of empathy and action that we’ve heard about from alumni, faculty, students, staff, and friends who step up to help. There are so many stories, and this issue of the magazine can only share a few, like Erich Broksas (’93,’94 MA Intl. Rel.), who’s working to get millions of meals to health care workers and families in need as chief strategy officer for Chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen. Students, volunteers, and staff across WSU statewide, from the Bread Lab to the Master Gardeners, are also alleviating food insecurity. Retired Vice Admiral Raquel Bono (’15 MBA) heads up the complicated logistics of health equipment management across Washington state, while numerous Cougs make sanitizer, masks, and other protective gear.
Our WSU researchers, too, have redoubled their efforts to leverage scientific and thoughtful insight on modeling the spread of COVID-19, understanding the moral quandaries of nurses and doctors facing a public health emergency, preventing the spread of misinformation, and quickly analyzing coronaviruses in hopes of preventing the next pandemic.
I believe that we can extend our empathy even further, into the natural world. As Tim Steury writes in this issue, insects around the world are declining, which can have serious consequences for our food supply and ecological balance. WSU scientists, farms, and wineries have some smart solutions, with plenty of room for citizens to assist in boosting insect habitat.
Empathy, generosity, intelligence, and a can-do spirit: these should be hallmarks of Cougars everywhere. In this time of crises, division, and hardship, we can help, whether that means wearing a mask to block the disease, seeking equity for all, or giving a helping hand to a neighbor. I know this is true, for nurses, chefs, CEOs, scientists, students, and all of us in the Cougar family.