Thinking Out Loud: Creating silver linings

Good morning,

During my various meetings with faculty, staff and students this month, I have been asked repeatedly when we are likely to go back to normal times. I always answer the same way: “We will never go back, nor should we, to the way we were before the outbreak of COVID-19.” 

The pandemic is clearly a seminal event. We have not only suffered a tremendous human loss, we have also had to alter our daily routines and personal and professional priorities to function in an utterly changed world. Uncertainty about the future in all areas of our existence is part of our new reality. I sympathize with everyone who is longing for the pre-COVID 19 days, but frankly, we are well into a transformation process that is unlikely to be reversed. 

The thought of never going back to “normal” may be daunting, but my assertion that we can only go forward from here comes from a place of hope. It’s a strongly held belief that grew out of my Hurricane Katrina experience and other difficult periods in my life. Time and again, I encountered silver linings. If we accept the challenges of hardship and embrace the changes we need to make, good things happen. 

Here is the thing: Silver linings are rarely served to us on a silver platter; we have to create them. What is the crisis teaching us about ourselves and our institution? What changes turned out to be good for us and why? What opportunities for change did we come across that promise lasting positive impact? These are some of the questions we can ask ourselves to unearth optimism and lessons for the future. 

I believe that it is our obligation to create silver linings at this critical point in time. We have been through a lot, but we have also been given the opportunity to learn a lot. It is incumbent on us to make the world a better place so we can lessen the impact of future crises and continue to thrive come what may. 

In order to create a safer, more robust future, I would like to challenge all of us to actively seek silver linings. They are there, trust me. 

Keep thinking, take care, enjoy your weekend, and don’t forget to vote!

Cursive signature that reads "Scott" for Case Western Reserve Interim President Scott Cowen


Scott Cowen
Interim President
Case Western Reserve University

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