Dean’s Letter to Students

Dear Students,

We have now well and truly made the transition to remote instruction and administration mode, a move that even two weeks ago would have seemed unthinkable. However, as we are all discovering together, our capacity to adapt to the ‘new normal’ is remarkable. Global leaders are quick to make dire historical comparisons but the reality is that now, more than ever, we need to think on our feet, using all of our considerable faculties – imaginations, hearts, heads – to overcome this challenge with grace, humility and optimism.

As students of architecture, landscape architecture and urban design, the challenges before you are simultaneously intellectual, emotional and political. For the most part, we are used to working alone, crafting and re-crafting an idea with single-minded purpose to allow it to shine. The studio, workshop or classroom, with varying degrees of thrilling messiness, are the places where we come up for air, to share a sketch or a work-in-progress with classmates or instructors, before returning to that mysterious space inside our minds where creativity takes hold and flourishes. Overnight, those shared spaces have vanished and we must all now find ways – often unexpected ways – to fill the void.

I have been in the role of Dean for less than three months and have yet to meet many of you. However, in the past week alone, through platforms I’ve only just learned exist, I have experienced first-hand the indomitable Spitzer Spirit. Reviews are being held from bedrooms, living rooms and offices across the city, a giant spider’s web of creative connectivity that enables the precious sharing of ideas to take place. Meetings are held, solutions are found, challenges are slowly overcome. New York is a tough city, in the best possible sense, and cannot, will not, be ground down.

In years to come, you will likely look back on this period as being one of the most challenging of your academic careers, if not your lives. You will also, I hope, look back on your own reserves of stamina, kindness and resilience with a sense of awe and pride.

We, your dedicated faculty and staff, are right here alongside you and will continue to stand by you to ensure we all adapt and thrive. In a school of this size, we are fortunate enough to know one another by face, if not by name. In the coming weeks, I look forward to connecting those faces with the work I see on social media and on the various screens – desktops, laptops, phones and tablets – that, more than ever, are the windows of our lives.

Thank you all for your spirit and determination. To the students who immediately self-quarantined without a murmur – thank you. Your level-headed and calm approach to the situation was a lesson in grace under pressure.

This is not the end. It is the beginning of a different reality, hopefully a better, more thoughtful and compassionate one. In one of the many messages I received this past week, one stands out in particular. ‘As you stock up on provisions and prepare to take your family as far away from the city as possible, when you next see someone fleeing from famine, persecution or war, remember how it felt to face the fear.’ #BeKind. A motto if there ever was one for the time to come.




Professor Lesley Lokko, Dean