Blog

President's Corner

FUN president Kurt Illig reflects on the past year and the possibilities for the year ahead at FUN.
As I look back, my memories of the past year carry with them an overwhelming sense of loss. Many of us suffered from pay cuts, job insecurity, and hiring freezes. We endured serious illness and the loss of loved ones to COVID-19. We witnessed horrific reminders of enduring, systemic racism and oppression. As an organization, FUN saw the cancellation of our Summer Workshop, of our annual social, and of our undergraduate poster session, bringing additional loss to the burden of this global trauma. 

And yet, as difficult as the last year was, there was also great triumph. In significant ways, the FUN membership rose up to meet the moment and carry out our mission. Having just planned and then cancelled the Summer Workshop, our workshop team brought us the Summer Virtual Meeting (SVM), an incredible three-day gathering, featuring Keynote Speaker Dr. Mays Imad and providing attendees with resources to teach “across distances.” Our executive committee worked to bring us the Neuroscience Undergraduate Research Virtual Symposium (NURVS), a virtual platform for undergraduate students to present their research to a national audience. And we started a difficult, honest discussion within the executive committee, crafting a statement condemning racism and oppression, and committing to work in ways that advance the ideals of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. So many volunteers worked throughout the year to help make these projects a reality for our members and our students. The strength, flexibility, and determination of our community is inspiring, and I have tremendous gratitude for you. 

It would be justifiable for FUN to take a break, catch our breath, and congratulate ourselves for the good work we've done. But that's not going to happen; incredibly, dozens of members responded to my call for committee volunteers. We're not resting, we're ramping up! So, taking my cue from you, I am looking forward. The executive committee and I are working on several initiatives over the next year to improve and strengthen our programming. The first of these has already begun: a self-review of our procedures and programs to ensure that FUN programming, committee membership and leadership opportunities are accessible and inclusive. I hope that you will consider assisting with these efforts by sharing your experiences, criticisms, and ideas with our DEI committee co-chairs Connie Kang and Monica Linden (DEIcommittee@funfaculty.org), or with me (president@funfaculty.org). 

A second initiative is what you are reading now: a continuously-updated web newsletter. Articles for the FUN Newsletter now can be submitted year-round, and will be published as they are approved. Updates to the newsletter will be broadcast via our social media sites on twitter and facebook, helping to bring a broad audience to these articles. I hope you will consider submitting an article on any topic suitable for the FUN membership. You can contribute by sending your item to Sarah Holstein, chair of the newsletter committee (newsletter@funfaculty.org).   

I look forward to working with you in the new year, and I hope that spring 2021 brings you peace, renewal, and the promise of better days ahead.

Kurt R. Illig, PhD
President, Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience

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