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Dean's Blog: Playing with a Dream Team

Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm
Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

As we ease into March, I can’t help but think of a term usually used to describe NCAA basketball, March Madness. Yet, after hearing about the research efforts of faculty across the college during last week’s ScienceConnect, I can’t help but think of another phrase well known to basketball fans-- “Dream Team.”

How do these terms relate to Mason scientists, you may ask? Let me explain.

Men’s Olympic basketball has been offered in 19 Olympic games since 1936. And the U.S. has dominated the gold medal tally, winning all the golds except for 1972 in Munich (Soviet Union gold, U.S. bronze); in 1980 (Yugoslavia gold, no medal U.S.); and 2004 (Argentina gold, U.S. bronze). But one of the toughest for our country was in Seoul in 1988 when the Soviet Union took the gold and the U.S. team came home with the bronze.

The U.S. response was to form its Dream Team. The Dream Team is a nickname used to describe the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team who played together in Barcelona in 1992. It was the first such American Olympic team to include active professional players from the National Basketball Association. Some say it was the greatest sports team ever assembled. Basketball fans may remember the original Dream Team included Patrick Ewing, Christian Laettner, Magic Johnson, David Robinson, Karl Malone, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, and Clyde Drexler.  These stars were well known on their respective teams. But they needed to come together and play together for a bigger prize than their own pride and teams. They had a goal to unite the country. The U.S. Olympic committee realized, when stakes are high, you must assemble the best to get the job done. And we have done the same.

We’ve formed our own Dream Team to play our pandemic version of March Madness. Our team of faculty, researchers, and staff are stars in their respective domains. Each one bringing something important to our effort. Day after day, we ‘play our game,’ teaching students, running efficient, effective operations, performing research of consequence, some of these efforts virtually through technology instead of face to face. Mason has assembled the best in their respective fields. And we play to win.

We are embracing this challenge with all the energy, interest, and intellect we possess. And we give our all, for the outcomes we seek – our versions of the gold medal – whether it be keeping our campus safe, receiving that all-important grant to continue or expand our research efforts, training the next generation of scientists to solve the world’s toughest problems. Or maybe it’s just making sure exams are graded when we said they would, or volunteering for that administrative committee despite a full schedule because you know it’s important to drive changes and you have good ideas, or just taking the extra time to make sure a stressed-out student is heard and confidence is built.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we shared a mantra “We’ve got your back.” And it’s true, the best teams play for each other. Not just for themselves. And they have each other’s backs, supporting each other through the ups and downs we experience. Those attending ScienceConnect could feel the sense of camaraderie from attendees, cheering each other on, offering encouragement. Our scientific dream team is playing an amazing game. We are winning. We must continue to stay together and support each other. For together, we can achieve great things.