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Atmospheric science

What are we learning from the election results?

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Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm
Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

A few reflections on the morning after Election Day…and the path forward.

(1) It is a much closer race than any side expected or wanted. We are a deeply polarized country; some say that is not a good thing.

(2) We all are taking a dose of patience and waiting for all votes to be counted. I know this is a lot to ask; it creates anxiety. Yet, it is our democracy at work.

(3) The USA is a union of states. Each state has their own rules and they are being followed and respected following the basic premise, “If you voted, your vote should be counted,” (regardless of who you voted for).

(4) Let me say this again: this is a very close race. This means we all have friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, who voted differently than we did. We all need to do our best to respect that difference, be tolerant and constructive, build on it to become more agreeable going forward.

(5) Look at it from a polling perspective. Do you think polls were inaccurate in 2016? Some say there was a repeat performance or were much worse in 2020. Both Biden's and Trump's numbers indicate we are doing polling seriously wrong. My colleagues in Computational Data Science and Mathematical Science will have a field day analyzing this data for sure. Maybe one will even come up with a new polling method to capture sentiment.

(6) It is clear now this wasn't a landslide, a "blue wave" or a "red tide". Neither side can claim this is a "clear victory" or a “mandate”. All of us need to have a slice of humble pie for breakfast and look for ways to embrace others.

This may seem obvious, but regardless of the result, the "other side" isn't going away. We need leadership, starting at the top, to bring us together despite our differences.

In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey suggests in habit 5 we should “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” The best way to uncover one’s ‘blind spot’ is to truly try to understand another’s point of view. This takes active listening, asking questions and valuing different perspectives, a hallmark of our diverse nature of thought at Mason.

As a new leader within our college, in the first 100+ days, I’ve taken time to understand many points of view, listening to chairs, deans, faculty, staff, alumni, partners, and students, valuing each’s perspective to collectively shape our vision for the future.

As educators, we encourage our students to think creatively, to tap their curiosity to solve big problems. Fostering collaboration and critical thinking is our next step both as a nation, and as a college to chart our course in very challenging times. Like the right to vote, each of us has the opportunity to share what they think, offering challenges and ideas to shape the path forward. I encourage you to actively engage in the strategic planning process and continue to value various perspectives along the way. And after our dose of patience and meal of humble pie, bravely step forward, regardless of the election outcome. We can do this, together.

Visit the Dean's Blog for more insights from Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm.