June 3, 2020
To my UConn family, students, staff and faculty:
In the wake of recent events, I wanted to reach out to make sure we are in dialogue, despite our physical distance. The world suffered another immense loss of life with the unjust killing of George Floyd this past Memorial Day. His death is a tragedy of humankind and is one we all must face, in light of a national history of systemic inequality and racism.
As the Vice President for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship and PI of an active lab, it is my responsibility to foster an inclusive environment in which we all feel comfortable having difficult conversations about such events. It is my sincere hope that from this discomfort and discussion will come growth, community, and a safer world for us all.
While we all have unique reactions to such atrocities, I wanted to start the conversation and share my thoughts and experiences. I have been struggling for several days with George Floyd’s death and how deeply it affected me. Although in an entirely different context, I have had several first-hand experiences with xenophobia and its repercussions throughout my life. First through my family members being killed in the second world war, next with many of my family members being killed in the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and having been called myself so many times “gaikokujin” or “foreign-country person” and being asked when I would go back to my country during my time in Japan. I did not know the answer, as I did not have a country to go back to.
When I moved to the US, I was so happy to finally have a country to which I could belong. I believed it to be a melting pot in which success could be earned by anyone, from any background. All you needed was to work hard and anything was possible. I have now learned that this picture of American opportunity is easier to attain for some than others, and the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others are a devastating reminder of this fact.
It also reminds us of how much needs to be done in our country to celebrate our differences and stand together against injustice. Whether we are Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Muslim, LGBTQ, or anything else, we are all unique and beautiful human beings, and mother earth wanted us to be so different to bring beauty and diversity to this world. We are united when we speak loud, when we feel that love is stronger than fear, when we stand up to speak without fearing our own life and livelihood.
To my own team, please know that I support you. Please celebrate our differences. Please turn to someone near you, even if it’s virtually, and say “I respect you and your uniqueness.” We are better than what is happening in our country. We need to love, speak, and support each other.
Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship