A message from Dean Justin Schwartz


Dear College of Engineering Community,

Yesterday afternoon, as the guilty verdicts were read one after the other, The New York Times reported that a woman near George Floyd Square in Minneapolis nearly collapsed with tears in her eyes. According to The Times, when she stood up, the woman said simply, “We matter. We matter.”

We cannot know, precisely, the full range of emotions that so many in our community — just like that unnamed woman in Minneapolis — have been holding in their hearts and grappling with since the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. We continue to grieve for his loss and for his family. The murder and subsequent social unrest last summer, numerous other killings of Black individuals at the hands of police including last week’s shooting Daunte Wright, and the recent Derek Chauvin trial with its heartrending video footage and testimony over the past few weeks have added to a palpable sense of trauma and a growing tension across our society.

Our friends, classmates, colleagues, neighbors, and fellow citizens have been in turmoil and pain, many with concerns or even expectations that the justice system would fall short. Even with a sense of relief with this verdict, it does not extinguish the frustration, anger, and grief at the loss of innocent life violently taken or for the systemic racism and mistreatment of Black and other communities of color that has persisted for generations. Nor does it change the fact that sentencing, potential appeals, and additional trials remain, and more information will continue to emerge regarding the deaths of others such as Daunte, Ma’Khia Bryant, and Adam Toledo.

But as Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said, it was a step on the path toward healing, adding: “I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice, and now the cause of justice is in your hands.”

The cause of justice is in all of our hands. Violence — especially without accountability — is a threat to all, as is allowing ourselves to become numb or indifferent to the trauma faced by people both within and outside of our social groups. It is vital that we stop, reflect, and dig into the work of civic engagement to advance intercultural understanding; that we stand as allies; and that as we learn, we become advocates, or, better yet, activists.

As President Barron wrote last evening: “It is clear in our mission as a land-grant university that we are duty-bound and driven to use our influence, collective knowledge and abilities to address broad societal problems — especially those that cause such trauma, pain and abuse of power.”

I passionately join President Barron in calling for everyone across our engineering community and beyond to join in the ongoing fight for equity and justice, and to help stop the violence against people of color. Ours is a community made stronger and more vibrant by a diverse array of voices, backgrounds, nationalities, and experiences. We all have a responsibility through our words, actions, and allyship to ensure that every member of our engineering community feels as though they matter because they absolutely do.

We have work to do. If you would like to engage further in our pursuit of equity and inclusion in the college, please reach out at dean@engr.psu.edu or to our Center for Engineering Outreach and Inclusion. Additionally, a list of resources, which I shared in my community message on Friday, is available here. I encourage everyone, especially those entrenched in this fundamental work, to continue to look after yourself and those around you, allowing yourself time to reflect, grieve, and heal.


Justin Schwartz
Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering
Penn State College of Engineering


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Megan Lakatos