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‘It’s okay to be patient with yourself and others’: The Northeastern community reflects on the past year

We asked students, faculty, and staff to reflect on the past year and tell us what lessons they’re taking with them as we head into 2022. Read the responses, which have been lightly edited.

I [learned] resilience through the hard times. I’m actually from Myanmar. We went through a military coup, so I haven’t been home and seen my family in almost a year. It’s been tough not knowing anyone here and then having to adjust and then not being able to go home during Thanksgiving and winter break when everyone else is having nice meals with their families. Resilience and pushing through even though it’s difficult and you just want to give up.

– Win Sandar Nyunt, Business and economics, 2023

This past year has taught me that hope is never a waste of time, even in the face of exceedingly difficult circumstances, and that strength and resiliency emerge when you need them most.

– Kevin Vetiac, Director of LGBTQA Resource Center

Last year taught me to embrace change. Stepping back and envisioning the future without being tied down by current limitations can be a freeing experience. I am looking forward to 2022 as a year of change, growth, and new possibilities.

Kate Karniouchina, Dean, Lorry I. Lokey School of Business and Public Policy, Mills College; Glenn and Ellen Voyles Chair in Business Education

[I learned] how to be patient with myself, because 2020 and 2021 have been interesting years with the pandemic. And just not doing what I used to do at the capacity that I used to do it—and realizing that that’s OK. It’s OK to be patient with yourself and patient with others, because everyone’s just going through it. People change, situations change, and that’s perfectly fine.

Ruthie Olowoyeye, Health science, PlusOne, 2023

[This year] renewed my belief that every day is just another opportunity to get it right. And that we have to practice a lot of compassion: self-compassion, compassion for others. I don’t think that anybody was really able to present their best selves in 2021. And that’s OK. And we just can just try again,to make the world a better place for everybody, whether that’s systemically, broadly, societally, or just within whatever small spheres that you move in.

– Margaret Hahn-DuPont, Teaching professor, School of Law

The most significant lesson I have learned is that I need to get more comfortable in the struggle between the transactional nature of my position, while attempting to have deep relational interactions with students and colleagues.

Antonio Ocampo-Guzman, Chair, Department Of Theatre, College Of Arts, Media & Design

I have learned about solidarity and to be more supportive of others. We have to treat people better and be a person in the future. I see that people are fighting too much for no reason. I learned to love my family more and be a better human … that is what I hope for in 2022.

Nilsa Velez, barista

I’m valuing the connections that I’m making with people here and making sure that I’m taking time to focus on my personal relationships and not get too busy to do that when it gets too busy during the semester.

Sophia Pywowarczuk, Computer science and political science, 2025

Let your ambitions soar as if they could not fail, but carry yourself with a humility that comes with failure.

Alex Chang, Biology and political science, 2024

What I learned in 2021 is that we take things for granted: everyday routines, family, friends. We’re under the assumption that we’re going to be here forever. And clearly that’s not the case. What I plan to take into 2022 is to enjoy every day as it comes, and to slow things down.

– John Patterson, Northeastern University police officer

I’m still amazed at how even a small design intervention into a public space can change not only our perception of the space but how it is used. Between the updates to Richardson plaza wrapping up with the CHIAOZZA installation and the student-designed wave benches installed across campus, it has been amazing to see how these small changes make a space more active, make it more comfortable, and lead the public to look up from their phone to notice and enjoy their surroundings.

Thomas Vannatter, Public Art Manager

Next year I’ll be focusing on spending more time with family and friends, and doing more things that make me happy. This first semester back in person has shown me the true importance of allocating time to unwind (and time to walk from one class to the next).

James Chang-Davidson, Computer science, 2023

I learned the importance of a smile and what a huge difference a small act of kindness can make.

Caitlin Enz , Manager of Partner Programs, The Roux Institute

I think [about] how much I took for granted being able to be around people. Coming into this semester, I realized how much I miss being with people and how much I miss in-person theater and how great it is to be with everyone again. Despite all the craziness of the world—and the homework and assignments—and all that kind of stuff, at the end of the day, it’s good to be with people.

Lily Mittnight, Creative Practice Leadership Program, master’s degree, 2022

2021 has been a year of hope and resilience. While many things remained challenging, small steps toward normality provided much-needed respite. Throughout the year, patience, flexibility, and compassion loomed large in interactions and tasks.

Costas Panagopoulos, Professor and chair, Department of Political Science, College of Social Sciences and Humanities


There seems to be a large number of people who are trying to do the right thing, but there also seem to be a large number of people who are being very foolish in my opinion. And as to how it’s all going to turn out, I have no idea.

– John Park, Clinical instructor in Khoury College of Computer Sciences

[I have learned] that teaching law face-to-face at New College of the Humanities on the  wonderfully new campus of Devon House, London, is so much better than Zoom teaching; and that having a truly international law student cohort even after Brexit makes for an exciting conversation when discussing and comparing written and unwritten constitutions.

Ursula Smartt, Associate professor in law and legal careers counsellor, NCH at Northeastern

Resilience is the biggest part. Being able to achieve my goals despite everything, being off-campus the entire time, and then carrying that forward and having that mindset I think is the best way to go on.

Hanson Troung, Business administration, 2022

I was still fairly new to Northeastern, which I joined during the pandemic, so for me 2021 was a year of getting to know colleagues in different locations through multiple media. 2021 has left me dwelling on how we can be open to serendipity as we plan our working lives.

Andrew Ginger, Professor of comparative studies, special advisor to the provost

The power of cross-disciplinary partnerships is a driver of impactful change. If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

– Jared Auclair, Associate dean of professional programs and graduate affairs, College of Science

I learned that the deepest of friendships can come from the most unexpected places.

Heather Wiggins Berger, Director of Marketing, The Roux Institute, Institute for Experiential AI, Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics Center

As a Deaf individual, navigating to becoming a police officer is a challenging journey, but I learned to persist despite the barriers that I already faced. I will carry forward that it’s feasible to fulfill my dream with passion, dedication, and perseverance.

– Mohamed Abanoor, Criminal justice 2022 (bachelor of science) and August 2023 (Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice)

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