March has long been a favorite month of mine, partly because of the excitement of March Madness, the NCAA’s marketing term for the final tournament that crowns championship teams in men’s and women’s basketball. March Madness is the pageantry of a three-week event of “one-and-done” games with non-stop media coverage. The “madness” is the amazing, last-second winning shots, the underdogs sometimes coming out on top, and the incredible individual performances and teamwork. It is, despite all the analytics and prognostications, a period of unpredictability, and it repeatedly exposes raw human emotions, from extreme exhilaration to intense disappointment.
Madness was also a subject of study of the late neurologist Oliver Sacks (1933-2015), a passionate optimist and humanist who turned clinical case studies into narratives that reflect underlying positive aspects of the human condition. Sacks’s stories about madness juxtaposed disturbances of the mind with features that many would consider desirable, such as explosive energy and creativity. His writings remind us that we experience positive and negative at the same time: successes alongside disappointments, winning shots as well as the ones that don’t make it.
The time period after spring break has always felt like madness to me as we begin a sprint to the finish with numerous projects to supervise, theses to review, letters of recommendation to write, and celebrations to attend. This year, I want the madness of March to retain a sense of optimism so that we appreciate how hard we have worked individually and collectively and how far we have come. Shining moments for students will abound and there will also be many opportunities to recognize the achievements of the faculty in the next two months. Beginning with the annual Faculty Accomplishments Reception this week and including a new Celebration of Teaching next month, congratulatory events remain important for supporting one another. Beyond the culminating works we will celebrate, we also recognize that the shining moments surface daily in all of the ways that faculty work impacts others – on the stage, in classrooms, studios, and labs, and for those who read, view, or experience our work. As the semester continues, the Faculty Hub hopes to learn more about the sources of your explosive energy and creativity and ways that we can support you as you continually grow as a teacher and scholar. Our March newsletter highlights some of the opportunities we are offering, and we look forward to helping you navigate the madness!
Associate Provost for Faculty, Director of the Teaching and Scholarship Hub, and Professor of Biology