You won’t find my 2020 Word of the Year in Merriam-Webster’s — indeed, it’s not “pandemic,” “mask,” or “Zoom.” All terms we’ve heard a lot this year. No, my verbum anni is people-centered. Both a noun and verb, it exudes camaraderie, esprit de corps, action. Results. Positivity and perseverance. Purpose, promise, and pluck. My word, dear friends, near and far, is “quaranteam.”

“Quaranteam” joined our lexicon last spring, and derivatives quickly followed. “Quaranteams” formed and began “quaranteaming,” then celebrated accomplishments they’d “quaranteamed.” Neologisms, all! Literal and literary manifestations of adaptability, creativity, and vitality. Humor, too: a pair of West Hollywood friends quaranteamed to stage “homecoachella,” 2020’s safe substitute for their usual pilgrimage to the renown California arts and music festival. And solidarity: professional footballers worldwide gathered on pixel pitchesfor “Ultimate Quaranteam,” an EA Sports FIFA 20 e-tournament that raised funds for foundering clubs whose soccer seasons were sidelined. And, of course, so many of us created “pods” and “bubbles” to keep loved ones healthy, happy, and connected.

At SCAD, quaranteaming is our Bees’ answer to the most extraordinary year of our lifetimes — and we launched our campaign with a few phone calls. More than 15,000, actually. Before Spring Quarter 2020 — SCAD’s first-ever fully virtual term — I formed a cadre of caring SCAD executive leaders, who personally telephoned each and every enrolled SCAD student. Twice. The “Peace of Mind Initiative,” I dubbed the effort, which we repeated in the fall and will continue this winter. (Yes, we’re grateful for unlimited minutes!) During these conversations, we checked in with each other — listened, laughed, loved. We channeled our collective genius and brainstormed: What about some virtual workshops, open to all, that teach the freshest techniques?Great idea. So we did it. We created SCADextra workshops — more than 200 in all — where Bees from every major hang out and hone the art of storyboarding, the sizzle of social media marketing, the finesse of footwear patterning, the marvels of metal casting, and more. Ear to ear and screen to screen, we elevated learning environments and invented new ways to gather. SCAD is family: we’re a group with grit, resilience, grace, and style.

Just as families find strength from within, quaranteams create winning coalitions. This fall, we partnered with the City of Savannah and other stakeholders to enhance virtual learning for children — SCAD donated 160 computers to community centers to ensure that bright, young minds have access to top-tier educational technology. As a former elementary schoolteacher, this partnership is particularly important to me because our hometown children need and deserve the best. Grownups’ teamwork make our children’s dreams work.

Whether in-person or virtual, SCAD classrooms are always buzzing. In 2020, we created SCADnow, the future of engaged teaching and learning, which offers students all over the world an education par excellence any time, any place. And every SCAD class, whether on-ground or in the cloud, aims for joy. Take this compliment penned by one of our Bees about SCAD Performing Arts Professor Jay Jaski: “Professor Jaski cultivated an environment through Zoom that felt like a family. I log on to each class not only ready to learn, but ready to be inspired.” Yes! And consider our Bees’ applause for SCAD Animation Professor Ashwin Inamdar, a “big proponent of homework parties,” one of his students noted. “He suggests that while we are working on our homework, we should hop onto a Zoom call with our other classmates,” the student explained. “I find this to be an incredibly enriching experience.” Virus or not, that student continued, Professor Inamdar’s connective approach is “the art university experience we’re all here for.” Pro tip: when students are asking for more homework, you’re on to something.

All of that homework pays off in the studio and on the awards circuit. This year, SCAD students collaborated across continents to create compelling animated shorts such as Bearly, Box Boy, and To Love a Ladybug, and for the second-straight year Bees — from 14 majors, including film and television, social strategy and management, and furniture design — garnered top honors at the Coca-Cola Refreshing Films Competition. SCAD Alumni Atelier Ambassadors launched new podcasts and developed sustainable design techniques during our first-ever virtual residencies. And the SCAD family even came together to produce a book — 7 Lessons for Dreamers & Makers, a guide to what we all long for: happiness. (Get it. Read it. Love it!)

These days, we hear a lot about circularity, an imperative to avoid waste and maximize reuse in the production cycle — check out The Big Favorite and SCAD alum Eleanor Turner’s take on recycled underwear, for example. From production protocols to leadership leitmotifs, I believe in circularity. Everyone at SCAD sits around a big virtual table, holding hands and teaming up to create the most extraordinary educational experiences ever for our students. The SCAD family’s camaraderie and collegiality have only increased during this year of uncertainty in the wider world. We have emphatically strengthened each other during this time. In truth, 2020 has been our finest hour. I am so very proud to work with our quaranteam at SCAD. MVPs, one and all!

Designer. Author. President and Founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) || http://scad.edu || http://instagram.com/paulaswallace

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