Cabrera’s Institute Address goes virtual

Cabrera delivers his Institute Address through a mask on Sept. 22 in the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons. The event was also live-streamed on YouTube. // Photo courtesy of president.gatech.edu

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, President Angel Cabrera delivered the Institute Address to update campus after his first year in office. While the tradition of annual addresses runs throughout Tech’s history, this may be the first given by a Tech president wearing a mask.

Many were able to tune in live on YouTube, and 80 faculty, staff and students from different campus organizations were invited to attend in-person in the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons (CULC).

The address intends to provide information on the past year, including new initiatives and school leadership hires.

“President Cabrera’s Institute Address was a beneficial time to look back and celebrate all of Georgia Tech’s accomplishments this past year and also a time to appreciate and recognize all of the work that there still is to be done,” said Student Body President Brielle Lonsberry, fourth-year BME, after attending the event.

“In a semester like the one we are currently in, it is so important to pause and celebrate the achievements that deserve to be celebrated while still remaining focused on our end goals.”

From pandemic response and surveillance testing to racial injustice and Atlanta protests, Cabrera addressed current events as well as campus updates in his speech.

He started the speech by acknowledging the “storm” of the past six months during the start of COVID-19.

“It is impossible to exaggerate how devastating COVID-19 has been around the world. The novel coronavirus has cost the lives of about 1 million people globally, 200,000 just in the U.S. — some in our very own families,” Cabrera stated.

“In some important areas of human development, like access to vaccines in the developing world, COVID-19 has also set us back 25 years in about 25 weeks.”

He acknowledged that the months since March have not been easy, expressing how proud he was of not only Tech staff’s response but also of students in how they’ve adapted to changes in housing and instruction.
Related to the pandemic, Cabrera also took some time to update on surveillance testing.

“Georgia Tech doesn’t have a medical school or experience in clinical testing, but that didn’t stop us from developing a large-scale process for asymptomatic testing. Our faculty and staff designed a reliable process to extract RNA from saliva samples, established innovative pooling protocols, procured and coded robots and lab equipment, developed an information system to handle the data, deployed testing sites, recruited and trained personnel, obtained all certifications, and quickly reached a capacity to process 2,500 daily samples,” he said.

“All this, within a few weeks. This is, in a nutshell, the Georgia Tech way.” According to the address, while the battle against COVID-19 is not over, he believes that testing and protocols are keeping the virus under control, allowing Tech to stay “open for business.”

Students agree that it was important for Tech to acknowledge its accomplishments during the address.

“I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical about this Fall, and I think that we all had our bets as to how long it would be before we were forced to go fully remote like we did in the Spring … I appreciated President Cabrera’s candid expression that this next year at Georgia Tech will continue to be tough as a result of the pandemic and interruption of normal operations,” said Lonsberry.

“However, I left the Institute Address optimistic for the future and thankful for a Georgia Tech community that has rallied together to support all of our members.” Also present along with pandemic updates and future school strategy were candid remarks on racial injustice.

“When our country was shaken by a series of heartbreaking acts of violence that cost the lives of several Black people across the country, when many, including here in Atlanta, took to the streets to protest and demand justice, we at Georgia Tech came together as a community to figure out what this means for us,” Cabrera said.

He then listed several new initiatives that come as outcomes from discussions from Black colleagues, students and alumni. These include a Diversity and Inclusion Council, Police Community Council, new roles for underrepresented minorities at GTRI and anti-bias training for Institute leadership.

Cabrera concluded his address by listing six areas of strategic priority. Research portfolio funding, the new school of cybersecurity, CREATE-X, the Care Center, GT Lorraine and Shenzhen campuses exemplify resources on campus that the Institute hopes to expand into the next year. Cabrera also committed to expanding access to a Tech education to underrepresented populations.

“While we have seen growth in the number of Black students at Tech, their enrollment is still less than 7% of undergraduates and 5% overall and far below the city of Atlanta’s and the state of Georgia’s demographics. And while we’ve had increasing success in enrolling women, they are still a minority in our student body.” Cabrera finished his address with a charge for the Institute’s motto, Progress and Service.

The applause may have been more scattered in previous years due to social distancing, but his message still rang clear to Tech’s campus.