- Alex Rodriguez
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- Blaise Ingoglia
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- Christopher Benjamin
- Corona Directions
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- Featured Post
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- Professional Movers Association of Florida
- puppy caucus
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- Ron DeSantis
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- Takeaways from Tallahassee
- Tom Fabricio
- Tom Wright
- Wilton Simpson. Tyler Sirois
What a riot
After doubts that Republicans’ anti-riot bill would make it out of the committee process, that legislation (HB 1) is on its way to the Senate floor.
Through an eight-and-a-half-hour committee meeting dedicated solely to advancing the public disorder bill, senators heard hours of testimony from Floridians who had traveled from across the state to speak largely in opposition. The Senate Appropriations Committee gave the measure its support on an 11-9 vote, in which Sen. Jeff Brandes was the only dissenting Republican.
The anti-riot bill originated last summer in the aftermath of nationwide protests following George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. In some cities, those protests boiled over into riots, leading Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican leadership to declare the public disorder bill a top priority.
During the meeting, critics argued the bill is rooted in racism or misses the mark, increasing penalties during riots or creating new ones that disproportionately affect Black protesters. But proponents argued the bill focuses only on rioting and destroying people’s personal property.
DeSantis wasn’t in the room, but his presence loomed over the panel’s deliberations.
“Make no mistake about it; this is his proposal,” Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy said. “I don’t believe the Senate wants this. Of course, you all are going to support your Governor, but if it wasn’t for him, I don’t think we would be hearing this bill.”
Sen. Jason Pizzo, a fellow Democrat, contended the measure is merely “a bullet point on a 2022 or 2024 campaign mailer for somebody else.”
“The worst-kept secret in this room is I need two Republicans,” he added. “I need two Republicans to ask and to triage and prioritize who you serve.”
But only Brandes broke ranks, calling the bill a missed opportunity.
Republican Sen. Ed Hooper shared his life experiences of learning what racism is growing up as a White boy in the segregated South. For a time, it sounded like he too might break ranks, but he ultimately voted yes, citing his trust in the bill sponsor, Sen. Danny Burgess.
“I 100% believe that if that man standing there at that podium thought that this bill was what had been alleged for the last eight hours, he would not be the bill sponsor,” Hooper said.
Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer noted the committee room would have been full, as would the hallways and possibly the courtyard, during any other Session. Instead, because of the pandemic, public testimony was held remotely in the Civic Center.
That didn’t stop heated testimony that at times bordered on threats.
“I’m here today to say there are a lot of people here that are really upset with you, so get it right or, like someone else just said, there will be consequences,” one member of the public said before being cut off.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers, and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Jason Delgado and the staff of Florida Politics.
The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
House and Senate approve their budgets — The House and Senate have approved their proposed budgets for the 2021-22 fiscal year. House Speaker Chris Sprowls, whose chamber put forward a $97 billion budget, said there isn’t much daylight between that plan and the Senate’s $95 billion plan. However, the Senate’s budget doesn’t include a plan for spending the $10.2 billion in federal relief that lawmakers will have the discretion to allocate. How lawmakers will agree to divvy it up is one of the greatest unknowns so far. DeSantis’ proposal includes $1,000 bonus checks for teachers and first responders.
Lawmakers move forward on Wayfair — After years of failed attempts, the Legislature has finally approved e-fairness legislation to enforce the collection of sales taxes on out-of-state goods sold online. The Senate approved the measure last week, and the House followed suit Thursday after adding an amendment to the proposal. Under the Senate’s plan, revenue raised from the newfound source would go toward refilling the unemployment trust fund to prevent a tax hike on businesses. The House’s addition, later approved by the Senate, would dedicate the extra funds to decreasing the commercial rent tax on businesses once the trust fund is replenished from the hit it took during the pandemic.
DeSantis takes on 60 Minutes’ “horse manure” — The Governor spent most of his public appearances this week defending the state’s vaccine rollout and lambasting CBS for running a segment during Sunday’s episode of its news magazine that he called “horse manure.” DeSantis made multiple appearances on Fox News and a spot on Mark Levin’s radio show, and he hosted a news conference, PowerPoint and all, solely dedicated to railing against 60 Minutes’ claims. The Governor has been a rising star in the GOP and is arguably the front-runner for the party’s 2024 nomination, if the former President forgoes a run. That makes him a threat to the left, DeSantis said.
Legislature approves housing, environment deal — Lawmakers passed a revised infrastructure funding bill that, after input from the Governor’s Office, includes a greater share of dollars for affordable housing. Republicans say the deal means housing, sea level rise projects, and wastewater grants will receive a predictable minimum amount of funding each year, but Democrats argue housing and the environment deserve more. Rep. Omari Hardy called splitting the revenue, which since the ‘90s was supposed to go to affordable housing, a false choice. For the coming fiscal year, the split equates to $200 million for affordable housing and $111.7 million to combat sea level rise and provide wastewater grants.
Florida sues over cruises — The Sunshine State is filing suit against the Biden administration to rescind a no-sail order against cruise ships. He had threatened potential action last month if a pathway wasn’t created to allow the resumption of cruises, and now he and the Attorney General are delivering. The lawsuit demands the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reopen cruise ships immediately. Attorney General Ashley Moody vowed to fight the order, which U.S. Rep. Carlos Giménez called obsolete in light of vaccines’ availability. Yet, the Governor has banned businesses from instituting vaccine passports in Florida.
— 2,072,053 FL residents (+39,666 since April 2)
— 39,754 Non-FL residents (+1,126 since April 2)
— 16,615 Travel related
— 818,663 Contact with a confirmed case
— 22,740 Both
— 1,214,035 Under investigation
— 86,706 in FL
— 34,626 in FL
— 10,732,071 Doses administered
— 6,942,405 Total people vaccinated
— 2,751,892 First dose
— 400,847 Completed one-dose series (+151,474 since April 2)
— 3,789,666 Completed two-dose series (+537,439 since April 2)
The Department of Education has, for the second year in a row, issued an emergency order to make year-end student determinations more flexible in light of the pandemic.
The order would make it possible to waive standardized tests, which were flat-out canceled last year, on a student-by-student basis. Students will have more flexibility on whether they can graduate or advance to the next grade.
“Over the past year and beyond, Florida has led on prioritizing the education and well-being of our state’s students,” DeSantis said. “This emergency order will empower students, families and teachers with data on students’ progress and growth and provide them with the necessary tools to create the best educational experience for each individual.”
“This is the ultimate flexibility and reinforces the compassion and grace we have used throughout this pandemic in making these decisions,” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran added. “I also want to thank our courageous and dedicated educators and school leaders who have made this school year so successful for our students and local communities.”
The order also creates flexibility for schools to opt in to be graded based on student test scores. Lagging school grades can sometimes force low-performing schools to implement turnaround plans or have a charter school operator take over.
Help victims thrive
Attorney General Moody and the Florida Consortium of Urban League Affiliates have partnered to create Thrive, a program to help young crime victims recover.
The Attorney General’s Office provides federal funding to victims through local Urban Leagues in Broward, Duval, Leon and Pinellas counties, areas heavily affected by violent crimes involving teens and young adults. The new program will support victims of assault, bullying, domestic violence, and gang activity through what the Attorney General described as a hands-on, thoughtful approach.
“It is heartbreaking any time a child is victimized by criminal behavior, especially if no one is there to help them along the road to recovery,” Moody said. “As a former judge, I have seen young people with promising futures victimized over and over again and, in some incidences, turn to crime themselves.”
Urban League of Broward County President and CEO Germaine Smith-Baugh said Thrive will offer healing and systemic change within underserved communities.
“We are committed to empowering individuals with transformative solutions to create stronger, safer, and more viable communities,” Smith-Baugh said.
The program’s services include assisting with advocacy, basic needs, relocation and security doorbell installation.
To help fund this new program, the Attorney General’s Office will identify the Victims of Crime Act-eligible expenses related to client services provided through the Urban Leagues. The office will then reimburse the qualifying expenses, allowing the existing dollars to reach even more victims in need.
Wildlife Awareness Week
Never mind that Florida is the United States’ lightning capital, the leading cause of wildfires in the Sunshine State are people improperly burning waste in their yards.
Friday marks a wrap of Wildfire Awareness Week, and Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, along with the Florida Forest Service, lit up email inboxes with Florida wildfire facts.
Nearly 600 wildfires have burned more than 7,700 acres since January. A total of 1,969 wildfires Last year burned 44,152 acres across the state.
The wildfire threat has increased in the Panhandle because nearly 3 million acres of trees were broken, uprooted, or blown over by Hurricane Michael in October 2018.
“With nearly half of our state covered in forests, Floridians must be aware of the dangers of wildfire,” Fried said. “Wildfire Awareness Week is an important reminder of the devastating effects wildfires can have on people and natural resources. It’s more important than ever to be aware of the risks, exercise caution, and follow the law — these steps will ensure the safety of your family, your community, and our wildland firefighters.”
Some things to remember if you’re burning: Keep it in a container, only burn during daylight hours and stay away from roads, buildings, or other combustible structures.
Get the jab
Vaccination press events are on the rise.
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis happily got his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday from firefighters with the Tallahassee Fire Department.
“Florida’s firefighters have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic from Day One, and I was honored to receive my vaccine from these heroes today,” Patronis said.
Patronis used the occasion to highlight work by Florida’s firefighters.
“Of the more than 38,000 career firefighters in Florida, roughly 80% are paramedic or EMT certified and have been assisting in Florida communities by directly administering shots during the largest mass vaccination effort in American history,” Patronis said.
DeSantis signed an executive order to expand vaccine eligibility to firefighters in February.
“For over a year, these heroes have continued saving lives in our communities no matter the challenges brought on by this pandemic. They answer the call no matter the circumstances, and I cannot thank our firefighters enough for their hard work during this unprecedented time and for everything they do to keep us safe,” Patronis said.
Instagram of the week
The week in appointments
Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling — DeSantis appointed Miami residents Angelita Salado and Joaquin Molina to the Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling. Salado is a licensed mental health counselor at Catholic Charities and a Florida Counseling Association and an American Counseling Association member. Salado holds a bachelor’s in communications from Universidad del Sagrado Corazon and a master’s in counseling from Ana G. Menendez University. Molina is the founder and senior pastor at Spring of Life Fellowship. He is a certified civil and family mediator and specializes in family and marriage therapy. Molina was named the 2017 Pastor of the Year by the National Coalition of Ministry to Men. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Florida International University and a law degree from Nova Southeastern University.
Clay County Development Authority — DeSantis named Joelle Marquis and James Horne to the Clay County Development Authority. Marquis, of Fleming Island, is a senior partner at Arsenal Capital Partners and CEO of Legacy in Action. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business from Western New England University and her master’s degree in organization development from American International College. Horne is a Partner at Strategos Group. He is a former Commissioner of Education and state Senator. He earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Florida State University.
Commercial Motor Vehicle Review Board — DeSantis appointed Kathy Panozzo to the Commercial Motor Vehicle Review Board. Panozzo is a Jacksonville resident who works as the director of trailer maintenance at Landstar. Previously, she worked as a manager and then as coordinator of automotive operations. Panozzo is also a member of the Technology and Maintenance Council.
Concrete Masonry Education Council Board of Directors — DeSantis made eight appointments to the Concrete Masonry Education Council Board of Directors. Mark Smith is a Bell resident and owns Bell Concrete Products and Columbia Ready Mix. He earned a degree in journalism from the University of Florida. Darryl Fales lives in Estero and is the president of Preferred Materials’ concrete division. He earned a bachelor’s from UCF and a master’s from FGCU. Earl Losier lives in Lutz and is the vice president Florida Ready Mix and Concrete Products for Titan America. Losier earned his bachelor’s from Appalachian State University. Troy Maschmeyer, of Palm Beach, is the CEO of Maschmeyer Concrete Company. Rockie Jenkins is a Merritt Island resident who works as the director of CEMEX Florida. He earned his bachelor’s from Trevecca University and an MBA from Saint Leo University. William Parsons, of Orlando, is a regional vice president at Pyramid Masonry Contractors. Parsons earned his bachelor’s degree in construction engineering and management from Purdue University. Justin Lord lives in Fort Lauderdale and is the president and CEO of Central Broward Construction. He earned his bachelor’s in building construction from Auburn University. Robert Carlton is the general manager of Carlton-Walker Masonry. He attended Miami Dade College.
Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission — The Governor named Darla Portman of Wesley Chapel and Christopher Nebbeling of Stuart to the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission. Portman is a master police officer in the Tampa Police Department and is the Tampa Police Benevolent Association’s current president. She also holds a seat on the Florida Police Benevolent Association Board of Directors. She graduated from USF with a degree in criminology. Nebbelingis a range master at the West Palm Beach Police Department. He served in and received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army. Nebbeling is an FDLE firearms instructor, master taser instructor, driving instructor and defensive tactics instructor. He earned a history degree from the University of Phoenix.
The Senate has unanimously passed a bill to ban anonymous political texts from being sent to your phone.
Sen. Dennis Baxley’s bill (SB 82) would require political messages to come with taglines identifying who sent the message.
“Have you ever gotten those political emails, things in terms of electronic messages, and you can’t tell who they’re coming from?” Baxley asked senators. “This bill requires disclaimers, which are for these unidentified sources of electronic political messages.”
The state currently has differing disclaimer standards for political advertisements, independent expenditures, and “electioneering communication.” Only the latter requires no disclaimers at all.
Under the bill, all three types of messages would need disclaimers, even text messages reminding someone to vote without suggesting who to vote for. However, it comes with a couple of exceptions, including opt-in messages and manually sent texts.
Baxley put it plainly to senators on his Ethics and Elections Committee earlier this year.
“I’m tired of getting all these messages, and I can’t tell who they’re from, and it’s invaded all of this space of communication,” he said.
The House version (HB 659), carried by Rep. Alex Andrade, is ready for that chamber’s consideration.
The House will take up a bill this week to ban transgender females from competing in women’s sports at the high school and collegiate level.
Sponsored by Republican Rep. Kaylee Tuck of Lake Placid, the bill (HB 1475) would require transgender student-athletes to compete on teams aligned with their biological sex.
Notably, the bill prohibits transgender females from competing on female teams but does not bar transgender men from competing on a male team.
Proponents contend the legislation protects women and athletic competition, as men are at an athletic advantage compared to women.
Critics, meanwhile, argue the bill is discriminatory and harmful to the transgender community.
Moreover, they warn the bill would negatively impact the state economy.
Critics point to the NCAA’s 2016 decision to boycott championship events in North Carolina.
The decision came in response to a state law that prohibited transgender individuals from using public restrooms aligned with their gender identity.
North Carolina and the NCAA later reached an agreement, but not before costing the state roughly $3.76 billion.
Tuck’s proposal underscores the cultural tug-of-war over transgender rights.
Roughly 25 other Republican-led states are sponsoring similar legislation, according to a staff analysis.
There’s a link
The Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) Research Institute released a report they believe proves nonviolent drug offenders are dangerous and should not be released early.
The report is called “Repeat Drug-Offenders in Prison: Not Your Low-Level, Non-Violent Offender.”
Data from the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) showed a correlation between drug offenders and more violent crimes. The data showed 86% of repeat drug offenders commit a forcible felony, a burglary, or both before their current prison sentence.
In a news release, the FSA Research Institute directly refuted the characterization of drug-offenders as “low-risk, nonviolent offenders.”
FSA President and Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz said rehabilitation could take place without releasing inmates.
“This analysis further debunks the myths of the criminal justice reform debate regarding our state prisons being full of low-level, nonviolent drug offenders,” Schultz said. “Our state prisons are made up of inmates with long criminal histories. We can still offer rehabilitation of inmates without lessening sentences to place these dangerous criminals back into our communities sooner than current law allows.”
For the report, the FSA Research Institute analyzed the criminal history of over 10,000 inmates in FDC custody (as of February 2021) convicted of a repeat drug-related crime.
The correlation between repeat drug-trafficking offenders and violent crime was slightly higher at 89%.
FSA Research Chair and Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson said the data should steer policymakers away from drug offenders’ early release options.
“It is now up to these inmates, after numerous interactions with the criminal justice system, to decide if they want to be rehabilitated or to continue their criminal behavior after their release,” he said. “We should continue to offer a helping hand toward their rehabilitation, but not at the expense of handing out lesser sentences after these criminals have already turned away from numerous second chances.”
Marsy’s Law … for all
The Florida Police Benevolent Association Tuesday called a court of appeal decision a “major victory.”
The 1st District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court’s previous ruling that said law enforcement officers did not meet the definition of a crime victim and therefore could not be afforded the same protections under Marsy’s law, which provides crime victims with privacy protections.
In Tuesday’s 13-page decision, Judge Lori Rowe said law enforcement officers can be considered victims too.
“That the officer acts in self-defense to that threat does not defeat the officer’s status as a crime victim. And thus, as a crime victim, such an officer has the right to keep confidential ‘information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information of the victim,’” she wrote, referring to some of the victims’ rights spelled out in the constitutional amendment.
The decision came in a lawsuit filed against the city of Tallahassee by the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which represents the police officers. The union asserted Marsy’s Law applies to the officers because they were victims in the use-of-force incidents.
In an incident that drew national attention, one of the officers known as “John Doe 2” shot a Black transgender man last May. Because the police officer was the victim of an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the incident involving Natosha “Tony” McDade, the union said he had the right to invoke the privacy privilege provided by Marsy’s Law.
Sound the alarm
A proposed $60 million cut to community mental health and substance use providers is alarming a behavioral health advocacy group.
In a memo, the Florida Behavioral Health Association (FBHA) urged lawmakers to reconsider the proposal because Floridians are already struggling with “a surge in mental health trauma, opioid usage and suicides” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cuts would impact funding for community substance use and mental health services, a variety of community-based behavioral health treatment teams, and avenues that provide immediate crisis support to individuals.
“Florida has seen a significant increase in people of all ages and backgrounds who are suffering from mental health and substance use disorders,” Melanie Brown-Woofter, president and CEO of FBHA, said. “The lifesaving services our members provide are crucial to keeping Florida’s most vulnerable people safe.”
During 2020, 67% of FBHA’s community behavioral health providers reported an increase in crisis calls over the prior year, nonfatal opioid overdoses rose by 40%, and suicide deaths increased in 22 of Florida’s 67 counties over 2019.
The group said behavioral health a wise investment because FBHA providers can take pressure off law enforcement, county jails, and hospital emergency departments.
“We’re hopeful that when legislative leaders hear and carefully weigh these frightening statistics and the positive impact of these mental health and substance use providers on vulnerable Floridians, that they will restore state funding to current levels,” Brown-Woofter said. “FBHA and its members believe if Senate and House budget negotiators work together, we can restore funding. We are committed to working closely with legislative leaders as the budget negotiations unfold.”
Grab a plate
Next on Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians’ to-do list isn’t to vacation at Disney or win another Super Bowl. He’s going to preorder a Guardian ad Litem specialty license plate.
A recent ad for the plate tells viewers he’s headed to Disney before his wife, Christine, interrupts him with the real plans.
“Wait, we’re actually going to pre-order our GAL specialty plates,” she says. “It’s the best way to support the wonderful work of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program, their volunteer child advocates and Florida’s most vulnerable children.”
Florida last year introduced the GAL Program plate to raise awareness of the challenges abused children face. Proceeds from the plate go to the Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation.
Sen. Aaron Bean and former Rep. Jamie Grant sponsored the legislation creating the tag.
“It says ‘Heartfelt Child Advocacy’ on the plate, and that’s what this is all about,” Bean said. “These children are in the child welfare system through no fault of their own. They deserve all the help we can give.”
GAL represents abused, abandoned and neglected children in the state’s dependency courts with three-person teams consisting of an attorney, a social worker, and a volunteer. The program has more than 10,000 volunteers statewide.
Christine Arians worked for years as a family law attorney before establishing the Arians Family Foundation, which supports GAL’s efforts, in 2013.
Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation CEO Sonia Valladares said the Arians family’s support is a game-changer in raising public awareness.
“Coach Arians is not just the winning Super Bowl coach,” she said. “He and his wife are both great philanthropists. The family has lifted up every community where he’s coached.”
To watch the PSA, click on the image below:
Special Olympics, remastered
A specialty license plate supporting the Special Olympics received a makeover.
In a memo Thursday, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) announced a redesign of the plate had been completed.
The Special Olympics specialty license plate has been around since 1993, but this is the plate’s first redesign.
The first $5 million in revenue collected annually from this plate’s sale is given to Special Olympics Florida to be used for Special Olympics purposes. The specialty license plates cost an extra $15.
There are nearly 3,000 registrations of the Special Olympics specialty license plate.
Feeding Florida helped millions of hungry Floridians put food on the table before the pandemic, and it’s still trucking along one year in.
That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a challenge.
According to Feeding America — the parent organization behind Feeding Florida — 3.1 million Floridians were food insecure last year. That’s about one out of every seven residents. In 2019, about 2.8 million Floridians were food insecure.
It wasn’t as bad as the organization feared. Early on, Feeding America estimated more than 3.6 million Floridians would become food insecure because of COVID-19.
But Feeding Florida’s 12 food banks still responded in force, increasing food distributions from a pre-COVID-19 average of 5.6 million pounds a week statewide to about 9.5 million pounds a week today. At the height of the pandemic, Feeding Florida delivered as much as 12.8 million pounds of food per week.
All told, Feeding Florida is on track to deliver 504 million pounds for the fiscal year of July 1, 2020 — June 30, 2021.
Those distributions cover every corner of the state, every day of the week.
“Our network of food banks represents approximately 75% of charitable food in Florida, and we rose to the challenges of COVID in short order,” Feeding Florida Executive Director Robin Safley said.
“We quickly changed our model to meet CDC guidelines and expanded our distribution to meet a need that increased by 79%; all accomplished through our agency network and by increasing weekly direct distribution. We’ve always made it a point to work with partners to give families and clients more than food.”
Best and brightest
A school-record three Florida State University students have received the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, a prestigious national award that annually recognizes the brightest mathematics, science and engineering college sophomores and juniors.
The students landing the coveted scholarship: behavioral neuroscience major Jessica Moser, psychology major Trystan Loustau and biological science major Kylee Hillman.
Each will receive up to $7,500 for their junior and senior years from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation to pay for tuition, fees, books, room and board.
The Goldwater Foundation’s mission is to ensure that the United States produces highly qualified professionals in the STEM fields.
Jesse Wieland, assistant director of the Office of National Fellowships at FSU, said having three Goldwater Scholars in the same year speaks volumes about the university.
“To have three Goldwater Scholars is not only a testament to the merit and resiliency of our applicants but the outstanding resources and faculty mentors at FSU who are invested in the success of their students,” he said. “My hope is this unprecedented achievement will continue to inspire the undergraduate STEM community and showcase what Florida State students are capable of achieving inside and outside of the classroom.”
Wieland said constraints caused by the pandemic showed the students’ ability to stay productive under challenging circumstances.
“Our applicants this year had to show extreme flexibility when in-person labs were shut down, and research projects were postponed or canceled,” he said. “All of them found creative ways to remain actively engaged with their research and future endeavors.”