April 27, 2020 at 1:53 pm

Dean’s Message | How to Make Plans in Times of Uncertainty?

By Florenz Plassmann
Dean of Arts & Sciences
Professor of Economics and Political Science

It’s surely been a roller coaster, but we have made it successfully to the end of the semester. Navigating a situation that none of us have encountered before is no small achievement. Congratulations!

Take some time to breathe. Take care of yourself, your family, and your friends. But do not forget that life goes on and that there is a lot of future ahead.

How to make plans in times of uncertainty? Economists distinguish between risky situations and uncertain situations—you can buy insurance against risk, but you cannot buy insurance against uncertainty. We know enough about risky situations to determine the appropriate premium for the insurance, but we do not know enough about uncertain situations to do that. Evidently, we are currently experiencing uncertainty because we have too little experience with similar situations to assess the likelihood of the various possible future outcomes that would allow us to set an acceptable insurance premium.

Planning in times of uncertainty is not impossible. Start with common sense and a bit of a historical perspective. The world has gone through many periods of uncertainty before, and we have always managed to learn enough about the threats to overcome them. It is highly likely that this will be the case again.

We do not know exactly where we will end up, but we do know that having skills, knowledge, and experience will still pay off. So I encourage you to stay in the game. Do not abandon your plans of completing college, working on your second major, or going to graduate school. Incidentally, Ohio University, a school in a rural setting where social distancing is much easier than elsewhere, is offering a tuition scholarship for all Athens online courses in Summer 2020. And we are all hoping to get back to offering regular classes soon.

But no matter where you are and where life takes you, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. (Yes, I stole that line from Ferris Bueller.) So pat yourself on the back for conquering a unique and difficult semester, find joy in the warm summer months ahead, and, first and foremost, stay healthy.

Dean Florenz Plassmann, portrait

Dean Florenz Plassmann

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