Alum Advice During COVID-19: Christopher Stern ’93

Dear Seaver Students,

What I will offer is some thoughts…maybe not exactly “wisdom,” but hopefully a small bit of positive feedback and messaging that applies directly to LMU and Seaver…especially to everyone in STEM – sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics.

Since graduating LMU in ’93 myself, I went on to experience, first-hand, some major crises. The first was right after LMU at my first job at the City of Los Angeles DWP – and we had the massive 1994 Northridge Earthquake in LA that collapsed roads, bridges and buildings with tragic loss of lives in LA, broken water pipes and fires all over town. I immediately jumped into working in the utility’s emergency command center and saw the resilience of the community, our engineers, construction workers and people all across the City responding and recovering, over time, from that natural disaster.

Then, in 1999, there were serious global concerns that the world’s infrastructure, utility systems and businesses that were powered by any form of technology could collapse due to the “Y2K” issue (everyone should read about that sometime). I ran a huge part of that project, still at the City of Los Angeles DWP, and worked with technologists, consultants and elected officials at the state, local and federal (Washington DC) level, all the way through being in the Command Center through New Years 2000…sitting in the utility offices to make sure nothing went wrong…which it thankfully didn’t….catastrophe avoided.

While neither of these are anything near the scale or magnitude of this global COVID-19 pandemic, what I saw and learned should inspire LMU and Seaver students. And that is this, “with challenges come opportunities.” And after each major crisis, there were huge investments in new processes, new technologies – and breakthroughs in new earthquake engineering, structural designs, software applications and many other inventions emerged.  Opportunities to make things better, safer and improve our lives in many ways.

And in this COVID-19 crisis, what will become obvious to many over time is that science, technology, engineering and mathematics have one of the largest roles in planning, responding to and preventing future public health crises and natural disasters…and LMU Seaver students “can truly design and create the world we need to live in after this pandemic fades.”

There will be innovation and breakthroughs in public health, biology, medical research…in new technologies and engineering systems for public safety in almost every industry, new software and remote solutions….and the list goes on and on and on. And who…who will be the ones to come up with these breakthroughs and do this work that has began and will no doubt go on for many years? It will be the current and next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians and computer software developers. LMU and Seaver is the launch pad.

So while this difficult, life altering and extremely challenging event is devastating to all of us, to LMU and our global family….it will create opportunities of many lifetimes…and LMU Seaver students will be presented one of the biggest opportunities this world has ever seen. The potential to have a positive impact on a scale never seen…and truly “Create the World We Want to Live In!”

Be safe, be strong and come out “Roaring”!

-Christopher Stern ’93, Civil Engineering