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New Challenges, New Opportunities

At this time last year, I welcomed you back to campus, eager to kick off a new year and new semester full of opportunities for engaging with our Volunteer community. From the continuance of our 225th anniversary celebrations to the beginning of our long-awaited apocalypse semester, we were poised and ready. Little did we know that in less than three months, our lives would be upended and forever changed by the coronavirus pandemic.

As we return to campus this semester, whether in-person or virtually, we have a new set of challenges facing our Volunteer community. On January 6, we witnessed what many of us never expected to see in our lives – an assault on the United States Capitol Building. In many states, the situation is still unstable. I urge you to keep this in mind and be prepared for our students to be anxious about the events as classes begin. To help, we are focusing our first College Conversations series this semester on providing context for the events at the Capitol and offering a roadmap for moving forward. Read more and register here for the presentation Thursday, Jan. 28.

We will continue our College Conversations series this spring on the fourth Thursday of each month. In February, as part of our celebration of Black History Month, we are partnering with the Office of Multicultural Student Life to host the keynote speaker for their Celebration of Black Excellence event Feb. 25. Planning is still underway for the Feb. 25 keynote address, which is just one of the many exciting events scheduled for Black History Month. Learn more about events sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Student Life.

Finally, let’s talk vaccines. You should have already received the flu vaccine and, as opportunities avail themselves, I encourage you to get the COVID vaccine. We all hope for a better summer and a normal fall, but even with the vaccine in play, we still need to remain vigilant about the virus and our behavior. A new strain of the virus is making its way into surrounding states, so it is only a matter of time before it shows up in Knox County. When you learn someone has gotten sick, please do not shame them. We are already a hot spot, which, regardless of how vigilant you have been, increases the chances of you becoming one of the millions of people infected.

Thank you for your work and the role you play in keeping our Volunteer community safe and our students engaged in their academic careers. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to your department head or immediate supervisor for help. In addition, the UT coronavirus website is still active and updated regularly. Please check the site for resources to support our students, faculty, and staff this semester.

Wash your hands, wear a mask, and stay safe!


Theresa M. Lee
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences