We made it to the end of one of the most complicated semesters we have faced. I am incredibly proud of the way each of you coped with the disruptions the novel coronavirus caused this fall. Whether it was moving all of your courses online, working from home, or figuring out a hybrid approach to teaching and keeping our offices open and staffed, you adapted.
Thank you seems so small a phrase to express my gratitude to you and your commitment to our students, our college, and our Volunteer community. I appreciate each of you and know that, based on your track record, we will make it through the spring semester despite the continued uncertainty.
Most of our students have returned home for the winter break, which could be unexpectedly difficult – especially for our first-year students. Some will have new roles and expectations they will have to adjust to in addition to the stresses of a pandemic, a divisive election, and unusual holiday season. The Student Success and Student Life parts of campus have planned many contacts with the students over the break and early in the next semester, some of which may encourage the students to reach out to you. Should any students do so, or if you wish to reach out to them, I encourage you to let them know support systems are within reach. Self-care will be critical for their mental and physical health this winter, as well as their likelihood of returning to campus in January. Learn more about the support resources in place and how you can help our students stay safe during the long break.
In addition to navigating the new normal, we challenged each other to think deeply about engrained biases we carry. Through our College Conversations: Allyship and Antiracism series, we learned about structural racism from each other and worked together to promote and advocate for antiracist policies. We will continue this series in the spring semester. If you are interested in presenting your research on identifying racism, how to become an effective antiracist, or another topic related to allyship and antiracism, please submit a proposal.
As we turn our attentions to the winter holiday season and a long break, I encourage you to stay vigilant and healthy. We still have a long road ahead. Take care of yourself and those around you. Create a routine that includes self-care and give yourself permission to take a break from work and think about other things. The stakes are high and it is more important than ever to bring your best self to your work and to your life.
Theresa M. Lee
Dean, College of Arts & Sciences