Welcome and Welcome Back Liberal Studies Students, Faculty, and Staff
Warm greetings to all of our new and returning students, faculty, and staff! It is wonderful to be able to see you in person and share in the energy of being on campus – even as we need to be ever mindful of one another’s safety and health, follow masking and other COVID-19 protocols, and acknowledge the anxiety and trepidation that many feel with the emergence of the Delta variant.
I welcome you with great hope that this will be a year of expanding discoveries, critical and creative transformations, and purposeful engagement. I am excited to learn, grow, and thrive with you all as we tackle a complex world of challenges, break through individual and collective barriers, envision global solutions, and nurture local roots.
You might ask – from where does this hopeful outlook come? Certainly not from the news around us – documenting continued deaths from COVID-19 and its variants; the aftermath of a long and tragic war in Afghanistan; continued acts of hatred and practices of exclusion against marginalized communities across our country and in so many parts of the world; or the tragedies played out in borderlands, at frontiers and checkpoints, and in refugee camps; nor the reality of many people’s lives upturned by our damaged environment erupting in fires, floods, drought, and storms. Then, where?
This hopeful embrace of the new academic year comes from my understanding that we as a university community are especially well positioned to uncover the multiple causes of these disasters, injustices, and heartbreaks through our interrogation of histories, ideas, global linkages, and interactions. We can probe the challenges that confront us through critical reflection, interdisciplinary and intersectional inquiry, the power of our intellect, the courage and humility to examine our own roles, and in solidarity with others.
I counter my distress at the world around us by recognizing and acknowledging my enormous fortune in being part of a community here in Liberal Studies of caring, brilliant, and inspiring colleagues and bright, inquisitive, and engaged students. Liberal Studies is a unique space in which to both question and appreciate tradition, to grapple with given assumptions, to expose painful histories, and to excavate the root causes of social cleavages, economic disparities, and corrosive injustice. It offers us the tools to contextualize and confront the uncertainty and fear of an insidious pandemic, environmental instability, and deep inequalities in our societies, to recognize and condemn the injustice of racism, police violence, and patterns of exclusion directed at Black, Brown, Asian and Indigenous communities. Our studies here help us to understand the deadly and widespread impact of colonialism, including forced movement or containment of peoples and exploitative supply chains.
Liberal Studies is a place of contestation and affirmation, an incubator of change, and a place of joy in which to explore and celebrate our differences and to practice the kind of respect, openness, and accountability that the author of our common read, Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer, calls "acknowledgement of reciprocity." It is a place for us to flourish as dedicated scholars and advocates for a better world. It is a place of hope.
As we look around us we can note how much has changed in the world since March 2020, and, yet, how much hasn’t. There is much to do to address the new and continuing challenges ahead of us; let’s use our Liberal Studies tools of understanding and vision and embrace transformative change together.
In this spirit, I want to thank all of our colleagues whose contributions – seen and unseen – make Liberal Studies the kind of place that can inspire us daily. Thank you for your contributions to its vibrancy, resilience, and excellence! Thank you to our students for putting your trust in us.
I encourage everyone to take advantage of Liberal Studies co-curricular programming such as the new Global Cultures Lunch Time Lecture Series, our outstanding series Black Lives in Global Context, and our signature Global Lecture Series event. Get involved through our service and leadership programs; student government; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives; and a wide range of student clubs.
Welcome/back to Liberal Studies!