Speeches & Writings

Welcome to the 2021 spring semester

Dear members of the Washington University community,

Happy New Year! And to many of our students, welcome back to campus! Today marks the first day of classes at the Brown School and the Law School, with classes beginning next week for the remainder of our community. For those of you who had a longer winter break, I hope you were able to take some time to rest and recharge. Many of us on the Danforth Campus have been working diligently to prepare for our students’ arrival, while our colleagues on the Medical Campus have continued the arduous work of combating COVID-19 in addition to myriad other health concerns. No matter your role in this community, I want to express immense gratitude for your presence, determination, and strength. I look forward to the semester ahead as we use those and other qualities of distinction to advance our mission in education, research, and patient care.

This semester will be marked by profound change. For example, our colleagues on the Medical Campus are currently receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. The state is also planning to administer the vaccine to the general population as soon as logistically possible — a milestone that will signify hope as we look to regain control over the pandemic. This semester, we will also continue to work toward change related to racial equity and inclusion as we imagine a community and world where people of color feel safe, secure, valued, included, and have equal opportunities to thrive — and in fact, yesterday marked another opportunity for us to discern our shared vision and future as we commemorated the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In the coming weeks, many of us will see changes to our schedules as we embark on new courses, busier calendars, and adjusted workloads. And on a national and global scale, tomorrow is another signifier of change as president-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated as 46th president of the United States, and Kamala Harris as the first woman, Black, and Asian-American vice president in the nation’s history.

While change can often signify progress, change can also be very difficult. In fact, we’ve witnessed these difficulties and challenges first-hand in the last year in general, and in the last month in particular. No matter what comes of the changes that will take place this semester, I challenge us to continue to be the Washington University community we are known to be — a community comprising people from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and a community capable of rising above the challenges presented by change, using moments like the ones we’ll experience this semester to gain new perspectives in order to learn, grow, and uncover knowledge and truth.

Indeed, while change is inevitable, the values guiding our decision making and the norms by which we engage in civil discourse remain the same. This semester, may we continue to lift up these values and norms as we work — both individually and collectively — to become the very best versions of ourselves and as we advance our mission to improve lives in service of the greater good. With this in mind, I am thrilled that students are returning to campus, and I am confident that this semester will engender a plethora of changes inherent to growth. 

Thank you, as always, for your resilience, flexibility, and collective strength as we continue to navigate this uncharted territory. Your steadfast determination and passion for this place, your studies, and your work fuels my confidence and pride in our WashU community. I look forward to seeing that passion drive new discoveries, new conversations, new perspectives, new ways of doing, and new ways of being. To that end, warmest and safe wishes to you as you embark on a semester filled with change. I, for one, am ready, and I hope you are too!