Speeches & Commentary

Welcome to the New Academic Year

Dear WashU Community,

Welcome to a new academic year! I hope that your summers were full of adventure and renewal, with plenty of time to connect with loved ones and some quiet moments to savor, as well. Most summers I am lucky to spend some time with my family in Michigan taking it slow. Sometimes the unhurried pace leads to some of my best ideas. Other times it reminds me to appreciate the little things. But always, it re-energizes me and prepares me for the year ahead. I hope you, too, are eager to get back to the discovery and camaraderie that make us WashU.

Last fall, we cast a vision for the future with the launch of Here and Next, our strategic plan. More than just a documentation of our goals and objectives as an institution, Here and Next is a declaration of our bold optimism for a future of increased health and justice, for growth, excellence, and transformational local and global partnerships.

At the heart of Here and Next are the values of diversity and collaboration. Our aspirations are predicated not on individual talent, siloed scholarship, or personal accomplishments; rather, our success depends on our commitment to forging deep, meaningful connections.

Whether you are a student, a staff member, or a member of the faculty, when you came to WashU, you joined a community working together in support of a mission. Maybe you didn’t experience that ethos at your previous school or workplace. Or maybe you were working so hard to get here that you didn’t give it much thought. As we embark on this new academic year together, let’s commit or recommit to doing great work together.

That will mean different things to each of us, of course, and different things for us in each of our roles. But community-wide, it starts with looking for and honoring the value that each person brings. You may have developed excellent academic or work habits, but if this isn’t one of them, you are likely limiting your own success – and you are missing out on an opportunity to be part of this exciting moment in WashU’s legacy.

Here in North Brookings Hall, my team has identified some guiding principles that support our goals. One of those is “teamwork,” and we’ve articulated it as such: It takes a diversity of strengths, experience, and personalities to accomplish the broad and varied work of the Chancellor’s Office. Zooming out, this ethos can be applied to our broader university mission. Our work toward increased distinction and impact through Here and Next is incredibly bold in scope, and will require us to support and celebrate everyone’s strengths, experiences, passions, and personalities.

As you live, work, and study alongside one another this year, I encourage you to remember that each one of you was hand-chosen for what you bring to the whole, and we celebrate your unique path and contributions. Each and every one of us has something to teach – and plenty to learn – on our path to success, and we are so very fortunate to do it here, together, at WashU.

With optimism and gratitude,