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Friday, August 6, 2021

The Return to Campus

It has been wonderful to see the bustle on campus and in offices this week as the Work From Home order expired and we were able to see each other in person again. Thank you to all of you who have facilitated this return. 

We are in new times. That day in March 2020 when we left campus to begin working from home was the last time when more or less everybody, in the general though not literal sense, was on campus together. 

The new times have important continuities from the past. We remain predominantly a residential, place-based institution. Our commitment to the work, to each other, and to our teams and colleagues means we collaboratively take each other’s interests and needs into account as we arrange our work plans. Laura, my wife, has an Aunt Jenny, and one of her Aunt Jennyisms is that your presence is important to others, that it is important to others and their experience that you are there. I’ve thought of that wisdom during this week.

When I wrote to you earlier this summer about the Future of Work, I stated that we “begin with a foundational proposition: a successful CLA work environment will need to balance the needs of our students and each other, the responsibilities of our positions, the wellbeing of our staff and faculty, and the priorities of our teams.” Built on that foundation were the guiding principles of quality of service; flexibility; opportunity and growth; and equity. This foundational proposition and these principles remain our approach, in conjunction with the University’s “Work. With Flexibility.” plan. 

In our offices, as we embrace the new possibilities for flexibility, we do so in ways that enhance both our individual opportunities and the needs and interests of the teams and colleagues with whom we work. As I noted in my message this summer, we know this is an iterative process where adjustments will be made along the way in various offices. It is an exciting time for designing creative arrangements and solutions that work for individuals and that work for our teams, offices, and colleagues. 

On the instructional side of the college’s work, we know that students choose the U in part for the in-class experience and interaction with instructors and faculty in the midst of a major metropolitan area with numerous on- and off-campus opportunities for growth. As of this week, 76 percent of all CLA undergraduate and graduate classes are scheduled to be fully in-person this fall. The University is at about 80 percent. The Provost has indicated her appreciation and support for these levels of in-person opportunity for students at the U.

Thank you to faculty and instructors for providing this place-based experience for students. If you need additional information or support for your in-person teaching, please feel free to reach out to Ascan Koerner, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, and to Anika Carlsted, Assistant Director of Facilities and Capital Planning.

We continue to monitor the guidance and messages from the state and the University around the pandemic and its impact on our collective work. Please be assured that when we hear any concerns or confusion from you regarding that guidance or University communications, we quickly bring those concerns to the attention of campus-level offices for their further consideration and clarification.

Welcome back. I am grateful for your collaboration and creative thinking as we transition back into on-campus life and into our new modes of working together.