Dear A&S students, faculty and staff,
Welcome to the New Year. I hope you were able to relax and recharge over break with your loved ones. I had the opportunity to travel back to my native Germany. As you can imagine, all that time in airports and in the air provided me with the chance to reflect upon the year past and opportunities ahead.
I wish to acknowledge that the end of last semester was unsettling for many. Our community—built on trust and intellectual openness—was shaken by words and actions unwelcome here or anywhere. I remain committed, as I said at the time, to fostering an environment where civility, critical thinking and kindness prevail. It will not happen overnight, but we in A&S have the right building blocks for change.
One of those building blocks is an A&S-wide initiative to create a more genuinely inclusive college through diverse faculty hires, systemic inclusion and equity training, and the evaluation of curriculum across disciplines to ensure the vestiges of colonialism, exclusion and bias are eliminated from classes.
Another of our strengths is inherent to A&S’ DNA. As a liberal arts college, we are home to the academic disciplines which seek to define and understand human existence’s many facets. Departments such as African American studies; English; philosophy; religion; women’s and gender studies and so many more can provide perspective and paths forward in our world today.
To that end, I invite you to read “The Problem with Being Human,” if you have not yet read it in our magazine or online. This superb essay was written by faculty member and author George Saunders G’88. He notes the connection between critical thinking and compassion. The bridge between the two? The humanities: source of our humanness and humane-ness.
As we begin the new semester, let us all be guided by respect for one another and a collective love of learning. Those are the bonds that unite us in this very special A&S family. I am deeply honored to be part of it, and look forward to a year of promise in 2020.
Dean and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry
College of Arts and Sciences