Dear AU Community,
In my free moments between chasing Zuzu with the kids and preparing for a great fall semester, I’ve been thinking about pickle ball. Now, you are probably wondering why I am starting my welcome back message with pickle ball. Well, during the summer, I learned to play this great sport. But the more I played, the more I realized it was not so much learning something new. It was actually returning to two things that I already know and enjoy, just in a different way. Pickle ball combines tennis and ping pong, which are both sports I had played before. I was happy to have a way of doing something that was both familiar and new. And that is what I think we are doing as we start our return to campus, combining so much of what we knew before the pandemic with new and exciting opportunities for the future.
Today marks an important step for our community. Our staff are beginning the new hybrid work environment. While many of our team members have been on campus for some time supporting our students and maintaining critical services, this week brings the return of our full workforce. I want to thank our teams again for their tremendous work throughout the pandemic and their commitment as we begin this new era of working at AU.
Our Human Resources team has done an amazing job seeking input and developing the framework for the new hybrid work environment. Now, it is up to all of us to put it into practice. This will be a transition and there will be questions and adjustments along the way. We know that everyone will continue to be agile as we adapt to this new way of working that is rooted in trying to learn positive lessons from the last 18 months, continue to navigate the impacts of COVID, and practice patience and grace with each other as we readjust to interacting in person again. We also know that the health and safety of our community is our priority, and one of the first things you can do when coming back to campus is complete the required Health and Safety Acknowledgement form and make sure you have reviewed the Health and Safety Guide.
Importantly, our hybrid working approach responds to requests from our people for greater flexibility in how they work while ensuring our mission and student engagement continue at the highest quality through robust and much needed in-person interactions and collaborations. Some of the things we instinctively knew before COVID and certainly missed during the difficult days of the pandemic were the creativity, spontaneity, and community building that come from working together in person. We certainly learned that we could do many of those things through other means and that is why I am confident our hybrid approach will work well, because we are combining the strong elements of each way of working. Our plan starts with safety and then builds on the lessons of the past year and the best of both modalities to create a new and effective way of working at AU. I am looking forward to seeing you on campus and having the chance to interact with the AU community in person again.
In addition to the workforce return, there are so many exciting things happening on campus this week. We will begin student Move-In and it will be great to see so many students in our residence halls. Thank you to all the volunteers who are helping with this important and fun tradition. If you want to be part of the action, there is still time to sign up! On Thursday, August 19, the AU women’s soccer team kicks off fall competition with a game against William & Mary…Go Eagles! I also want to say good luck to our Washington College of Law (WCL) students, faculty, and staff as their classes start on August 20 and our new WCL dean Roger Fairfax, who is beginning his first semester! Roger joins Jeehyun Davis (University Library) and Sam Fulwood (School of Communication) as new deans this year and they are all fantastic additions to our community.
When you get to campus, I hope you’ll enjoy the many examples of our Challenge Accepted narrative, from new AU Shuttles to inspiring messages on walkways. To our faculty and staff, be on the lookout for a Challenge Accepted item in your offices in the coming days, so you can showcase our story and your purpose. And as all AU changemakers know…Change Can’t Wait! We have many great opportunities with our comprehensive fundraising campaign this fall, and I look forward to working with you and our friends, supporters, and community members near and far to help us build the future of our student experience, research, and local engagement.
As the new semester opens, we will be resuming our regular bi-weekly messages to keep you updated on our activities and any COVID-related developments. Look for my next message on August 30 with the start of undergraduate and graduate classes. Time sensitive updates or changes will continue to be communicated whenever necessary. You can also check the COVID-19 Resources webpage for the latest information, including an easy-to-use Health and Safety Summary document, the recording of the August 11 community webinar, our updated protocol for personal protective equipment (PPE), and FAQs. Additionally, Acting Provost Starr sent important guidance to the faculty regarding our academic preparations and procedures to support our classroom learning environments and we just unveiled additional event guidance to help plan and implement safe and productive gatherings. Staying up to date on our health and safety measures and following the protocols is a critical element of our community of care, where we all have a responsibility for supporting ourselves, each other, and the safety of our entire community.
I hope you are excited about the fall semester and the opportunities to be together again on our beautiful campus. While we must remain vigilant in our health and safety measures, I know this will be a memorable, fun, and engaging fall…and maybe we will find time for a game of pickle ball!
Be safe and be well.