Dear AU Community,
When I walk across campus, one of the things I enjoy is listening to the sounds of our community. For the past year, those sounds have been much quieter. It was heartening in the darkest days of the pandemic to see a few students going to Bender Library or our facilities teams maintaining our beautiful campus. I had to listen closely, but the whispers of our community were always there.
Now, as the weather warms, the mid-semester residential experience is in full effect, and more students, faculty, and staff in the DC region safely use some campus facilities, you can clearly hear the voices of our community. It is a sure sign that things are moving forward.
Listening has been at the heart of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and our preparations to return to campus. We listen to the science, which has guided our decision-making and kept our community safe. And we have worked to listen to our students, faculty, and staff as we develop the learning and working approaches that will support our in-person educational and community pursuits in the months ahead.
Our recent community forums provided important opportunities to hear from the community as we continue to build our fall plans. We conducted student and faculty sessions last week (following the staff forum earlier in March). The questions and discussions have been incredibly helpful to our work, and I want to thank you for your engagement. I hope the forums provided useful information about our current efforts and our path forward. There will be ongoing engagement within the schools and business units, and you can continue to send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the primary questions heard across the forums involved what our operations will look like in the fall as we return to in-person classes and residential experiences. As we have noted, extensive planning is underway, with consultations across the university and insights from other institutions that have successfully returned to in-person activity. As we have throughout the pandemic, when we have further insights into how things are likely to look in the fall, we share that information as quickly as possible.
Our goal is for this process to produce further details by early summer and to provide robust information well in advance of faculty and staff returning to forms of on-campus presence in July and August, and ultimately students returning to our residence halls and classrooms. The frameworks we are building will help our community prepare personally and professionally, as we safely embark on in-person classes and residential opportunities in the fall semester.
You have heard me say that communication is a critical component of our response to COVID-19. These communications are interactive—we listen, we share information, we collect feedback, and we move forward, together and more informed. As we enter the home stretch of the spring semester, we will be adjusting the frequency of when you hear from me in these Monday messages. There will be periodic communications in April, focused on any new developments and announcements. There will be an end-of-semester wrap-up and then a transition into summer communications similar to updates we utilized last year. We will provide thorough information when additional details of fall operations are announced.
Through community forums, my monthly virtual breakfasts, and many other opportunities, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with and learn from many of you via Zoom. But I am so looking forward to hearing your voices in person. The feedback you have provided proves again what we know about the AU community—you are resilient, compassionate, and forward-thinking. Thank you for sharing and listening throughout this semester.
Be safe and be well.