Dear AU Community,
I was recently asked to reflect on how my hometown of Hinton, West Virginia, helped shape my life and work. The Honor Your Hometown project, which was featured on the Today Show, brings together community leaders to highlight the places that shape who we are as individuals and as a country. As I thought about the connections and values that Hinton gave me, the parallels at AU were immediately apparent. They are both places where community is at the heart of what we do and places where we believe that we are made stronger through the bonds and support we share.
As we’ve been together on campus this semester, we have had many great opportunities for connections both big and small. Whether that is the chance meeting on the quad; faculty and students collaborating on research; the conversation after class; the support from our community for the Change Can’t Wait campaign; the speedy new wireless internet currently rolling out across campus, or the incredible crowds cheering on our AU Eagles, we are connected again in the ways that matter so deeply to all of us.
Those connections shine through in our work, our accomplishments, and our care for each other. As we mark the halfway point of the semester, I wanted to share a few recent highlights of our community’s extraordinary impact that is driven by collaboration and connections and provide some updates about our ongoing commitment to health and safety as we prepare for the holidays and beyond.
- Our scholars are making immediate and lasting impacts on the questions that shape our society. From the $15 million National Science Foundation grant to study food waste, to the National Association of Black Journalists naming SOC professor Sherri Williams as the 2021 Journalism Educator of the Year, to the new SOE partnership with Urtban Teachers to train the next generation of great K-12 teachers in our cities, to our new 60 Seconds with an AU Expert video series highlighting the scholarship we seek to support and inspire through the Change Can’t Wait campaign, AU faculty are delivering knowledge and action that connects communities and creates change.
- Our students and alumni are building on the unique experiences at the heart of an AU education to bring real change to communities near and far. The Washington Business Journal’s “25 Under 25 of 2021” list recently recognized three outstanding Eagles—Sophia Andrews, an undergraduate student in the Global Scholars Program who started a nonprofit that focuses on arts education, orphan care and girls’ empowerment in Kenya; Elli Wachtman, a graduate student in international development who founded Sikhona Rescue Centre, a grassroots social enterprise that aims to provide a physically and psychologically safe space for survivors of emotional, sexual or physical violence; and Yamillet “Yami” Payano, an alumna who created Sign-Speak, a software service that uses machine learning to translate American Sign Language to English. This diverse group of changemakers exemplifies how our students and alumni serve our communities and step up to challenges
- Finally, our university continues to lead by bringing together the experts and perspectives that are critical to solving the complex challenges of a changing world. September marked the third anniversary of the Sine Institute for Policy and Politics. With more than 120 events, 188 guest speakers, 17 fellows, and 72 student associates, the Sine Institute is advancing our civic discourse and pursuing solutions in a bipartisan way. Sine fellows have included: Suzanne Clark, Ann Curry, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, Gary Locke, H.R. McMaster, Wes Moore, Alphonso Jackson, Cody Keenan, Katherine Miller, Susan Molinari, Janet Rodriguez, John Tass-Parker, Abdul El-Sayed, Bill Haslam, William Kristol, Ruth Marcus, and Karen Zacarias. Look for the 2022 fellows to be announced later this semester.
These and the many other accomplishments so far this semester are supported by our community’s dedication to health and safety. By following our COVID-19 health and safety protocols, we continue to meet the pandemic’s challenges and protect ourselves and those around us. We have seen the results of our community of care in the low COVID-19 case counts to date and our ability to open more opportunities on campus, from in-person exhibitions at AU Museum to performances from the Department of Performing Arts to upcoming athletics events. Now we need to keep our focus for the rest of the semester and into the spring.
As we look ahead to the holidays and beyond, I want to provide some reminders that can help keep you and our community safe. Our community will be returning to campus after Thanksgiving to finish classes and conduct exams, and we are looking forward to our in-person spring semester, so continuing our good health practices remains critical.
- Vaccines work. You can get your COVID-19 booster shot if you received the Pfizer vaccine and meet the eligibility criteria, including at Walgreens on New Mexico Avenue. Last week, the FDA approved booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and the CDC provided additional guidance on eligibility. If you are eligible for one of these boosters, you should contact your primary care provider for information about availability. We will be providing additional updates about availability of Moderna or J&J boosters for the AU community through Walgreens when they are available. Also, I strongly encourage you to get your flu shot.
- Get tested. COVID-19 testing is available on campus and at WCL for all faculty, students, and staff. A third testing site will open at the 4401 Connecticut Avenue building later this week. If you have any concerns or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, please get tested. We encourage everyone who is traveling during the holiday season to get a PCR test before leaving for Thanksgiving break and upon returning to campus.
- Contact tracing helps the entire community. We regularly update our contact tracing protocols based on the latest science and data. If you receive a call or email from our contact tracing team, please follow all the instructions.
I hope the second half of the semester is productive and fulfilling for you. I know we all get busy and focused on the many priorities and opportunities, but it is always important to take moments for gratitude, appreciation, and community. Thank you again for your dedication to our community and connection to each other; they sustain us and help us all move forward.
Be safe and be well.