Meeting the Moment TogetherPart I
A hot, sunny August 22 morning marked the moment the AU community had been working toward for nearly 18 months. The first of more than 4,200 excited first- and second-year students (and their families) lined up cars packed with essentials of residence hall life along campus roads as they waited to move in for the fall semester.
The first to greet them as they rolled up in front of their residence halls were enthusiastic faculty and staff volunteers wearing teal AU t-shirts that said “Welcome Home” in an array of languages including Swahili, Chinese, Arabic, and Bosnian. They, along with professional movers and Office of Housing and Residence Life staff, helped students and their parents find and settle into their rooms over the next nine days—the first time many of them had entered those rooms since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
AU held an All-American Welcome like no other as opportunities to connect and learn about their new home took place against a backdrop of ongoing pandemic losses, simmering social upheaval, climate change, and geopolitical challenges. The university balanced fun community-building events such as Celebrate AU, Culturefest, and the Fall Involvement Fair—that connected students with more than 150 student organizations—with the more introspective, such as the interfaith Service of Remembrance and Prayer and the Writer as Witness Colloquium with Brittney Cooper, author of Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower.
In his welcome address to the Class of 2025, Professor Joe Young, 2021 Scholar-Teacher of the Year Award winner, not only expressed how excited the AU community is to help the students “grow into the people you want to be,” but also encouraged what he called “the second of the greatest generations” to start “thinking about how to serve your country, serve DC, serve your community at AU, serve the world, and serve each other.” Like the generation that fought World War II, Young said, this generation is at a critical juncture in history.
“I don't think we're going to be able to choose to be changemakers,” Young said. “Change is coming whether we want it or not. Change to our climate. Change to our social relations. Change to our community. What we all need to be is community builders.”
On August 28, first-year and transfer students engaged in a modified opening convocation ceremony in Bender Arena where—greeted by Clawed Z. Eagle—they received Class of 2025 T-shirts, signed their class banner, and walked the red carpet to resounding applause from Board Chair Marc Duber, President Sylvia Burwell, Provost Peter Starr, VP of Enrollment, Campus Life, and Inclusive Excellence Fanta Aw, and the six undergraduate school deans. Then the students engaged in a time-honored tradition—(safely) rubbing the talons of the Eagle statue for the first time. The Class of 2024, which did not have an in-person convocation last year due to COVID-19, participated in a similar sophomore welcome on August 24.