Welcome to the 2021-22 Academic Year
I cannot overstate what a pleasure it is to welcome everyone to the 2021-22 academic year. It is fantastic to have all of you here! After eighteen months of disruption, our 411 incoming first-year students and five transfer students began classes this week on our beautiful campus, fully in person with our peerless faculty and outstanding staff. The Class of 2025 breaks the record for class size, and I look forward to this class’s many indelible marks on Haverford.
I have been buoyed by students’ joy as they settle into campus. Students have shared their excitement about inspiring professors, course schedules, being back in the Dining Center, bumping into people during the hectic time of walking between classes, and, as one student exclaimed, “just everything!”
This is a time of connecting and reconnecting. I offer a special re-welcome to sophomores, and to colleagues who only recently stepped foot on campus. Even our returning juniors are experiencing Haverford “anew,” having enjoyed only slightly more than half a typical year before the pandemic interrupted their second semester at Haverford.
And here we are, today, in an environment still affected by COVID-19 yet able to be together in physical community to learn, create, and grow. I am moved by our capacities to meet challenges together, across differing perspectives and change. Thank you for getting vaccinated, masking up indoors, and considering how your behavior impacts people within and beyond our campus. Our adaptability, determination, and concern for others continue as hallmarks of our way forward.
Much has happened since Commencement in May, and much is underway as we begin a new academic year. If you have not yet visited the new music building, behind and adjacent to Roberts Hall, I encourage you to check it out. Whether as an academic subject, personal immersion, or performing arts experience, music is a vibrant part of Haverford campus life, and our new facilities do justice to the richness that music brings to Haverford.
The opening of this spectacular space is significant for another reason: its completion fulfills the promise of our recent Lives That Speak fundraising campaign. The most successful in College history, the campaign has made it possible to enhance our liberal arts foundation through facilities like VCAM, Lutnick Library, and the Kim and Tritton student residence halls; academic enhancements such as new and expanded areas of study as well as co-curricular centers; and unprecedented support for financial aid. All of these will continue to exert transformational impacts on the Haverford experience. I am so grateful to the faculty, staff, and students who helped develop the visions and plans for all of these projects, and the alumni and friends whose generosity made it a reality.
This moment of completion overlaps with ongoing, campus-wide strategic planning, which will embody many of our aspirations and animate our next capital campaign. Begun in 2019-20, strategic planning has included dozens of open community events and the submission of hundreds of ideas toward building upon our many strengths and building new capacities. Last year, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee distilled this community input into an organizing framework with three focal areas—structural change toward equity and inclusivity, reciprocal community connections, and sustainability and action in planetary crisis. A task force of students, faculty, and staff for each of these focal areas has been charged with engaging our community to develop specific priorities and initiatives we will undertake over the next five or more years. I look forward to working with each of you as we co-create the path forward for Haverford.
Of course important progress continues in advance of our next strategic plan. Haverford now has a Latinx Center at the heart of campus, just a few doors down from my home at One College Circle. A meeting place, learning space, and student residence, this long-awaited home for Haverford students emerged from several years of work and collaboration by the Alliance for Latin American Students (ALAS), Deans' Office and Facilities colleagues, faculty, and Senior Staff members. Our students’ agency in bringing the LatinX Center to life is one of many recent and ongoing antiracism and diversity, equity, and inclusion actions. That important and continuous work can be followed at a new, dynamic website where the College has inventoried—and will track—our commitments and progress. I look forward to collaborating with you and our new interim chief diversity officer (CDO), Norm Jones, in these investments.
All of that represents just a small portion of what's been happening at Haverford. Did you know that we have a new director of our Chesick Scholars program, or that Associate Professor of Computer Science Sorelle Friedler is on leave this year after getting tapped by the White House for an assignment in Washington? Did you see this summer's Innovation Incubator project presentations? How about that new major in neuroscience? I encourage you to check out all the exciting news about people and events that's chronicled in the HEADLINES area of our website, and on our social media channels (which are linked from the footer on virtually every Haverford web page).
It is tempting to say that this upcoming academic year will be different from what we've experienced over the past two. No doubt that will be true in many ways. And I think it is also true that every year at Haverford has differed from all that have gone before. Nobody has envisioned and realized—or will—a Haverford experience exactly like ours. Yes, there are central c(h)ords of continuity that run all the way back to our founding in 1833, for any Ford who has heard President Isaac Sharpless' oft-quoted commencement address excerpt from 1888 will recognize the enduring values and aspirations of the Haverford of today. At the same time, because the people of Haverford make the College what it is, you—the students, faculty, and staff here today—will make your experience, and your mark. Nobody will live, and no one’s life will speak this story the way you will. I'm delighted to experience it with you, and eagerly look forward to what we will learn and accomplish together.