Dear Faculty and Staff,
What a remarkable academic year we have all been through! As we breathe a sigh of relief and take a moment to reflect on one of the most challenging periods in our 158-year history, we should be proud of what we have accomplished together over the past year. I am in awe of you, our dedicated faculty and staff, for all that you have done to keep this university thriving.
By pulling together and adapting to everything that the COVID-19 pandemic threw at us, we proved what it means to be truly revolutionary. The initial shift to teaching and working remotely, followed by our incremental resumption of in-person classes and a gradual repopulation of the campus this year, was a massive undertaking made possible by your professionalism and dedication.
I am especially grateful to those of you whose duties required your physical presence on campus throughout the pandemic. You worked tirelessly with your remote colleagues to serve our students, support our research, maintain our campus and advance the mission of the flagship. And to the members of the Public Health Promotion Center, who established one of the largest COVID-19 testing operations in the Commonwealth and served the community by administering the vaccine that will help end this pandemic, we are forever indebted to you for keeping our community safe.
We learned a lot over the past 14 months about what it means to be part of the UMass community. Our dispersal from the campus could not break the ties that bind us together. If anything, it made us appreciate what we’ve built here even more. While we are now more familiar with working, teaching and learning from home, we are also more acutely aware of the importance of the immersive campus experience that defines UMass Amherst.
Students who choose to attend UMass Amherst do so not only for the quality of the faculty and the academic programs, but also for the opportunities for personal development and enrichment that can be undertaken with a diverse group of peers freely interacting in both planned and unplanned ways. The thousands of students who made their way back to Amherst and the surrounding area to pursue their studies this year demonstrated the allure of this dynamic living-learning environment, where “happy collisions” made possible by being present in a shared space yield creativity, innovation, comradery and collaboration. Those experiences are mirrored in our professional interactions as custodians of this flagship campus.
So, while we explore the myriad ways that the pandemic has caused us to rethink how we work, learn and live, we must never lose sight of our founding mission of teaching, research and service, and how, despite the centrifugal force of the pandemic, delivering on that mission is what will draw us back together. Our efforts to expand access to a UMass education by building more flexibility into the student academic experience via our exploration of Flexible Learning paradigms and hybrid or remote work options may eventually create opportunities for some campus functions to be performed differently than in pre-pandemic times. As a part of our exploration of new models of operation, we might try a few voluntary pilot projects during the next academic year, but for now, we look forward to a return to the normal that we’ve longed for since the very first days of the pandemic.
I thank you again for your hard work and perseverance over the past year, and with great excitement, I look forward to coming back together on campus as we resume the important work we do.
I wish you all a healthy and happy summer.
Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy