Office of the Provost
Provost’s Message: A Moment of Gratitude
Dear UConn Faculty, Staff, and Students:
As we approach the end of finals and the end of this semester, I want to share my immense gratitude for your individual and collaborative efforts these last several months.
Teaching, learning, and researching in a pandemic has come with an unprecedented scale and volume of challenges. We are working apart physically, but highly collaboratively in our approach to creating solutions. When I look back comprehensively at everything we have implemented to continue the academic mission, the sum of your efforts is astounding. I want us each to take a moment to reflect on what we’ve accomplished this semester; I’m sharing a summary here as a start toward recognizing how each member of our community has contributed to our ability to keep moving forward.
Many of you had the dual challenge of advancing your research while also teaching courses. And you weren’t just teaching; for many of you, you had to reinvent your course materials for remote or hybrid delivery, or in socially distanced conditions. You also served as advisors and mentors to your students, striving to keep them engaged and supported as they adapted to change and challenges, as well. Many of you spent significant time evaluating policy and by-law changes, as well, to allow more flexibility for students. Some of you have been directly involved in combatting COVID-19 through your research and as advisors to committees and task forces, locally and at the state level. We know for many of you, your research productivity has been challenged, too, which is an issue we are taking seriously. We have convened a group to assess COVID-19 work-life balance among academics, and are putting together a group to study gender gaps arising from the effects of the pandemic. We have asked a lot of you, and I am grateful for your efforts and your feedback through the semester.
I’ve said before that staff keep UConn running. This has never been more true than these past several months. As an entire University continued to work primarily remotely, you organized countless WebEx meetings and provided technical support on a massive scale. You advised students on their coursework and changes to policy, and continued other crucial academic support services to help students succeed and prepare for their careers after graduation. You developed FAQs and contributed to many other communications to keep constituencies informed of important changes. You kept our campuses safe and clean and heated and cooled, you housed and fed on-campus populations, you kept construction projects going, and you kept the transit wheels turning. You were flexible and responsive in extending deadlines, updating forms, and sharing feedback on potential procedural changes. You’ve administered testing for thousands of students and employees, and now you’re preparing to administer vaccines. Throughout it all, you have been invaluable partners and leaders in moving us ahead through a pandemic.
Graduate Students and Postdocs
In any semester, graduate students are managing multiple roles, often as student, educator, and researcher, and postdocs are pushing the frontiers of knowledge forward while serving as mentors and guides to graduate and undergraduate students. The pandemic made what is a challenging role in normal times even more challenging and complicated. As teachers, you’ve overcome many of the same challenges as faculty in having to adapt your course materials. As scholars, many of you have had to change the approach to your research as travel to field sites or archives has been impossible. For many of you the great uncertainty often associated with life after your degree is even greater because of the enormous changes in employment and the economy. Yet through it all, you have been involved partners throughout our planning efforts, making sure your voices and concerns are considered as the University makes decisions. I have appreciated your input and that of graduate student leaders and will continue to seek your comments on how we can support your unique challenges.
Your image of your college experience certainly looked different than what it has been over nearly the past year. I and my colleagues have been so appreciative of the level of care and responsibility you have shown to keep each other safe by following the behavioral best practices laid out in the UConn Promise. You have also been critical in helping the Office of the Provost, and our schools and colleges know what has been working in your courses and where we can improve. Undergraduate student leaders have also been essential partners in advocating for flexible policies for students who are facing unique sets of challenges. I am thankful for your care and concern.
The pace of the last several months has been intense, as each week, and often each day, has brought a new challenge to address. I know the pandemic’s impact stretches beyond your professional lives and has also influenced your personal lives, as children and relatives require additional care and support, or you’ve experienced illness or loss affecting a loved one. I hope for each of you that you can find moments between the fall and spring semesters to rest and reset. You have my deepest appreciation for everything you do.
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs