Expectations of Another COVID Summer

Dear College of Arts & Letters Staff and Faculty,

As we embark upon yet another summer in the shadow of COVID-19, we invite you to pause and reflect on the past year. The work we have done has been difficult, exhausting, and extremely important. Now, as the rhythm of the academic year turns toward summer, we invite and encourage you to prioritize rest, recovery, and renewal.

Take time as best you can over the summer months to recharge and refocus, so that it will be possible to begin again in the fall, which will be here before we know it. Now is not the time to try to catch up on 12 months of work by August. Find ways to take the pressure off. Acknowledge and temper those unrealistic expectations that cause stress and anxiety. When you can pause, do something you love and not something you must. Attend to your exhaustion and set about healing. Practice mindfulness and take care of yourselves and those around you.

Over a year ago, we first spoke of the need to adjust expectations in demanding times, became proficient in remote teaching, and wrote and read of a “resilient pedagogy.” In the fall, we agreed across the College on the need to reduce service expectations to allow for more focus on equitable and accessible teaching, personal and public health, well-being and safety, and the associated care work that was at hand. Across the College in all units, each of us worked tirelessly to keep communication open and transparent regarding course modalities, the dynamic, layered spectrum of student and faculty needs, and the best ways to attend to them. We talked of practicing a Culture of Care in COVID-19 and asked ourselves to hold each other accountable during performance and promotion reviews this year and into a still uncertain future. We pledged in our units, and as a college, to acknowledge the impact of COVID-19 that shifted our ability to share knowledge, expand opportunities, and engage in mentorship and stewardship on our individual and collective paths to intellectual leadership. The challenges we’ve faced have required a constant need to be present, a continual demand for flexibility of mind, and an unceasing and ever-wanting serial Zoom experience.

And so here we are again. Classes have ended, grading is done, and some are preparing for summer session A. Warmer weather beckons and more and more of us cross the threshold into fully vaccinated status. This summer will go by all too quickly like the many before them. Do good work during these months whatever it may be and try to make it satisfying work that fills you with joy and regenerates your spirit. And ask yourself too, how might we reset when we return together in the fall? What new habits have you come to value? How might you help others make the transition back to campus? In her book Braiding Sweetgrass, plant ecologist and Potawatomi Nation citizen Robin Wall Kimmerer reminds us that “All flourishing is mutual.” Attend to the health and wellness of those around you, so that we all may flourish together.

Please be well, stay safe, and take care.

Chris Long, Dean 

Cara Cilano, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies 

Sonja Fritzsche, Associate Dean of Academic Personnel and Administration 

Bill Hart-Davidson, Associate Dean of Research & Graduate Education  

Scott Schopieray, Assistant Dean for Academic and Research Technology