The following email was sent to students, faculty, and staff on September 7, 2023. It is published here for your convenience.
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Welcome to week two of the academic year!
I was walking on campus just before the start of classes when I encountered a student and his parents trying to get inside an academic building which requires keycard access. As we talked, I learned that this new student’s parents were walking him to each classroom where he would have a class this semester. Whether he was nervous about navigating a large campus or the family just wanted to be able to envision where their son spent his days learning, I thought this moment was moving. (In the event the student I encountered is reading this: I hope you don’t mind my using your family’s tour as an icon of everything beautiful about campus life.)
Every day, we rely on people in our local orbits to help us find new paths and see familiar territory with renewed wonder. Just as I was able to show this student into the building, he, like so many students each year, made me see the university with fresh eyes for a few moments. We all look to our friends, classmates, colleagues, and strangers to guide us and provide examples: of grace under pressure, of academic success, of how to balance the messy demands of life in such a dynamic age.
If the university is a city, it is the unique character of our neighborhoods that defines us: local communities like departments, centers, student organizations, study groups, office teams, working groups, and ensembles. I encourage you to look at the comprehensive list of events on campus for a chance to experience a new community, meetup, or performance. Students are sure to find a group that matches their interests among the 1600 student organizations on campus. The spectrum of events on the university’s website devoted to diversity, equity, and inclusion includes a host of multicultural options for people of all backgrounds. And I always recommend balancing your studies, research, and social life with visits to UMMA, the Bentley Historical Library, the Detroit Observatory, and walks through Nichols Arboretum and Matthaei Botanical Gardens.
This is an exciting time, but we all know that life can throw significant challenges your way at any time of year. We are all reminded of this as we recover from the impact of a campus wide disruption to our internet and digital U-M services. I echo President Ono’s gratitude for the many interconnected teams who worked around the clock to restore services this week. I am also grateful to all of you for the patience, grace, and understanding you have shown each other in adapting to the disruption.
Whatever challenges you face, remember that support and counseling are available for students through the Student Life well-being site. Support for faculty and staff is available through the Faculty and Staff Counseling and Consultation Office and for medical center faculty and staff at Michigan Medicine Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience.
This semester, I hope you can enrich yourself by enriching those around you – sharing what you know generously and humbly, and learning from others with equal vigor. We are each a collection of the paths we walk and the travelers beside us. As we begin another academic year, I am reminded of the many opportunities afforded us to expand that collection.
Let us remember that among the diverse set of strangers who surround us, there is infinite potential to make new connections, create new knowledge, and increase the quotient of kindness in the world.
Laurie K. McCauley, DDS, MS, PhD
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
William K. and Mary Anne Najjar Professor