Finding strength in a time of turbulence

Until now, the cyclical nature of academia gave structure to our lives. There was a predictable rhythm to buying back-to-school supplies for our children and sending them off in the morning on a yellow school bus. We attended classes, and some of us became teachers or professors ourselves. At DU, the staff who support the complex inner workings of our offices and our grounds, or who host our athletics contests and performing arts events—they too could know, within reason, what to expect. 

But everything is different now. For us at DU and for you, locally and across the globe. As we distance ourselves to slow the spread of the coronavirus, our campus is largely deserted, as are the streets of Denver and most other cities of the world. None of us can know what the future holds, but we do know this: Our university’s work is necessary. So we must be creative and tenacious as we teach and learn. The knowledge we create will connect us to one another and to our communities. As we honor our commitment to the public good, we will continue to support diversity, equity and inclusion. Because when crisis strikes, marginalized populations are typically hit the hardest. And finally, we must keep our students safe.

Since mid-March, our faculty, students and staff have shown tremendous strength of character as University decisions have impacted them profoundly: first to take winter finals online, then to pivot entirely to online classes for spring quarter, and then to refund room and board and certain fees, and to tighten our budgets for this fiscal year and next. No decision is easy, yet every single one is made in service of the 150-year tradition of this indefatigable University that will outlast us all. 

I’m inspired by what I’ve seen here, and I hope you will be too. Despite physical distancing, our faculty and students have built interactive “classrooms” across the disciplines, from biology and physics to art and music. Our community members, including our alumni, have maintained social bonds through webinars, online coffee hours, exercise sessions and open-mic nights. Our values are expressed every day.

Long before this crisis, DU was able to equip graduates with character traits—resilience, bravery, curiosity, kindness—that they could draw upon as they built lives of purpose and fulfilling careers. Just imagine how much stronger this experience will make them. How strong it will make us all.  

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