Traditionally at the end of the year, the Dean’s Office staff gathers for a holiday party. While gathering for a celebration was not possible for safety reasons this year, we still wanted to mark the close of 2020 and holiday season. After brainstorming with college leadership and staff members, we decided on two simple but meaningful year-end activities.

1) Donation to emergency funds: We identified four university funds (see the list below) that support members of our community who are dealing with crises. The Dean’s Office committed $8,000 in discretionary funds to these causes, and staff were able to choose how they would like funds to be allocated. The funds were distributed in proportion to the staff’s choices; the full distribution can be viewed below. 

  • Maize and Blue Cupboard - $3,380.75
    Provides an immediate and comprehensive response to food insecurity for the U-M community. 
  • COVID Student Emergency Fund - $1,673.64
    Supports students across all areas of the University of Michigan for both emergency funding and financial aid in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Staff Emergency Hardship Program - $2,343.10
    Provides emergency funds and resource recommendations to help staff across the university bridge the gap during times of financial crisis.
  • Rackham Graduate Student Emergency Funds - $602.51
    Helps meet the financial needs of Rackham graduate students who encounter an emergency situation during their degree program.

2) Hopefulness wordplay: Over Thanksgiving, the New York Times asked readers to share—in exactly six words—what they’re grateful for. As we headed into the new year, staff shared six words describing what they were hopeful for in 2021.

  • “Celebrations and long conversations in person.”
  • “Reasons to laugh and have hope.”
  • “Clearing 18-month backlog on hugging friends.”
  • “Time with students, colleagues, and staff!”
  • “Giving and seeing more maskless smiles.”
  • “The return of in-person first grade.”
  • “Community coming together to support everyone.”
  • “Kinder, respectful, antiracist campus built together.“
  • “Creatively rethinking what normal should be.”
  • “Seeing and holding my new grandson.”


More than 400 staff shared six-word hopes, and some common themes emerged—which you can see in this word cloud composed of all the responses.