Traditionally, spring is credited with bringing a sense of renewal, and those first daffodils peeking through the snow are certainly a joy. But for me, as a long-time faculty member, that feeling of rejuvenation really arrives with autumn. As the sidewalks fill with students and the sound of marching band practice floats across town, you can feel an eager, anticipatory hum start to rise on campus. This is my favorite time of year, and of all the falls I’ve spent in Ann Arbor, the excitement and the nervous energy on campus this year have been the most intense. It was a long 18 months apart, and the global pandemic is not over. At the same time, we know the importance of the work we are coming together to pursue.
The liberal arts have never been more relevant or foundational than they are right now. The challenges we face—racial injustice, economic inequality, climate change, voter suppression, digital privacy, gun violence—don’t have simple fixes. The solutions will require rigorous research and innovation that understands the natural world and the human condition: our emotions, vulnerabilities, behavior, and beliefs. The education we need in this moment must pair rigor and empathy, inspire flexible and creative thought, and ask us to fully reimagine our world as it needs to be. This is the kind of education we provide at LSA, and one we’re constantly striving to make more equitable and focused on the needs and well-being of our students so they, in turn, can focus more on why they’re here: to learn and to create positive, purposeful change.
Halfway through the semester, the power of having everyone back on campus hasn’t diminished. The pandemic has made our need to be with others as legible as it made the inequities of our society. The pandemic has called on us to see that vulnerable people are exponentially more susceptible to harm, that we need literature, art, music, history, and the study of culture to make sense of our lives, and that we can come together to improve our lives and the lives of others, whether in protest or to get vaccinated, when the urgency of the moment requires it. The urgency of this moment requires much from us, and LSA is rising to meet it. I am delighted to introduce some of the powerful, inspirational members of our community who are leading the way.