Welcome to a new beginning

Welcome to the new school year! I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that I’m looking forward to a “new normal” school year. It’s exciting to see students on campus again — studying, hanging out with friends and just living their lives.

While most of us are excited to live in this “new normal” world, I think it’s important for us to reflect, recognize, and acknowledge how resilient we have been during the pandemic. Living with the pandemic has been challenging, but it has also taught us some important lessons about how we can adapt and thrive. My belief is that if we keep an open mind about what it means to be adaptive, it increases our ability to think about and do things differently — an increasingly valuable life skill.

This is part of what a new school year is all about — new beginnings. As we begin this new school year, we have a responsibility to ourselves and to each other to focus on things you can do for yourself and for others to help the ASU community build back better. 

  • Show up! Go to classes, labs, studies and to the events created for you around campus. When you’re there – engage in those activities. Be present and participate. It will be good for you and good for those around you.

  • Share your ideas and experiences. While everyone has done their best to connect via zoom, social media, and limited in-person events, it hasn’t been the same as pre-COVID gatherings. Take time to revisit what it means to be socially engaged and to communicate. 

  • Listen to others. It’s easy to become so wrapped up in your own thoughts and ideas that it can be difficult to step back and give someone else the time to talk.

  • Care about yourself and others. We are stronger and better as a community when everyone is healthy, so take advantage of the health and wellbeing resources ASU Health Services provides and do your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 at ASU and our surrounding community by actively taking part in the ASU Community of Care

The ripple effect

These ideas are intended to help you prepare for a successful year. If you’re up to it, let’s go a little deeper. I would like to challenge you to really think about what's important to you and what action you can take to make an impact, however big or small.

Something that’s very important to me is to take action toward dismantling structural racism. This is a topic that was featured at the 2021 summer conference by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). The conversations focused on developing awareness and understanding the difference between being racist and structural racism; identifying practices for promoting belonging, diversity, equity and inclusion; and appreciating and acknowledging the lived experiences of students who were there to share. I am working with my team at the Graduate College to build on our efforts to re-evaluate policies and practices with the Student Advisory Group and to support President Crow’s LIFT Initiative to advance diversity, growth and opportunity for Black undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff. 

I don’t expect these actions to dismantle structural racism, but I do hope they will have a ripple effect at ASU. Even small actions, like dropping a pebble into the water, can create expanding ripples in a system.

What is it that means something to you — environmentally, politically, socially, personally? What small act can you do to change the outcome? I challenge you to take an action on behalf of something larger than yourself. I know that sounds daunting — especially when you are already working so hard to earn your degree; however, it doesn’t have to be. Here are some ideas for small actions you can take to help motivate you:

  • Commit to reading an article or a book on the subject

  • Reach out to an expert in the area and introduce yourself

  • Attend an event or lecture on the topic

  • Talk to a friend about your interest

  • Write about it – in an op-ed, a blog, or even just in a personal journal

Every small thing we do can have a ripple effect. What will yours be?