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Fall Welcome from the President

I have been awed by the dedication and heroism stemming from all corners of the University.”

Dear members of the Northwestern community,

I have written many “welcome back” letters during my two decades as a college and university president, but none like this one. I so wish I could be welcoming all of our students, faculty, and staff back to our campuses this week. But while the health and safety of our community prevented such a return, I nonetheless wholeheartedly welcome all of you to the start of the 2020-2021 academic year.

The classroom experience will of course look quite different this fall, just as, since last March, so much of everything is different.

Yet the Northwestern community remains at the helm of shaping the course of events for the good of others. I have been awed by the dedication and heroism stemming from all corners of the University. Many of our experts have been at the forefront of efforts to understand and treat COVID-19, to relieve suffering, and perhaps even to forestall future crises. Some have used the best scholarship to bring attention to poverty and food insecurity; others have provided compassionate service to the most vulnerable in our neighborhoods and beyond.

In recent months, we also have seen painful and traumatic moments of racial injustice — from the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks to the horrific shooting of Jacob Blake, who grew up in Evanston. As we all grapple with the profound realities of systemic racism and anti-Black bigotry, we work to bring to fruition our dream of respect, fairness, and equity for all.

While we move cautiously through a global emergency whose duration cannot be predicted, it is crucial for us to remember who we are and what we do. This is one of the world’s most acclaimed academic communities, and as such, we are equipped to address both urgent societal needs and the broader span of the human condition.

I am so proud that the excellence of our staff, faculty, and students continues to be recognized with top rankings and with a staggering amount of sponsored research funding — including a dozen special COVID research grants from the National Science Foundation. All this, of course, is for a purpose: to allow our people to be in a position to make the biggest possible difference at moments such as these.

Whether we are together in person or spread across the globe, including our campus in Doha, it is an honor to be your president as we enter this academic year with a renewed sense of resilience, compassion, and service to one another and to the world.