Reflections on the Start of a New Academic Year
A message from Dr. Renée White, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Dear New School Community,
The fall semester has officially begun, and it is so exciting to be on campus as we welcome back our faculty, staff, and returning students, as well as our new and transfer students who are joining us for the first time. I have been enjoying seeing you fully embrace your return and how you greet one another in so many different spaces. You have made me feel very welcome in these first few weeks since my arrival at The New School as Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.
The start of the fall 2021 semester is defined by our anticipation at the prospect of a return to campus, and yet is tempered by so many remaining unknowns. I am sure we have grown tired of having this moment characterized as historic, unprecedented, requiring a pivot, unpredictable, challenging, and so much more. While those descriptors are accurate, to be sure, what should we all embrace and invoke in the next few months? As I have reflected on the lessons I am learning, and the ways I want to enter into our working relationships with one another, I keep returning to these notions, which are ways I center myself.
Patience and Grace: We always endeavor to do our best. But we are human and imperfect. That will challenge us to exercise understanding as new systems and practices are put in place, as people are trying new modes of thinking and working, and as we learn from our missteps.
Interdependence and collectivism: We are all part of a complex organism with many tendrils connecting us to one another in ways both visible and invisible. As such it seems wise to remember how decisions and actions may have an impact on our friends and colleagues in ways unknown to us. Are opportunities we seek likely to cause challenges for others? Can we make decisions that advance us as a collective?
Creative Engagement (AKA Yes… and): As we make mistakes and learn, we also are inviting ourselves to think in new and challenging ways. When you have been operating in a moment of unease, questioning, and unpredictability, it makes sense to approach the new with yes… but. What if, instead, we acted from the vantage point of yes… and? What would that open up for us and invite us to consider?
Celebration, Rejuvenation, and Recognition: Let’s make sure we take time to embrace beauty and joy and celebrate one another. To see and be seen is a powerful commitment we can make.
I look forward to the many opportunities I will have to connect with and learn from you all this semester. At the same time, I am well aware that you are looking to me, and to other leaders, to see how we address global issues and crises. As we watch things unfold around the world, it does behoove us to think about the ways in which The New School can and should respond — whether as a university or via particular offices, programs, centers, or institutes. We need to consider how we harness the power of our collective knowledge and talents in the service of our commitment to a just, fair, healthy, safe, and equitable world.
Creating an open dialogue and hearing about your experiences will be valuable as I begin engaging with our community. There will be opportunities to meet as I join various gatherings across the university and host open office hours once a month for students, faculty, and staff. Communicating with transparency and celebrating the accomplishments of our community will be critical to our collective success this year. I will continue to share what I am learning as we launch a community newsletter from the Provost’s Office this fall, and I also invite you to hear from me in conversation with our incredible faculty, staff, and students at a virtual event in September. Please look out for more details on these initiatives and events in the coming weeks.
I welcome your thoughts and feedback as we look ahead and hope my musings are generative and thought-provoking. And I wish you all the very best for a healthy, safe, and rewarding academic year ahead.