November 23, 2020
Dear Staff, Faculty and Students,
We did it! When we started the fall semester, we had a goal of conducting in-person instruction through November 20 and today marks the transition to remote instruction for the balance of the fall semester. And what a semester it has been.
Every member of our community has contributed to our ability to remain open through 12 weeks, thus providing our students with the advantages, academic and beyond, that are derived from a residential university education. Thank you, faculty, for your incredible dedication to our students. Thank you, students, for following our health and safety protocols, including submitting over 250,000 test swabs, which allowed us to track, address and limit the spread of the virus. Thank you to our staff for everything you have done to ensure the safety of our campuses and to facilitate and safeguard our ability to pursue our academic mission. The strengths of an institution are seen most clearly during a crisis, and I have been moved many times over the past few months by the caliber of people who are part of this institution. If you would like to see a video recognizing what we have accomplished together, click here.
While much of my attention, and the attention of other leaders at UNH, has been devoted to COVID-19 issues this fall, we have also refocused on our strategic priorities:
- Enhance Student Success and Well-Being
- Expand Academic Excellence
- Embrace New Hampshire
- Build Financial Strength
We have made progress in all of these areas despite our challenges, and I will look for opportunities to tell you more about this in the coming months. We will be revamping the website that summarizes these efforts, and I will also discuss them in my 2021 State of the University address, which will take place in early February via Zoom.
One specific area we have been working on falls under student success and well-being, and deals with the university’s response to reports of bias or racism. Students have told us that they have found our response to be lacking, and we are working hard to address this. More specifically, we are introducing a new system for reporting such incidents, and creating a position that will oversee our response, especially making sure that students know that they have been heard, that we are concerned about their welfare and that we are conducting a thorough investigation. We will have more details about this effort soon.
I want to let you know about the Social Venture Innovation Challenge. This competition invites students from across New Hampshire to identify pressing social, environmental or economic issues and develop innovative, sustainable, business-oriented ideas to solve them. This year the audience can vote on finalists, and I invite you to participate. For more information, please visit here . Please join me on December 1, where the winners will be announced and I will interview UNH alumna Anne Finucane ’74, vice chairman of Bank of America and chairman of the board for Bank of America Europe. Anne will be presented with the 2020 Social Innovator of the Year Award. You can register for that event here.
Finally, UNH has once again received top ranks for sustainability. The latest distinction comes from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) whose 2020 Sustainable Campus Index places UNH among the top 10 in three impact areas, and #6 overall among doctoral institutions.
My sincere best wishes for a safe and restful Thanksgiving holiday. Be safe and don’t let your guard down. I know that I will be giving thanks for all of you.
James W. Dean Jr.
P.S. If you are interested in what I have been reading, click here.