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Welcome from Student Affairs

Dear Members of the Class of 2025,

Congratulations, and welcome to Swarthmore College! You earned your place in one of the most selective classes in Swarthmore history — and that is saying something. Your admission is a reflection of your commitment to learning and all that you have achieved in school, in co-curricular activities, and in service to your communities for as far back as you can remember. You have worked hard and should take pride in all you have accomplished. I am thrilled that you are a member of the Class of 2025 and excited to welcome you to the Swarthmore community.

To be sure, we are living in a chaotic and challenging time. As difficult as that reality may be, moments of crisis also tend to highlight our core values and reveal our truest and most genuine selves. For Swarthmore, the COVID-19 pandemic has, in so many ways, underscored the College’s commitment to its students, holding paramount their academic and personal interests. It is a testament to our faculty, staff, and especially Swarthmore students that we have adapted to the unique challenges associated with teaching and learning in a pandemic and successfully navigated this unprecedented year. That said, we are looking forward to having all students back on campus and returning to an in-person educational experience in the fall.

A year ago when I wrote to welcome the incoming Class of 2024, I reflected on the ways in which the pandemic — then very much in its early stages — highlighted the importance of a Swarthmore education. I was thinking specifically about the role that reason, critical thinking, science, and wisdom would play in our collective ability to respond to the crisis. 

Now, a year later, I again find myself contemplating the value of a liberal arts education in the age of COVID-19. At this time, though, I’m not focused as much on the high-profile applications of education on addressing the pandemic — the development of vaccines and medical treatments or the public policy measures required to distribute vaccines and provide economic relief to those who have lost their jobs or are unable to work. Rather, I have been ruminating on how the skills, principles, and knowledge that are at the center of liberal learning have enabled people from all walks of life to adapt and adjust to make it through the pandemic. College professors and schoolteachers learned how to employ new technologies and tailor their pedagogical approaches to deliver classes remotely. Fitness instructors fashioned socially distanced and Zoom workouts to provide much-needed physical outlets. Restaurants shifted to predominantly or exclusively takeout service and found news ways to deliver food to their customers. Musicians figured out how to do concerts online — or in drive-in venues. In virtually every field or manner of business, some significant part, if not all, of the business model had to be reimagined, reinvented, and reimplemented.

In other words, people needed to know how to think broadly, creatively, and in a variety of ways. Shipping managers and car dealers and produce buyers suddenly needed to understand the difference between PCR and antigen testing and develop a whole slew of procedures to keep their staff members and customers safe. Everyone needed to understand where to get information about the virus, how to evaluate its relative value, and what questions needed to be asked and answered to inform the decisions that guided their businesses, families, and communities. And, more than any other time in recent history, we have needed an abundance of empathy, wisdom, and a deep understanding of our shared humanity to care for ourselves and others.

Swarthmore is very much a place where intellectual inquiry and the most relevant and critical issues facing the world regularly intersect and influence life on campus. Our community is devoted to learning and unabashed about its collective commitment to making the world a better place. And it is a place that takes seriously the notion of what it means to live in community together.

I am sure this was not the way you imagined your final year in high school would play out. But, as all-consuming and omnipresent as COVID-19 has been in our lives for the past 15 months, we do genuinely seem to be turning a corner on the pandemic, and we are en route to returning to a more recognizable way of being in the world. At the end of the summer, you will join legions of Swatties past and present in carrying on the important — and joyful — mission of the College.

Please know that we are thrilled you are coming to Swarthmore and eager to welcome you to this special community.

Congratulations again. Be well, stay safe, and I hope to see you soon.

Sincerely,

Jim Terhune
Vice President for Student Affairs