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Welcome to a New Academic Year

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff Members, 

As I walk across campus and see it once again energized by your presence, I am filled with joy, enthusiasm, and gratitude. Even with the many challenges we face, seeing the campus come alive is inspiring. I sincerely thank all of you who worked so hard to make our students’ return to campus a smooth and successful process, especially those of you in Student Affairs, Facilities, and EVS (for our new community members, that’s our shorthand for Environmental Services). 

Adding to the excitement are all the new faces on campus this year. I was thrilled to meet so many of our incoming first-year and transfer students during move-in and orientation. Hailing from across the country and the globe, they bring varied perspectives and interests and a deep intellectual curiosity. I look forward to seeing the ways they will contribute to the life of the College.

I am also happy to welcome our new faculty and instructional staff colleagues, including seven new tenure-track faculty members and two individuals who received distinguished one-year faculty appointments: James Fenelon, founder and director of the Center for Indigenous Peoples Studies at California State University, San Bernardino, is this year’s Eugene M. Lang Visiting Professor for Issues of Social Change, and renowned author Andrea Lee is a Distinguished Visiting Instructor of Creative Writing. I invite you to take a moment to read about the backgrounds and academic interests of this impressive group of scholars and teachers who will enrich our community of creative and passionate learners.

A number of new staff members have joined the College as well, and I hope you’ll find time to welcome them as we move through the course of the semester. In particular, I want to introduce several new members of the senior staff who have joined the College since the end of last semester: Vice President for Advancement Liz Wood; Director and Chair of the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation Brad Koch; Chief of Staff and Secretary of the College Erin Brownlee Dell; and incoming Vice President for Human Resources Beth Glassman, who starts on Sept. 20. 

In the days and weeks ahead, I will update you on a number of College-wide initiatives, such as the beginning of our strategic planning efforts, which will help us identify and advance major College priorities for the next five to 10 years; the land-acknowledgement process that I announced last spring; and opportunities to think differently about how we advance areas of critical importance such as diversity, equity and inclusion, and sustainability. We will also continue to communicate with you about our ongoing efforts to help keep the community healthy and safe amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

For now, I simply want to welcome you all to the start of a new academic year. With that comes opportunities — to reconnect with longtime friends and to make new ones; to explore and reacquaint yourselves with the serene beauty of our physical campus (parts of which will look quite different [pdf] to returning students); and to think anew about our place here and how we work collectively to contribute to a more equitable, inclusive, and just society.

As we make our way through the academic year, I encourage each of you to embrace this time together. Participate actively in the life of the College. Seek out new ideas and perspectives and experiences — including those that challenge your own way of seeing things. We will enjoy good times and face some moments that are more difficult than others, but even during our most challenging times, we are buoyed by our shared sense of community and belief in the transformative power of a liberal arts education. Let us do our best to treat each other, and ourselves, with grace, compassion, and empathy.

Students, I know acclimating to college is difficult enough during “normal” times. And these are not normal times. Please remember that we are here to support you. Information about Swarthmore’s latest COVID-19-related policies and procedures is always available on the College’s COVID-19 information site. And the staff members at the Worth Health Center and Counseling and Psychological Services are there for you to support your health and well-being. Please do not hesitate to use these resources should the need arise.

Faculty and staff colleagues, we also provide a number of resources to support your emotional and physical health. Please review our employee assistance programs and mental health resources, and if you have questions, reach out to the Human Resources Office for more information.

I want to close by inviting you to take a few minutes to watch this short welcome video, which I hope inspires a sense of community, excitement, and optimism as we venture into the new year together. I look forward to seeing you all in person soon.

My best, 

Val Smith