Fellow Bears:

Each season in the academic calendar is marked with distinct traditions—the habits and events that define the unique character and culture of a campus. Fall is a time for building community. New students, faculty, and staff are welcomed into our Community of Bears as the new academic year begins. Others return from a summer spent away from campus. As we all come together, we forge new friendships and renew the bonds that make existing ones special. And, we all start anew another semester’s journey of learning, growth, expression, and discovery in keeping with our academic mission.

This fall is going to be very different than any other we have encountered. We cannot host many of the events that are distinct to the fall, so we have to work a little harder to achieve the sense of community we all value so much. We should take every precaution to stay safe and healthy, but let us not forget to celebrate one another, to care for and support one another, and to cultivate the friendships and shared work that give meaning to our coming together in community.

As we reconvene, personal responsibility is going to be more important than ever before. Each of our actions—when we are on campus or off campus—have the potential to affect not just our own health, but that of our entire community. In everything you do, I implore you to keep the health and safety of our community—your friends and classmates, our faculty and staff, the neighbors in Greeley, and our families—front of mind.

While we maintain a focus on resuming our academic work, monitoring and managing the effects of the pandemic, and preserving the health and safety of each member of our community, in this time we must also resolve to turn our sights back to our University’s future. Strategic planning exercises suspended in the spring due to COVID-19 will resume in the coming weeks. The events of the last few months—the pandemic and its effects on our budget, the need to rapidly shift how we delivered on our mission in the spring and fall, and the social justice movements of the summer to name a few—feel like they should hasten, rather than forestall this important work. Even in these unusual, uncertain, and challenging times, I am optimistic about UNC’s future and am eager to get back to planning for it. I appreciate your shared optimism, as well.

I have spent much of the last week welcoming students and their loved ones during move in, visiting students and staff in our dining halls, discussing our planning and preparations for fall with faculty and staff in the colleges, and getting ready for the first day of classes next week. It is good to see so many of you again here in Greeley. Whether you are with us on campus or find yourself studying, teaching, or working remotely this semester, I am excited to be launching another academic year with you.

This semester is going to have its challenges, but we’ve got this, Bears! Welcome back!

Rowing, Not Drifting,

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Andy Feinstein