December 16, 2020
Dear UT Community,
This week, as UT administers the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Austin to front-line health care workers, we know that we feel a new sense of optimism even while a “return to normal” seems far off. The difficulties presented by the disease are not fully behind us, and there is much work remaining before we turn the corner on COVID-19. While we are all investing a great deal of effort to succeed in the near term, we have an opportunity to begin to ask some fundamental questions about what returning to campus might look like when it is safe to do so.
As we envision the future, we should be thinking about what positives we can take from this dreadful disease and the changes it has imposed upon us. For example, how can we improve teaching and learning modalities and outcomes? How should we utilize physical spaces on campus? What should our policies be regarding remote work? How do we build a stronger and more inclusive culture, particularly when we might be working together differently?
In the coming spring semester, we will convene a new task force to help us begin these strategic conversations with the campus community. This group will look at the likely transition period that will begin with the fall 2021 semester, at the “near normal” that follows, and at the new steady-state that may unfold in 2022 and beyond. The group will take in ideas from the informal committees who have already been thinking about these issues, and we will also need your ideas, perspectives and expertise. This group will work to engage our campus stakeholders, help us understand our challenges and strengths, and leverage opportunities to evolve and grow.
Without a doubt, there are many aspects that make UT a leading public flagship research university. Some elements probably need to happen as they did prior to 2020. But, there are many areas where we can apply our lessons learned to innovate and advance our teaching and research missions more efficiently and effectively, and with greater satisfaction for our students, faculty and staff.
In so many ways, 2020 changed our lives and how we work together. It has been challenging, disruptive and frustrating. To each of you—whether on campus or remote—professors, teaching assistants and instructors; counselors, custodians and academic advisors; communicators, administrators and all other staff—thank you. You deserve enormous credit for what we have been able to achieve this year in the face of great adversity. Together, you have kept the heart of this university beating. As you head into a well-earned winter break, please know that we are grateful for your commitment to this university and to one another.
Warm wishes and Happy Holidays,
Interim Executive Vice President and Provost
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer