Like the natural world, universities have seasons and rhythms. There is the excitement and promise of convocation, the focused quiet of mid-terms and examinations, the joy and reflection of commencement and the quiescence of summer and inter-sessions. We are in the last period now, enjoying the period between semesters. The campus is tranquil, almost unnaturally so. Parking spaces are vacant. Study spaces go unused, and lines are short for the open dining options. My drive into the office is speedy, and walks across campus provide opportunities to reflect on its beauty. In contrast to the semester, when I visit regularly with groups of students, faculty and staff, most of my time in the inter-session is spent with external supporters, such as donors, legislators and colleagues in higher education, as well as with our senior leadership team.
Yet, as in nature, surface appearances can be deceiving. Underneath the quiet, there is much happening. Faculty and staff members are preparing for the coming semester. They are revising syllabi and making sure equipment and facilities are ready for the students’ return. Research is occurring in laboratories across campus and at sites throughout the world as faculty, students and staff take advantage of the break to advance important work. Students are engaged in a variety of pursuits. Many have taken part-time jobs or increased the hours at the jobs they hold so they can support their education. Others are enriching their education through volunteer work or travel. Most members of our community are spending a little extra time with friends and families, renewing themselves, reflecting on their experiences, and preparing for the semester ahead.
In short, and despite outward appearances, this is a critical and special time. We are laying the groundwork for the activities, efforts and successes of the coming semester. I look forward to the first day of classes on Jan. 17 and to seeing our current, quiet efforts come to fruition in the excitement and joy that will be the spring semester.