It’s hard to believe that we are quickly approaching the final stretch of winter term, and I want to express my gratitude to our students, faculty, and staff for their continued dedication to the health and wellbeing of our community. I’ll be the first to admit that the start of our term was challenging for us all as we returned to campus at the height of the Omicron variant, but our collective commitment to Honor the Pledge has helped us limit the spread of the virus. Most important, we have slowly returned to hosting activities that bring us together as Lawrentians.
February has been a month full of opportunities for us to gather and celebrate Lawrence’s long-standing traditions, as well as Black History Month. After ending January with the Great Midwest Trivia Contest and the wonderful Lunar New Year celebration, we welcomed February with Winter Carnival, and this past week we hosted multimedia artist Alexandra Bell as our Winter Convocation speaker. On Saturday, the Black Student Union hosted the annual Black Excellence Ball, and we now look forward to Cultural Expressions to close out the month. Thank you to the Lawrentians, particularly our students, who helped to organize the term’s many engaging events.
Alexandra Bell’s Convocation talk reminded us of the important contributions Black artists are making to society. Black History Month is a good time to remind us that it is more important than ever that we recommit ourselves to supporting the university’s efforts to becoming an antiracist institution.
Last week, our community also participated in the It’s On Us Week of Action, which included a series of programs, events, and discussions to support the awareness and prevention of sexual assault. We will also soon welcome our new Title IX coordinator, who will help us ensure that Lawrence is a safe and respectful community for all. Dr. Eric Mayes, vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion will share more information shortly.
Even with such engaging community events and celebrations, winter term can still take its toll on each of us, thanks to shorter days and prolonged winter weather. I want to remind us all to take a moment to ensure that we taking care of our mental health along with our physical wellbeing. Please take advantage of the programs that our Wellness Center and the Esch Hurvis Center for Spiritual & Religious Life offers, including intramurals, hikes along the Fox River, and massages, among others. Please also reach out to the support services available to us on campus through Wellness Services.
The university’s Board of Trustees also hosts its annual winter meeting in February, and this year’s meeting brought an unprecedented and historic opportunity for the university—approving a proposal for a one-time, strategic investment designed to strengthen the Lawrence experience. This investment is designed to have a lasting impact on students, faculty, and staff; our educational mission; and our ability to recruit and retain students.
The President’s Cabinet is currently working through shared governance to disseminate information to faculty, staff, and students, create plans, and establish a timeline for implementation as well as key performance indicators. This process will coordinate with current work that is happening at the university and with the work of our Guiding Coalitions, the Strategic and Equitable Enrollment Management (SEEM) team, and Strategic Planning Committee. Our work will be presented to the Board at its May meeting.
The Board’s confidence in our ability to use shared governance to create and implement a plan based on this proposal is thanks to the continued hard work of the Lawrence community, and I am grateful to the Board for giving us this opportunity to strengthen the university. This term has proven once again that we are brighter together, whether that’s in the classroom or Andrew Commons, on the stage or court, engaging with strategic work, or celebrating our many traditions and milestones. I look forward to working with each of you to make Lawrence even brighter.
Laurie A. Carter