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September 10, 2021

Dear members of the Tufts community,

I am thrilled to welcome you all back to a new academic year and the start of the Fall 2021 semester. After a truly unprecedented year and a half that tested, challenged, and oftentimes exhausted us, I hope that the summer offered some well-deserved rest and rejuvenation, and that you enter the fall feeling energized and optimistic.

I am excited to see some familiar faces back once again on the Hill and have already had the privilege of meeting several fresh faces, both in person and virtually, during orientation and matriculation. It is evident that your passion, energy, talent, intellect, and diverse perspectives and experiences are already enriching our community.

In addition to our new and returning students, faculty, and staff, I am pleased to welcome several new academic and administrative leaders to the Tufts community. Yolanda Smith, an accomplished criminal justice leader, joins us as our next executive director of public safety; Dayna Cunningham, civil rights attorney and founder of MIT’s CoLab, has been named the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life; and Helen Boucher, infectious disease expert and chief of the Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Tufts Medical Center, has been appointed to a dual role as dean ad interim for Tufts University School of Medicine and chief academic officer for Wellforce Health System, the parent company of Tufts Medical Center. All three have started their positions in early July. In August, we welcomed Kyongbum Lee to his new appointment as Dean ad interim of the Tufts School of Engineering. Finally, as we recently announced, Caroline Genco will be taking over as provost and senior vice president ad interim as Provost Nadine Aubry steps down to return to the faculty after a sabbatical.

While we enter this September more optimistic than last year, we must not forget that COVID-19 is still with us. Although we have been able to ease many restrictions—in large part due to your vigilance adhering to COVID-19 guidelines over the past year and a half—we cannot let our guard down just yet. As variants still circulate and the virus continues to surge in the United States and around the world, it is important to keep in mind the responsibility we have to keep each other, the Tufts community, and our host communities safe. That means continuing to wear a mask while indoors, participating in surveillance testing, and staying up to date on the latest COVID-19 protocols. As we have all learned by now, this pandemic is unpredictable and can change course very quickly.

Despite the ongoing uncertainty caused by the pandemic, there is one thing I am certain about—working together as a community provides us the best opportunity to keep this disease at bay. Throughout the past year and a half, I have watched with awe as you stepped up in countless ways to serve Tufts and the larger community, offering your time, energy, resources, and compassion during the most difficult of times. Amidst loss, stress, and hardship, the pandemic has demonstrated the strength we have when we come together towards a common goal.

Tomorrow also marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and the sacrifice of the brave passengers on Flight 93. We remember that solemn day, pay tribute to those who lost their lives, and honor those people in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice in the years since. While recent events in Afghanistan have undoubtedly caused us all to take pause and reflect, Tufts is committed to supporting our students and scholars from the region, and as part of the larger higher education community, working to ensure that scholars, especially women, receive a safe haven to continue their scholarly pursuits in the true spirit of academic freedom.

As we begin a new academic year, we continue to grapple with the effects of racial injustice, climate change, divisive politics, and acts of hate and violence both locally and around the world. As we seek to address these issues, I hope we harness the strength and spirit of the academy. There is much that unites us, but we must also be better prepared to discuss those issues that divide us. One of the great characteristics of a liberal arts institution is its ability to foster open and active dialogue on the world’s most pressing and complex issues. The new Generous Listening and Dialogue (GLAD) Center, opening this fall at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, will encourage us to engage in dialogue that is authentic and respectful, and promote active and attentive listening, particularly on topics on which we disagree.

Although the road ahead may continue to be uncertain, I feel hopeful knowing that there is an entire community of devoted students, faculty, staff, alumni, families, and friends behind us. Together, I know that we can tackle any challenge that comes our way.

Welcome, again, and I wish you a happy, healthy, and successful year ahead.

Best wishes,

Tony Monaco