Dear Quinnipiac Community:
Today, our nation honors the inspiring life, legacy and impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Since his assassination over 50 years ago, we have had many occasions to continue his teachings, to act in ways grandiose and small, to advance his ideals of justice and equality.
Yes, there are multiple facets of positive change in our nation and in our local communities today compared to when Dr. King died tragically in 1968. We see many examples of inclusivity and success in neighborhoods and communities that were previously deprived of opportunity.
Yet sadly, there are still so many groups and individuals who suffer just because they are a certain color, religion or ethnicity, or because of their sexual orientation, nationality, physical or emotional qualities, or simply because they are somehow “different.” That this continues is a mark on civil society, a stark reminder that Dr. King’s fight must continue, that his work is unfinished.
Our nation could benefit from Dr. King’s voice now more than ever, I am heartened by those individuals — both known and unknown — who carry the torch in everyday acts of courage and principle to stand up against hate and inequality. As Dr. King wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere ... whatever affects one, directly affects all indirectly.”
We must continue to act, with courage and principle, at Quinnipiac. Our commitment to equality, justice and inclusion is a never-ending purpose, and we must hold ourselves accountable to achieve real change. While we have made progress, there’s much more to do. The aspirations embodied in our strategic plan demand our daily attention, and our commitment to actions and results. The urgency of action that was manifested last year has not lessened, nor has our determination for change.
Let us pause today, remember Dr. King and his purpose, and most importantly, recommit to acting with compassion and purpose, to achieving bold change in our own community, and to making our world … a little better. As Dr. King once remarked:
“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
Dear QU Family,
Tomorrow, our nation will pause to reflect on the somber milestone of 20 years since the tragedies of September 11, as we remember the devastating day when we lost nearly 3,000 mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, partners, dear friends, and the valiant heroes who died attempting to save them.
Twenty years may seem like a long time to some, but for the families, friends and loved ones who lost the pillars of their lives, it can seem like yesterday. The sounds of sirens and the images from New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, are seared in our memories. Some within our QU community were not yet born at the time of the September 11th attacks. Others remember precisely where we were the moment the shocking news reached us. The events of that day changed our nation and brought a cloud of deep sorrow that hasn’t yet lifted for many.
We honor the memory of each of the beautiful lives lost on that terrible day, including three members of the Bobcat family: Frank H. Brennan ’72, James C. Cappers ’92 and Timothy C. Kelly ’85. We recognize also the courage, strength and resiliency of those left behind. Amidst the national grieving, our common humanity brought us together 20 years ago. Those bonds that fortified our country, then, must continue to be the foundation that knits us together in our shared future.
Reflecting on the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy on September 5, 2007, President George W. Bush said, “We remain a hopeful America, inspired by the kindness and compassion of our citizens and our commitment to freedom and opportunity.”
Let’s each remember and pay tribute to the lives lost and sacrificed 20 years ago. A quiet moment of reflection, a phone call to check in on a friend or family member, or another act of kindness — all serve as a personal way to honor the memories of those who were part of this national tragedy.
Take a moment to read the deeply personal stories shared by many across our QU community as they recalled their own memories of that tragic day. Please join us tomorrow at a special flag raising ceremony outside the Carl Hansen Student Center at 8:45 a.m.
Our Quinnipiac family will continue to remember and show reverence for the lives lost that fateful day.
Good morning. It is so terrific to be back, in person – yes, still somewhat obscured behind masks but nonetheless together, conducting our lives almost normally, and appreciating the togetherness of the Bobcat family, our family that is truly Bobcat strong.
As we prepare to begin our 92nd academic year, I think all of us are yearning for a return to a more normal rhythm. Let’s be honest. The circle of our lives became smaller over the last 18 months. I don’t think any of us can brush aside the trauma and stresses of the past year – whether we think about this on a global scale – the tragedy of loss of more than 4 million lives – or what happened across our country, in our communities, and in our own homes.
There is no one on this planet whose life was untouched by the pandemic in these last 18 months. There has been unfathomable pain when loved ones passed, or became very ill, children lost critical experiences that they deserve – whether in classrooms or playgrounds, students of all ages didn’t get to learn or connect as they do always, parents had to become teachers and protectors of not just their kids, but of their own parents, people lost jobs, livelihoods, a roof over their head, there was massive food insecurity, people of color suffered disproportionately, we all were isolated from colleagues to whom we’re attached at work, we missed our extended families and we lost the joy of time with our dear friends. And we were stressed because we didn’t know when this would end, or whether we’d get through the overarching anxieties of health and financial uncertainties.
I mention this knowing full well that most of us are among the fortunate. I don’t want to dwell on the past – I truly believe the worst is behind us — but I do think we all need to acknowledge and confront how deeply impacted we were, how hard it was to weather this last year and a half, and how profoundly the after-effects still endure even though – yes, again – most of us are among the lucky ones.
But — there were also many silver linings that we should remember and appreciate, among them – science that produced a veritable miracle in vaccines that came at record speed, vaccines that are saving literally billions of lives. The fact that many of us were blessed to be able to spend time in the cocoons of isolation YET with our loved ones, with more time at home enjoying the closeness of our families. That is also part of the silver lining.
I also experienced special moments that filled me with joy, admiration and even awe as part of our Bobcat family. That our faculty, staff and students pivoted in a nanosecond to teach, learn, work, and live in entirely new ways continues to amaze and inspire me. That our community showed so many big and small ways of expressing care and compassion to each other, and to others in the community, was truly humbling — volunteered and LED in unexpected ways across all parts of our university is a dazzling gift that will keep on giving, well after the pandemic has passed.
And I hope everyone here recognizes how much YOUR commitment and resilience impacted our students, because you offered them a semblance of “normal” in the midst of this very abnormal year and a half. In case you had any doubts about what that meant to our students, just go back and watch the videos of any one of our 13 Commencement ceremonies this past May. You’ll see everywhere jubilant graduates who – with their families – were expressing their gratitude for just being able to come together, in addition to their joy in celebrating the milestone of their graduation. These were truly moving moments.
I thank every member of our community – our faculty, staff, and our students – who kept our university fully functioning, a huge feat, while continuing to advance the distinctions that are building our University of The Future.
This past year has also brought to the forefront basic societal injustices that need to be reckoned with. There were horrific incidents of violence against racial and ethnic minorities. All across the country, despite the lockdowns, people came out to decry the history of discrimination that persists still today, and results in pernicious inequality in every aspect of life for people of color. At Quinnipiac, we are similarly roused to achieve inclusivity and change within our community, to advance racial justice and respect for every form of diversity. We hold ourselves accountable to tangible results that are measured against our stated action plans to advance racial justice and the LGBTQ community. We have an obligation to be a beacon of change in becoming a racially and socially just, inclusive and diverse community. And we are making notable strides in our student population, and among faculty and staff.
I am elated that we are coming back to campuses that will be alive with energy. This year, our campuses reembrace many of the personal connections, routines and traditions we lost temporarily. And although we are seeing rising infections due to the Delta variant, we have achieved near universal vaccination across our QU community, which gives us many reasons to be hopeful.
I think everyone here has been around long enough to know that straight lines – whether in the growth of an organization, a patient’s recovery, a student’s progress … or even our own daily exercise regimens – rarely exist in real life. There will be days or weeks when we lose traction and slip backward. That’s when resilience, perspective and optimism keep us focused so that, longer-term, we trend always in the right direction. We know we have that power within us because you demonstrated that unwavering resilience over these last 18 months.
It’s time to look forward. Our strategic plan, finalized in May 2019, has never been more important or vital to our future, or to our present. A changing world requires us to prioritize, to focus, to invest in the excellence of areas that offer true distinctions. I said that few lines are straight.
We are seeing that this year with enrollments. Our incoming freshman class is smaller than what we had hoped. The reasons are many and my summary of the past 18 months covers a lot of them.
We are an institution often chosen as a ‘see us’ campus – meaning when students visit us in person, they convert at a high rate into an interested applicant. The absence of campus visits during COVID, and a need to improve how we showcase our existing distinctions – more SHOWING, less TELLING – has prompted multiple changes for the next year. Now and over the next few months you’ll see upgrades to our admissions spaces, in signature spaces in various schools, in the redesign and messaging related to on-campus tours, in how we present the campus and academic programs through social media and digital narratives, and in our marketing campaigns.
We’re optimistic. For example, over the summer we’ve seen record numbers of prospective students touring our campuses, up 25% over 2019 pre-COVID levels. The feedback has been very positive as future students get to see – first-hand -- a university that will position them for the world of the future.
We continue to realize the four pillars of our strategic plan.
In executing the pillars of our strategic plan, we’re investing in more significant capital projects as we continue to build the University of the Future. Under Pillar 3, the largest current project of course is our Recreation and Wellness Center. It’s not just about physical fitness. COVID has been a pointed reminder of just how important it is that we continue to support our students’ total health: mind, body, and spirit. The data are compelling – in 2019, 90% of colleges and universities reported an increase in students seeking counseling services, and Quinnipiac has been no exception. And only half of college students rate their physical health as “excellent” or “very good.” The American College Health Association found in 2019 that over the past year, 87% of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do, and 66% felt overwhelming anxiety.
And among surveys of adult populations a fairly similar picture emerges: A Pew Research study conducted in February of 2021 reports that 21% of U.S. adults are experiencing high levels of psychological distress, including 28% who say the pandemic changed their lives in “a major way.” The levels of mental distress are higher among those with financial stresses, younger adults, or those with a disability or illness that limits their activities.
Accordingly, the Rec and Wellness Center is designed to serve the well-being of the “whole” person, with medical and counseling facilities within, and also programming space that addresses the individual’s total well-being. I know some universities have been accused of over-amenitizing their campuses with lavish facilities. That’s not what we’re doing. Our vision for the Rec and Wellness Center is built from within, from the concept of holistic well-being. There’s a demonstration kitchen to nurture healthy food habits, and programming space where we’d like to see our faculty and students in nursing, health sciences, psychology, and medicine, among others, engaged to help all members of our community build healthy life habits that endure for years. That’s what we mean by community well-being.
Under both Pillars 1 – academic distinctions -- and Pillar 3, we’ve significantly expanded the number of our Living-Learning Communities, with about 15 faculty who will be engaged directly in advancing students’ academic, societal and group interests within the residence halls. Our Chief Experience Officer, Tom Ellett, is even moving in to live in Commons, one of our residence halls. This shift – to a richer and more integrated learning-living experience – is a precursor to our movement toward a 3-year residential requirement for most undergraduates, because of the proven advantages of a dynamic and seamlessly connected academic-residential experience for students.
We’ve also upgraded the interior of the Complex residence halls, built several different lab and classroom spaces for this coming year, an esports facility, and maker and innovation spaces. We’re scoping a new academic building and a new residence hall, subject to the directions we pursue under Pillars 1 and 3 in building the University of the Future. And we’re pleased to begin realizing the Campus Sustainability Plan in all that we build, and how we operate daily in stewarding the environment and in engaging meaningfully with the communities around us.
In her recent update, Provost Debra Liebowitz shared some innovative developments and plans for academic programs and experiences. I am especially excited about new programs in Environmental Studies, and Cinematic Production Management, partnerships between the QU Poll and communications, political science and business coursework for immersive learning about polling and survey methodologies, and an important grant to launch the Connecticut Public Health College Corps under the auspices of the School of Health Sciences, training students as influencers over young adults who are vaccine hesitant in Connecticut communities.
A working group appointed by Provost Leibowitz is addressing opportunities for immersive learning and career advising that – in my mind – will become critical differentiators of the Quinnipiac experience. As I talk to business and healthcare leaders around the state, to a person they speak to the criticality of skill-ready graduates aligned not with past needs, but with how the nature of work is evolving.
We are already one of the most agile, market aligned universities -- we were just ranked by leading career preparation site Zippia – for the third consecutive year – as the no.1 university in the United States for career outcomes measured 10-years out. We can do even better if we examine – in every discipline across the university – how we build immersive learning experiences into our courses and curricula to remove the gaps between school and work.
That work is transforming at ever-accelerating rates requires intentional investment on our part to understand current and future needs of workplaces, and to reflect those skills and knowledge in how and what we teach, and in the opportunities we create for applied learning. More on this challenge in my closing remarks.
Advancing job and career readiness is also implicit in another goal for this coming year, and that’s the intent to expand our portfolio of short badges and certificates. Within the last year we’ve created many new badges and certificates for adult learners who are a vital, expanding learning pool we must serve. In addition, it is enormously valuable to our students if they receive badges or certificates in defined skill areas as they progress to their ultimate degree. That adds to students’ marketability and career readiness while still in school. There are countless opportunities in fields across the university to offer these value-added credentials for both adult learners, as well as for our current students.
In addition to the 14 faculty and 49 staff who joined the Bobcat family over the last year, there are several new leaders in our community who will be spearheading many of these initiatives. Let me highlight just a few:
• Mark Antonucci, ’06, Associate Vice President for Alumni Engagement and Development Communications, most recently Vice President of the Arizona State University Foundation;
• Philip Boiselle, Dean of the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, most recently the medical school dean at Florida Atlantic University;
• Khalilah Brown-Dean, who was appointed Associate Provost after a serving on the faculty of the College of Arts & Sciences and as senior director for Inclusive Excellence;
• Lynn Byers, who was appointed interim Dean of the School of Engineering where she where she was chair of the Department of Engineering and director of our Mechanical Engineering program.
• Holly Raider, Dean of the School of Business, who joined Quinnipiac from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, where she led executive education;
• Tony Reyes, our new Chief of Public Safety, from the New Haven Police Dept. where he served as Chief;
• Adam Roth, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, where he earlier served as Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Rhode Island; and,
• J.T. Torres, Assistant Teaching Professor of English, was named Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning.
We welcome all of our newest arrivals to Quinnipiac – and congratulate those who are taking on new or expanded roles – and look forward to your contributions as we all work together to amplify the distinctions of the university.
The introduction of new programs and badges, like those in Lean Six Sigma, our gaming lab, and our new program in data science, equip our students with the interdisciplinary expertise they need to be not just career ready – but prepared for citizenship in an increasingly complex and polarized civic space.
I’d like to spend a moment on that last point. Many students indeed choose college to position them for jobs after they graduate. Of course we strive to provide that, yet our goal also must be to imbue in them a love of learning for its own sake, and to prepare them to be informed citizens who can separate fact from propaganda, and find the common ground where democracy flourishes.
Increasingly, our collective professional and technical proficiency is linked to the very notion of freedom. For example, the National Security Commission this year joined a chorus of experts – led by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt – warning that China is eating our lunch when it comes to cutting edge technologies such as artificial intelligence. Yes, this is bad for our economy and competitiveness, but we also saw first-hand over the past year on everything -- from vaccine hoaxes to lies about the election -- how bad actors can use these technologies to manipulate people, and threaten democracy.
Which is why our second pillar of Inclusive Excellence has become so urgent. Academics, like democracy, are built on the fundamental premise that we can hold different opinions and disagree on some things, while still respecting a common set of facts and data. As Senator Moynihan said: “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” That premise almost sounds quaint these days, when the “facts” themselves are bifurcated and entirely shaped by one’s choice of media sources, and the social bubble in which we choose to live.
Learning can sometimes be uncomfortable. To learn, we must make room in our minds and our world view for a new perspective, even a perspective that we do not agree with. That can be seriously threatening. But all of us – students, faculty and staff – need to confront challenging questions about how we talk about race, gender, sexual orientation, political outlook, even health which has become politicized, and the myriad other issues that together fall under the big umbrella of inclusivity.
We must all make a special effort to step outside our comfort zone … to at least hear another perspective. As civil discourse has become not just polarized but entirely partitioned and at war, we have to find educated ways to edge closer to the uncomfortable, and to create experiences that inform and offer opportunity.
We’re doing that – creating experiences that inform and offer opportunity such as the QUEST mentoring program, our growing and strengthening relationships with diverse high schools and community colleges, as well as our summer programs that reach under-represented high school students. We are steadily increasing the representation of diverse faculty and students, and that diversity brings with it a more nuanced platform for debate and consideration of basic tenets of our university, of our educational offerings, of our lives. We are more thoughtful, more informed, more open, and kinder because of that diversity. I can tell you that I’ve experienced that first-hand – and I’ve learned a lot, with gratitude, because of the growing diversity that surrounds us.
This year, a group of students took the initiative to launch a magazine celebrating multiculturalism, and we issued our first-ever Equity and Inclusion Report. It puts a stake in the ground of where we are, and is an integral source of data to help accelerate our efforts to create and foster a more inclusive culture at Quinnipiac.
The last pillar of our strategic plan -- pillar 4 -- takes the longer view, of lifelong connections and learning. I mentioned badging and re-skilling, and the pandemic only amplified their vital importance for employees at all levels to stay current and marketable in a rapidly transforming work environment. Coursera’s second quarter 2021 results reported revenue growth of 38 percent on the strength of global demand for reskilling, and “sustained demand for career-oriented professional certificates targeted at entry-level digital jobs.” Coursera’s biggest competitor, online education company 2U which partners with many universities, reported 36 percent growth in its “alternative credentials” business segment in its most recent quarter. Demand is coming not just from people who lost their jobs. It’s driven by people who understand that the pace and scale of change seen in 2020 is not going to slow down. If anything, it’s accelerating.
And so must we. That’s why we are expanding – with your input and creative design – the number of offerings for adult learning -- badges, certificates, online degrees and summer programming.
The latest August 2021 update from EducationData shows that 45.5% of students enrolled in college are over the age of 22. We need to view lifelong learning the way we think about subscription services like Netflix or Amazon Prime – it’s there for students to engage with, on their terms, whenever they choose, and hopefully for life. And the rise of distance learning throughout the pandemic has pushed us to think long and hard about pedagogy and how we adapt and evolve learning, because we must acknowledge the extraordinary value of this medium as a delivery method for growing segments of learners.
I anticipate that we will be expanding digital delivery as we grow our badging and specialized programs, and as lifelong learning becomes as common as well … an Amazon Prime subscription. That’s clearly a growth opportunity we must pursue, recognizing the parallel decline in the demographics of the traditional undergraduate population. Several of us have been meeting also with major CEOs in the State of Connecticut -- to understand their needs and deepen our engagement that opens doors for long-term, reciprocally beneficial partnerships, boosting skills and training opportunities for both our students and local employees.
Forging strong lifelong connections with our 60,000 alumni is an especially gratifying goal. They are fabulous ambassadors and cheerleaders for our institution. And they are our partners for life. The Quinnipiac Advantage Program offers modules for lifelong learning among alumni, and we’ve provided hundreds of one-on-one career consultations to alumni. Bobcat Connect, a LinkedIn-style platform that connects students with alumni and parents for career preparation, continues to grow – now engaging over 5,700 alumni and friends in mentoring and career advising relationships with current students.
Engaged alumni become vested in the future of the institution, and are a primary source of philanthropic support. Indeed, donor support over the last 3 years, with the leadership of our Trustees, has been at all-time highs in the history of the institution and reflects growing opportunities for meaningful engagement of alumni, parents and friends of the institution in classes, campus-wide events, athletics, and directly with faculty, staff and students. You are each key to that deeper engagement.
I’ve covered a lot of ground to describe the excitement of the coming year, and years ahead. I hope you share my optimism and unwavering confidence in the future of the institution.
Each year at Convocation, I’ve put forth challenges to our university community for the upcoming academic year. And each year you have responded to the challenge and often exceeded any expectation associated with those challenges:
• I had asked you to commit to an “Institution First” mindset. Well, this QU community was a national role model for ‘institution first’ last year, in the way you sacrificed, selflessly, and overcame every challenge posed by COVID.
• I had asked that we embed data analytics throughout our curriculum so that every QU graduate is data savvy. We now have courses across our Schools that infuse the use of data and promote the critical thinking needed to understand and apply that data. More to do, yeenormous progress has been made.
• I had asked that we each engage in individual acts of kindness, and that has been evident in spades, never more than the last year as I described earlier.
• And I asked that despite the storm of COVID of the last 18 months, that we not divert our focus ALSO on advancing the University of the Future, and our strategic plan. And as is evident, we continue to progress with inspiring, strategically focused advances.
So I’ll end, as I have done in the past, with three collective challenges for this new academic year:
The first is to create urgency around structuring immersive opportunities into our curricula, especially as students advance toward their graduation. Every field has different forms and opportunities for immersive learning. Badges and certificates along the way may provide added opportunities for knowledge and skill alignment with the needs of employers. Engaging practitioners in the classroom is yet another way of structuring such immersive opportunities, but that’s up to you to design and shape. You most certainly will be more creative and knowledgeable than I could ever be on this. I view immersive learning embedded within the learning cycle of every student as a key differentiator of Quinnipiac’s educational offerings.
My second challenge is for each of us to consider how we step out of our zone of comfort, and to provoke ourselves and others to hear views other than our own, to see other experiences than our own. That alone will open us up, and likely move us towards greater inclusivity. It’s OK to be provoked into hearing and seeing contrarian world views – shared respectfully – in the classroom, as part of our Living-Learning Communities, in our lecture series, as part of the public service experiences of our students, among people whom we invite to dinner. Let’s each challenge ourselves to become part of the movement that is not warring, that crosses into uncomfortable terrain, and learns …
And my third challenge is for each of us to become an unequivocally enthusiastic, unabashedly proud, unrestrained cheerleader on behalf of Quinnipiac University, wherever we are. I presume that we each love this institution. We are each the most authentic ambassadors of this institution by virtue of our firsthand experiences, whether encountering a touring family on campus, speaking to a stranger in line at the grocery store, or watching our child’s soccer game with a fellow parent. We are Bobcat proud, and there’s a lot to be proud of!
So the three challenges for next year are to:
• Build immersive learning opportunities as a distinction across all of QU
• Provoke yourself to hear the counter thought, and to engage
• Be a vocal Quinnipiac ambassador and cheerleader.
The past year definitely tested us. We passed, I’d say with flying colors. That’s because of all of you. Thank you for your continued faith, resilience and passion, and for collectively propelling us toward the University of the Future.
Welcome back to our 92nd year! Now it’s time to get on with it and to see the excited faces of our incoming students who are joining us in a moment. I now hand it over to our terrific Provost, Debra Liebowitz.
As I reflect on the past year, I give enormous thanks to the COVID-19 Task Force and associated colleagues for their Herculean efforts, brains and brawn in guiding us through the past 16 months of the pandemic. This group often met daily to resolve testing plans, address new hybrid instructional models, and design the logistics of housing and food delivery for students in isolation. Later in the year, they were key in guiding the establishment of a vaccination clinic. They and many others were a critical reason that Quinnipiac was successful in delivering an on-ground learning/living experience while safeguarding our community’s health and well-being.
Whether serving as a Task Force member, or member of the contact tracing team, quarantine and isolation support, Student Health Services, ITS, modeling team, academic and student services, faculty delegate, or medical advising team — these individuals were the on-ground leadership and support that enabled a successful year despite the formidable obstacles and occasional crises. In particular, I’d like us to recognize AVP Keith Woodward, who chaired this committee, and VP Bethany Zemba, who served as a liaison to the state. We are indebted to their service to QU in these roles. There is no doubt that QU’s effectiveness during the pandemic is significantly attributable to the leadership of this group.
Please join me in expressing our profound, collective thanks to Keith, Bethany and to all the Task Force members: Jason Burke, Christy Chase, Monique Drucker, Thomas Ellett, Sarah Fraser, David Hill, JoLynn Kennedy, Debra Liebowitz, Ryan Mahoney, Daryl Richard, Hilary Fussell Sisco, Betsey Smith, Anna Spragg, Stephen Straub, Fred Tarca, Mark Tortora, Janice Wachtarz and David Wang.
As we look toward a very different fall semester, I’d like to share our plan to regroup. A new, much smaller structure will be established to manage any COVID-related activities and decisions going forward. Led by our Public Safety Chief Tony Reyes, the group will include the following individuals:
Mark Tortora, Associate Director of Education Abroad Programs (operational support and administrative oversight)
Lynn Hendricks, Associate Dean of Student Affairs (bed management in residential life)
Nancy Hunter, Associate Director, Student Health Center (Student Health Services)
Mary Glynn, Information Analytics Manager (ITS support)
Terri Johnson, Associate Vice President of Operations (curriculum and liaison to the deans/faculty)
Dr. David Hill, who has been invaluable in guiding our medical responses and providing public health and clinical insights throughout this pandemic, will continue in his advisory role as Senior Medical Advisor for the university. We are so fortunate to be able to draw on his depth of expertise in public health and infectious disease.
We all look forward to a much more “normal” fall semester. In the meantime, please recharge, get some rest and stay healthy.
Dear Faculty and Staff,
Each of you, from every school and department, has poured your heart and soul into making the 2020-2021 academic year a success for our students and for Quinnipiac, while you navigated countless personal and family challenges as a result of the pandemic.
The university’s leadership team and I recognize that your work often stretched into nights and weekends, took time away from your family, and required remarkable flexibility and creativity in continuing your work.
Our Trustees and the leadership team wish to acknowledge and reward the efforts and commitments displayed in every part of Quinnipiac, to convey how grateful we are for all that you do.
To that end, employees (including part-time faculty and staff) will receive a one-time appreciation award. Employees earning up to $100,000 per year will receive an award equivalent to 3% of your regular salary, and employees earning >$100,000 and up to $225,000 per year will receive an award equivalent to 2% of your regular salary. Members of the university Management Committee, employees making over $225,000 per year, and individuals employed by QU for less than six months, are not eligible for the award.
The awards will be reflected in your June 30 paycheck. Unfortunately, because of budget constraints in 2021-22, there will be a salary freeze in 2021-22 with no merit raises, which is also a reason we wanted to be sure to acknowledge and reward your exceptional efforts this past year.
Thank you again for your generosity of spirit and tireless dedication. Please know how deep our appreciation is for all you do. Because of you, Quinnipiac is such a special place to work and learn. I hope you enjoy your summer.
As I drove off campus on Saturday after the last of 13 Commencement ceremonies with the campus festooned with happy graduates, their families and gorgeous flowers surrounding them, I reflected on the year that was.
Each one of you in the Quinnipiac community — every professor, staff member, facility worker, groundskeeper, counselor, librarian, tutor, resident life advisor, public safety officer, tech specialist, nurse, coach, trainer … every leader — each of you made the year that was. You made it possible for Quinnipiac to be among the small number of truly functioning universities, and you helped our students thrive in the midst of deeply unsettling circumstances.
Simply said: You enabled and fueled our success.
There were so many challenges, crises, stresses and tragic losses over the last year. But there was also the confidence in knowing the depth of our skills across every part of the campus that would get us through the pandemic, and the comfort of each other’s support, care and friendship.
I am grateful to you, and proud of you and Quinnipiac for weathering the last 14 months with such grace, resilience and understanding, holding our heads up very high. We can all hope to get back to a pretty normal Fall.
Departing campus on Saturday, a quote from our Class of 2020 student speaker from the School of Communications, Kailee E. Heffler, kept replaying in my head. She said: “At the end of each day, we had Quinnipiac. Quinnipiac taught us to take the fear we had felt and make opportunities out of it. Quinnipiac taught us to take the fear we had felt, and turn it into fearlessness.”
Thank you for being inspirational role models for our students and for our broader community, and for turning adversity into opportunity. Please take a moment to reflect on all that you’ve been through, with pride in this shared accomplishment. And most importantly — take a break, get some rest, travel with your family and loved ones, and give them an extra hug.
With much gratitude, admiration and affection,
Dear students, faculty and staff:
The Bobcat family has come together in recent weeks to support each other as we attempt to find meaning and community amid frayed emotions and deep sadness, as traumatic acts of violence, racism and inhumanity continue around us.
The trial of Derek Chauvin and yesterday’s verdict convicting him of the murder of George Floyd only added to the roller coaster of emotions many are feeling — emotions further roiled when we learned of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant’s killing last night by police in Columbus, Ohio.
As President Barak Obama observed yesterday, “Today, a jury did the right thing. But true justice requires much more.” One of the roles of educational institutions is to confront societal challenges with analysis, exploration of causes and solutions, and to engage constructively to achieve change to these corrosive ills. Many of us are soul searching to understand how and why these horrific incidents occur, and what – individually and collectively – we can and should do to achieve change.
We will hold an open Zoom forum on Monday, April 26, at 7:00 p.m. to analyze the Chauvin case and the spate of recent violence, with members of our faculty.
Quinnipiac will continue to take actions that promote lasting and community-wide progress to build a more inclusive, welcoming and compassionate community and to nurture in our students and graduates a commitment to contribute to a just society that values all.
Don C. Sawyer III
VP for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love book, 1963
On this Monday in January, we pause to remember a towering figure in our nation’s history, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We remember his unwavering commitment to end the oppression of people of color. We remember how he championed change through peaceful means. We remember his sacrifice in dedicating his life to lifting others. And we remember the urgency in his actions to right wrongs. Dr. King serves as inspiration for generations to stand up against inequality, even when sitting down may be the easier path.
We honor Dr. King just two days before our nation partakes in the centuries-old tradition of a peaceful transfer of power, as Joseph R. Biden Jr. is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. The irony of two recent and related events is not lost on me. In November, we experienced the powerful expression of a democracy when almost 160 million citizens exercised their right to vote in the 2020 election – the largest number of voters in U.S. history. Yet, on the day of certification of that election on Jan. 6, domestic terrorists attacked the U.S. Capitol, threatened our elected officials and members of law enforcement, attempted to silence democracy, and challenged the most fundamental principles of our Constitution.
A peaceful transfer of power has been a hallmark of our democracy since 1801 and has served as an aspirational ideal for nations around the world. Inaugurations are days when we set aside our differences – often after fierce partisan campaigns – and we celebrate together the privileges of freedom of expression, of change through the voice of the people, of raising families in safety and security, of the aspiration of equal rights for all. These are the values that Dr. King espoused and which, ultimately, unforgivably, cost him his life.
While I cannot speak for Dr. King or know what he might say during these turbulent times, I imagine that still, 52 years after his assassination, he would conclude that we are far from a perfect union. There are countless challenges we have yet to overcome as a nation – pervasive injustices against underrepresented groups of all kinds; insidious disparities in economic, health and physical safety; unequal access to education; a worldwide pandemic that has disproportionately attacked those already struggling; and many others. Perhaps Dr. King also would draw on the insurrection at the Capitol to acknowledge a painful truth: Racism still fuels deep divisions and unrest in our country, and we must resolve to express our differences with strong voices, with urgency, but without violence.
A flourishing democracy requires acknowledgement of differences, a commitment to justice, and policies that create equity in opportunity and voice. Deeply entrenched differences may divide us, but a civil society learns to thrive by offering every individual the opportunity to live with dignity, respecting the cultures and roots of those differences, and confronting societal challenges based on reason and facts. That is the promise of a healthy democracy, and it is echoed in the words of Dr. King in his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, reminding us:
“This is no time to … take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
As we witness a key rite of passage in a democracy during Wednesday’s inauguration, I ask each of us in the Quinnipiac community to reflect on our role as an agent of change. What do we do, together, to heal our democracy? How do we become The University of the Future that models globally enlightened citizenry? How do we embody the ideals of a just society, become a “beloved community” that embraces all who enter from their many doors of lived experiences? How do we prepare our students to be champions of justice in their personal and professional lives?
We have already embarked upon this journey, together, through progress on our 10-point Action Plan to Advance Racial Justice, heightened commitments to our LGBTQ+ community, curricula review to engage around difference, launch of an inclusive excellence teaching lab, conversations on challenging topics throughout the year, and outreach to diverse communities and schools to become a more inclusive community. The impact of these actions will be the measure of our progress. I am confident that we will see that progress embodied in the character of our university community built on inclusive excellence, and in the life journeys of our students as courageous champions of positive change.
But progress cannot be delayed. Dr. King, speaking at the Riverside Church in 1967, said:
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there ‘is’ such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
Dr. King dedicated his life to striving for a better society, while inspiring generations. I am an incurable optimist. I am buoyed by the millions who do what is right; who “stand[s] at times of challenge and controversy” for our nation and for global communities; who commit — for ourselves and for future generations — to bettering the world with purpose and respect for our ideals, one day at a time. Let’s join together to achieve “a better society." It is the most fitting honor for Dr. King — and the bedrock of our democracy.
Dear colleagues and students,
Happy New Year! I hope you relaxed, stayed healthy, and enjoyed a special holiday with loved ones.
There is a lot to look forward to in 2021 – the much-awaited abatement of the pandemic crisis, some semblance of return to our healthy routines, and pent-up optimism for the future. With that eye on the future, I am excited to share the comprehensive vision emerging from our now-completed master facilities plan, “Designing Our Future,” which was assembled with input from so many across our community.
The plan serves as a general blueprint that will guide physical planning across QU’s three campuses over the next 10 years. It connects to, and brings to life, the vision and aspirations of our strategic plan, The University of the Future, and offers a flexible roadmap for a thoughtful, long-term physical plan that energizes our growing distinctions.
The vision expressed in the plan is a path toward enriching the learning, living and communal experiences of our students, faculty and staff. “Designing Our Future” notes important milestones in QU’s continued ascent over the next decade, and while it does not yet dictate the exact timing of key initiatives or prescribe every element of the plan that might be executed, it establishes a set of guiding principles and broad recommendations for capital investments on each of Quinnipiac’s three campuses.
We’ll be holding a town hall in the next few weeks to review the plan, answer any questions and hear your feedback. The plan reflects a dynamic vision that will continue to evolve in collaboration with our QU community, local neighbors and community partners.
Looking forward to seeing my fellow Bobcats as we start the spring semester.
2020 presented daunting challenges, yet our Quinnipiac family responded with extraordinary character, resilience, and care for one another. I am humbled and so deeply appreciative of our community — how you taught, cleaned, protected, continued your outstanding work, volunteered, sacrificed, devised solutions, and showed kindness each day to our entire community. Please see our video in celebration of YOU.
I join with the entire leadership of QU in wishing you a healthy, relaxing and joyous holiday season as we look forward to coming back together in 2021.
Dear students and parents,
Now that the Fall semester is over, I’ve been reflecting on our time together these past few months. No doubt, it was different, yet inspiring in the many innovative and caring ways our students, faculty and staff created the special Bobcat learning and living experience. Some of those moments are captured in this video.
We’re all really looking forward to your return for the new opportunities of the spring semester. Be well, have a happy and healthy holiday, and enjoy the special times with family.
Dear students and colleagues,
Guided by the principles of inclusive excellence, we continue on a path to create a safe, supportive and welcoming campus for all community members, embracing all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions. We seek to create a community where everyone expresses their full selves and is supported through an intersectional approach guided by an understanding of how identities combine, resulting often in various forms of discrimination and privilege.
We heard from students, staff and faculty committed to realizing this goal. We worked closely with the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) student leaders to ensure that this work is collaborative and informed by their experiences. As a result of previous initiatives and more recent discussions, we share the following plan of action with our QU community:
- We will introduce gender-inclusive housing for all students. We will work with students on how this option will be offered and the process for housing selection to ensure it is available in advance of 2021-22 housing assignments. Offering gender-inclusive housing accommodates and respects the complexities of gender identity and recognizes that traditional, same-sex room assignments are not always comfortable and/or appropriate for all students.
- Gender-neutral bathrooms will be established in all newly constructed QU facilities and will be added to existing buildings wherever possible. A listing of our current gender-neutral restrooms can be found here: Gender-Inclusive Bathrooms
- We will conduct a baseline analysis of our campus LGBTQ+ climate and environment using the Campus Pride Index (CPI), a national LGBTQ+ campus benchmarking tool. The results will inform strategies to address areas of underperformance.
- A Residential Experience Committee, chaired by Dr. Tom Ellett, chief experience officer, is developing a curriculum and residential experience for all first-year students, augmented by themed housing and student living-learning community options. The committee is also discussing expanded interest-based/living-learning communities for upperclass students, starting in Fall 2021.
- The inaugural LGBTQ+ Student Leadership Retreat will be offered in Spring 2021, hosted by the Department of Cultural and Global Engagement. The event will help students hone essential life skills through interpersonal discussion, leadership development and community engagement. The retreat will connect LGBTQ+ students to campus resources and networks that support academic and personal success.
- Training on gender equity, LGBTQ+ education, allyship training and Safe Spaces will continue to be offered and expanded across the entire QU community by the Department of Cultural and Global Engagement, augmenting existing equity and inclusion training.
- We have established the LGBTQ+ Fellows program. Fellows will focus on implementation of the above action plan to advance the success and safety of LGBTQ+ members, in addition to educating our broader campus community. The inaugural Fellows are Dr. Bianca Gonzalez-Sobrino, assistant professor of sociology, as the faculty fellow; Vincent Contrucci, director of community service, as the staff fellow; and Kayla Duncan, sophomore media studies major, as the student fellow.
Institutions built on a bedrock of equity and inclusion position all groups for success. In this set of actions, we seek to advance priorities in support of our fellow LGBTQ+ members as an embodiment of our commitment to inclusive excellence, to enable each member of our community to thrive. In so doing, we will become a more thoughtful, stimulating and inspiring community, a University of The Future. The university leadership holds itself accountable for progress on this set of initiatives in support of our LGBTQ+ community.
We look forward to partnering with you as we realize these commitments.
Don C. Sawyer III
VP for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer
Dear QU community,
Thanksgiving is a truly special time of year, and this year’s holiday takes on even greater meaning. I know most of us will be celebrating with fewer of our family and friends than we desire, yet there is still so much for which we are grateful. My Thanksgiving wish to each of you is to spend time enjoying the people and activities that make you happy and to share that happiness with others. And yes, to take a break from what has been a hectic and stressful period since March.
Let’s face it, the last several months have been difficult, forcing us all to live, study and work differently, to draw on uncharted models of running both our personal and work lives, to reevaluate what matters most, to find joy in unexplored places, and to serve others in new ways. I encourage you to turn to our QU family for support because this is a community that cares for—and offers a helping hand to—each other. I also hope you find a measure of comfort in the advancing medical understanding of the virus, the emergence of vaccines, and a discernable path to life post-COVID.
For me, I have found joy in simply connecting with others—whether through Zoom calls or walking around campus; in discovering leadership and resourcefulness distributed so widely across our QU family; in observing the flexibility and maturity of our students as they adapt to radical changes in their university life; in being humbled by the dedication and selflessness of hundreds of Bobcats who have sacrificed to keep QU up and running so well and in the creative solutions engineered by so many of you to teach and care for our students.
I also have found joy in some changes to how I’m spending my down time, such as streaming great concerts at home, watching a few good detective series, and taking some drives with Pete to explore new parts of Connecticut.
I hope each of you will use the next several days to rest and recharge, soak up all the love and good food your family is offering, and set aside some “you time.”
Wishing you personal joy, warmth and happiness over the break. Be well and Happy Thanksgiving!
Dear members of the QU family,
On this Veterans Day, let us pause to recognize and express our profound gratitude to all U.S. military veterans and especially to the 270 veterans and active military among our students, faculty and staff.
We enjoy many liberties because of the selfless actions of the men and women of the military. Throughout history, they have sacrificed to protect our nation’s independence and the freedoms of many societies around the world.
We are proud and privileged to welcome and embrace our veterans into the Bobcat family. Both the Military Times and Victory Media have named Quinnipiac among the leading “Best for Vets” schools and military-friendly schools in the country.
Our veterans are role models to us all. This year, for example, one of our six Center for Excellence winners is Jason Burke, a decorated 25-year Navy veteran and director of Veteran and Military Affairs for the university. This is the highest honor awarded at Quinnipiac, and it recognizes excellence in teaching and service to students.
Our community is humbled and enriched by the presence of our veterans and by their continued sacrifices for the cause of freedom in our country and around the world.
Please join me in celebrating our veterans, in appreciation and admiration.
Dear Quinnipiac students and classmates,
This evening marks a vitally important event. We are writing to you as millions of people around the country prepare to watch and listen to the major party presidential nominees engage in vigorous debate.
We’re lucky to live in a country where we are free to exercise choice. Regardless of whom you support, we each have a responsibility to learn the issues, know where the candidates stand, and then express our opinions — by voting. That’s what it means to be “an enlightened citizen.”
This has been a difficult and sometimes divisive time in our country. Holding different views should not be divisive – it just means that we see things differently. We owe it to ourselves, and to the greater good, to spend time to hear the reasons for, and to understand the roots of, those differences.
As we approach the final stretch of the presidential election process and hear tonight’s debate, let’s also remember what we stand for at QU.
We’re a community committed to inclusion and diversity, and that includes the range of political opinions and world views reflected on our campuses and all around us. Let’s accept and respect the fact that a wide spectrum of political views has a place on our campus, but intolerance does not.
We’re an institution that embraces vigorous discussion around viewpoints with which we may disagree. We can disagree, without being disagreeable, and without undermining the worth, dignity, legitimacy and equality of others in our community.
We’re a campus of 135 student-led organizations and clubs, each with its own mission, including those active in political discourse. Student clubs can be an important forum for meaningful and informative discussions this election season. They can be role models for respectful and vigorous debate of the vital issues of today and tomorrow and can demonstrate collaboration in addressing vital societal challenges despite differences in world view. Let’s show how it can be done, with civility.
So, in the weeks ahead, as our electoral process and political conversations heat up, let’s remember who we are and what we stand for in the QU community. Let’s be Bobcat proud, lead the way as tomorrow’s leaders, and as the University of the Future.
Judy Olian, President, Quinnipiac University
Gina DiVito, President, College Democrats
Mariam Shawish, President, College Republicans
Joshua Gorero, Co-President, Political Science Association
Samantha Murdock, Co-President, Political Science Association
To our Quinnipiac community:
Over the last several weeks, faculty, staff and students have come together through various forums to listen, learn and share very personal and often painful experiences of racism at Quinnipiac. They have also come together to express hope – and articulate the expectation – that we will take steps to eradicate the injurious effects of racism within our own community.
These forums have been powerful reminders that it is time for our community to take the burden of our colleagues who are Black, Indigenous and people of color onto our own collective shoulders, so that it is not they who must again explain, or lead change, or exhort us that Black Lives Matter. Rather, each of us must commit to actions that will reverse an entrenched history of racism. Collectively, with forceful and concerted actions, we can work together to bring about change in our own communities, and within our own institution, by advancing equity, inclusiveness and anti-racism as cornerstones of who we are at Quinnipiac.
To that end, we are announcing Quinnipiac’s Actions to Advance Racial Justice. The actions outlined below are informed by statements, pledges and ideas we heard from both faculty and student groups.
A 10-Point Plan of Action:
- We will begin an immediate curriculum review to increase learning about the roots and contemporary manifestations of social injustice, privilege, oppression and the drivers of social change. We will expand across the university the types of reviews initiated by Dwayne Boucaud and Amber Kelly in the School of Health Sciences, and Hillary Haldane and Robert Yawson in the University Curriculum. We will aim for proposed changes this academic year.
- We will establish a clear and readily accessible system to report bias incidents. Eradicating racism and racist behavior begins with holding each other accountable. People who witness, or are themselves the targets of, racist words or actions need a place to report these experiences. We will create and educate the community about this reporting process and ensure that our system includes efficient investigation and fair decision-making to build a safe and welcoming community for all.
- We will add student training on diversity, equity and inclusion beginning this fall. All students will be required to complete annual training exploring the roots of racism, and actions to counter discrimination in society and in their own behaviors. In addition to online training, in-person sessions will be offered throughout the year and facilitated by members of the Department of Cultural and Global Engagement.
- We will monitor compliance and expand mandatory training for faculty and staff across the entire university beyond the existing “Harassment and Discrimination” and “Managing Bias” online training. This will include in-person training within schools and units focusing on contemporary manifestations of racism and bias. This training will also work to build skills in facilitating and participating in difficult conversations.
- We will enhance access to data describing Quinnipiac’s diversity. We will expand the demographic data about our faculty, staff and student representation published on the university’s website. This will include data tracking progress on key diversity metrics, including faculty and staff advancement by rank and level.
- We will expand affinity groups for faculty and staff on campus and offer alumni the opportunity to build affinity groups for people of color. This will further amplify the voices of diverse groups on campus and in our alumni community.
- We will improve policies and practices to enhance the pipeline and retention of under-represented faculty, staff and students. This will include mandatory training and approval requirements for search committees to ensure more diverse candidate pools; openness to non-traditional candidate profiles; expansion of mentoring and development opportunities for faculty, staff and students of color; recruitment from more diverse high schools and community colleges; and greater diversification of our health services and student support professionals.
- We will complete a review, and appropriately acknowledge, the Indigenous people of the land of this region who are Quinnipiac’s namesake. We will continue work that has been guided by the Akomawt Educational Initiative to honor the legacy of the Indigenous people who lived here, to include refining the “Legend of the Bobcat” read at various events with a more appropriate representation of Quinnipiac’s roots and the development of a land acknowledgement statement.
- We will increase university funding and attract philanthropy to augment resources for the Department of Cultural and Global Engagement. This will fund many of the initiatives noted above as well as future projects developed in partnership with members of our community.
- We will work with students and faculty to drive voter registration and participation. Exercising one’s voting rights is the embodiment of enlightened citizenry and a cornerstone of our strategic plan, and holds elected leaders accountable for changes that are needed.
We are grateful that Professor Khalilah Brown-Dean has agreed to serve as the Senior Director for Inclusive Excellence, partnering with Vice President Don Sawyer, to champion implementation of Quinnipiac’s Actions to Advance Racial Justice. Greater detail will be released on each of these 10 initiatives, including how we will measure progress. We will continue to include our students, faculty staff and alumni in these critical discussions to ensure that your voices are heard, and that we persist in achieving ambitious change.
The university leadership holds itself accountable for progress on each of the initiatives noted above. But we cannot do it alone, and we should not. These actions require community-wide commitment, efforts and collaboration. We will not achieve the results to which we aspire unless we are passionate and authentic in our desire for systemic change. Quinnipiac has made notable progress in the last few years to become more inclusive. However, the purpose of this letter is not to look back on those accomplishments. Rather, we want to look forward and focus on where we need to do much more to amplify progress.
It is our hope that by building understanding of the roots of racism and nurturing inclusive values during the formative years that students spend with us, Quinnipiac graduates leave our university with greater humility, empathy, compassion, respect for others, and the capacity for dialogue with individuals who have different lived experiences. Our essential purpose is to serve and advance each member of our community through education. It is a purpose that can be an antidote to these times when we are reminded frequently of all that separates us.
Let us come together, let us act to create a more just society, let us lead the way.
Don C. Sawyer III
Vice President of Equity, Inclusion and Leadership Development
To the Quinnipiac community,
Over the past two weeks, people have joined together, raising their collective voices to decry and oppose racial injustice. Communities across the country have taken this difficult moment in our nation’s history to demand change with a sense of frustration and urgency not seen since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Unfortunately, we are also reminded that not everyone has embraced the systemic change that must happen in our community and in our country.
Recently, Quinnipiac was made aware of two social media posts linked to two incoming students. Each case was investigated separately, and we worked hard to determine the facts and context. The university’s senior management team, with input from a variety of voices across campus, deliberated and ultimately decided on a course of action appropriate for each instance, though for privacy reasons, we cannot divulge specifics. However, we are communicating more openly in this instance to explain the core values guiding our thinking, should we face similar situations in the future.
One post showed an individual in blackface. We must recognize that, as our nation works hard to take positive steps toward racial equality for black communities, we cannot tolerate behavior that questions people’s worth, dignity, legitimacy and equality. With history as our guide, we are mindful that regardless of intent, the blackface image is a symbol of a heinous past that evokes pain and the hurt of centuries of prejudice against black people.
Our mission as educators sometimes includes discourse around provocative and even socially difficult constructs and events as we strive to develop capacity in our students to understand nuanced issues and become more enlightened citizens. For some of our students, it is a journey of transformation. However, there are some boundaries, such as a blackface image, that cannot be crossed because these actions are so antithetical to our fundamental values.
The second post made reference to “the Chinese virus” when discussing the negative impact of COVID-19 on seniors’ high school graduations. Let us be clear: such language is offensive, highly inappropriate, and sweeping in its mischaracterization of the cause of the pandemic. It is also a direct echo of the unfortunate confluence of social media with news reports and the current political discourse.
These two instances are forceful reminders that words and images have consequences, that regardless of intent, some forms of expression carry destructive meaning and cause harmful impact because of their historic or symbolic significance. Part of our educational purpose is to create awareness among our community to these sensitivities, and to hold ourselves fully accountable for true equity and inclusivity. The classroom and campus community can be powerful learning labs to practice and reinforce respectful discourse in a space where all groups feel welcomed, supported, and able to safely express their full selves, regardless of their differences and backgrounds.
To the students and alumni who have written to us over the past few days about these social media posts, we invite you to join with us to help turn words into action. We, the leadership team, hold ourselves accountable to achieving results that demonstrate commitment to equity and fairness. That commitment began with inclusive excellence as a pillar of our strategic plan almost two years ago, and in recent months our community came together on a statement of inclusive values.
And we continue to take action. We have begun implementing many necessary changes, such as increased diversity among faculty and the university’s leadership team; we are building bridges to QU for historically underrepresented minority students in high schools and community colleges; we are developing a diversity training curriculum for students, staff, and faculty; and we are exploring how to best address, head-on, the legacy of racism in our country starting with a re-examination of the curriculum for greater presence of racial and social justice content across courses.
We are not naive to think that change happens overnight. Much more must be done on our part, and as a community. We embrace this pivotal moment in our nation’s history to avow that Black Lives Matter, and to stand with our students, alumni, faculty, staff and neighbors in black communities—and in all underrepresented communities—in decrying acts of racism, prejudice and bias. Let us join together in achieving truly meaningful change, where equity and inclusiveness shine as cornerstones of who we are at Quinnipiac.
Judy Olian, President
Jennifer Gerarda Brown, Interim Executive Vice President and Provost
Monique Drucker, VP and Dean of Students
Daryl Richard, VP of Marketing & Communications
Don Sawyer, VP of Equity & Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer
Todd Sloan, VP of Development & Alumni Affairs
Elicia Spearman, General Counsel and VP of Human Resources
Eric Sykes, VP of Enrollment Management
Mark Varholak, VP of Finance and Chief Financial Officer
Bethany Zemba, VP and Chief of Staff
Dear Quinnipiac Family:
I write to you not about COVID-19, but about something more pervasive, more permanent, and even more pernicious. I write today about racism in America.
This week’s murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and so many other terrible acts of violence against people of color demonstrate an inescapable reality: Far too many members of our society are still not treated with the same empathy, kindness, fairness, or justness that they deserve – simply because of the color of their skin.
Bigotry can be subtle and corrosive. It is present when we use words that are insensitive; when we make snap judgments based on appearance; when we presume an understanding of another’s reality that has been borne of a lifetime of experiencing prejudice. I ask myself how this still happens in a country graced with so much good fortune and rich ideals. But to the many people suffering the pain of discrimination, this is no surprise. This is daily life where they encounter exclusion, fear, self-doubt, despair for a lack of opportunity, unequal treatment, and sometimes, sadly, extreme violence.
Each of us bears responsibility to do everything in our powers to change the abhorrent reality confronting so many people. Ordinary actions some of us take for granted – like driving, jogging, playing in the park, visiting a store, or walking at night – can be risky for some members of our community because of systemic and deeply ingrained racism. We must rise up and speak out if we are bystanders to prejudice; we must commit as parents and mentors to educate the next generation for inclusivity and equality; and we must organize to actively protect those who are most vulnerable.
As a university built on inclusive excellence, we hold each person accountable for inclusive behavior, and we encourage courageous action. Our community is one built upon trust, openness and civility, that allows for honest conversations about difficult subjects; one that cares for—and helps—marginalized members of our society.
My call today is for you to personally commit to these behaviors to reverse the legacy of racism in our communities: through your own compassion and commitment, by truly listening and striving to achieve an understanding of another’s reality and circumstances, and to rally for what is right. We cannot stand idle, and we cannot allow evil of any kind against any one of us.
Sadly, our classmates, faculty, staff, family and friends of color are again feeling the unspeakable pain of these events. We stand in solidarity with you. The Quinnipiac family has always been a force of good. Let us lead the way as a beacon of inclusivity and as a voice of change.
Judy Olian, President
You made it! Everyone’s exams are nearly complete, and tomorrow marks the end of the spring semester. You’ve navigated so many unexpected changes and uncertainties these last two months with understanding, compassion and a resilient spirit.
Congratulations to our graduating Bobcats – your QU family joins together to applaud your accomplishments. I’m sending all of you warm thoughts and wishes. Take care of one another, and I can’t wait to see our returning Bobcats on campus this fall.
Judy Olian, President
Dear colleagues and students,
I sincerely hope that you and your loved ones are healthy, safe and able to enjoy family time — which is the silver lining in these difficult circumstances. During these stressful times, our Quinnipiac community continues to demonstrate that from adversity rises resilience, from challenge emerges opportunity, and from need comes compassion. I have seen that come to life through the initiatives and care our students, faculty and staff are extending to their local communities, neighbors, and one another. I’m sharing with you some stirring examples of acts of kindness I’ve seen pop up across our QU community nationwide.
Be well, and I hope you have a relaxing weekend.
Judy Olian, President
I hope you were able to have a restful and perhaps enjoyable weekend after so many days of change, anxiety and uncertainty. For all of us, isolating in our homes or at other locations can be lonely and frustrating. I certainly feel for all of you, unable to hang out with your friends or loved ones as you desire.
Over the last few weeks, you have received a variety of communications from me and from the university, providing you with updates on decisions we have made, sharing critical information about your classes and university operations, or reminding you of self-care best practices. This is not one of those emails. Instead, I want to simply say, thank you.
Thank you for understanding the difficult decisions that needed to be made by university leaders and by local, state and federal officials, to protect our collective health and safety. I know that the restrictions, cancellations and postponements have an impact on all of you, and I truly feel your disappointment.
Thank you for your resiliency and spirit in these difficult times as we transitioned to remote learning. Your willingness to continue your learning and to engage with your professors from afar has been truly remarkable.
Thank you for showing your compassion and heart in reaching out to your classmates, teachers or even strangers in your community. The stories of Quinnipiac students giving back in the bleakest of times are heartwarming and a testament to your values and kindness.
Thank you for showcasing the power of our student community and the love you have for Quinnipiac through the videos and virtual tours you shared during the weekend’s Virtual Admitted Student Experience, joined by over 3,000 attendees!
And thank you for being a part of the Quinnipiac family. Our resolve and resilience together will see us through this challenge and will enable our university to thrive in the years ahead.
Please stay safe, take care of each other and your loved ones, and have a great week ahead. Know that we are here for you.
Judy Olian, President
Today, we kick off a month-long celebration of the history and many contributions by the Black American community to our country and culture. February gives us the opportunity to shine a spotlight on many notable people and historic milestones, but it also reminds us how important it is to embrace and celebrate diversity and inclusiveness all year.
At Quinnipiac, we are committed to inclusive excellence, built upon equity. Everyone deserves to be respected and welcomed in our community and to fully thrive at Quinnipiac — intellectually, socially, culturally and athletically.
During Black History Month, we celebrate the accomplishments of members of Quinnipiac’s Black American community. We also honor the stories of Black Americans near and far who have led change with courage and a far-reaching vision to lift the lives of members of their community, achieved success in their chosen field – despite barriers – and brought social justice to all corners of society.
Here are a few stories that are particularly relevant to our QU family:
- In education, Booker T. Washington was one of the most influential leaders whose impact on higher education and lifelong learning lives on today through what has become a vibrant system of historically black colleges and universities. In 1881, at age 25, he helped build the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) as a learning institution where both black men and women were welcome and whose graduates became teachers at colleges across the South and helped educate generations of Black Americans.
- In business, look no further than our own backyard and the impressive accomplishments of Connecticut entrepreneur Carlton Highsmith, vice chairman of Quinnipiac’s Board of Trustees. His personal support has enabled programs in business and other disciplines. Carlton built a company from the ground up that became one of the largest manufacturers of paperboard packaging in North America and the largest minority-owned company in Connecticut.
- And here on campus, we are proud of our own faculty trailblazers, including Professor Marilyn Ford in the School of Law. Marilyn is the Neil H. Cogan Public Service Chair and adviser to the Black Law Student Association and Latin American Law Student Association. She serves as national secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a prominent organization in the civil rights movement, and has long been an advocate and a voice for underrepresented populations. For example, Marilyn represented a Native American tribe in the largest land claim litigation in the U.S., helping recover land and obtain just compensation for land taken during the 17th and 18th centuries.
We hope you will participate in the many activities planned throughout the month. We look at this as just the beginning of what will be celebrations of diversity in people’s backgrounds and perspectives throughout the year. The most vibrant communities are those that acknowledge the contributions of, and create a sense of belonging for, all individuals.
Judy Olian, President
Don C. Sawyer, III
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion