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Winter Break: A Time for Reflection, Restoration, and Recognition

Friday, December 13, 2019

The end of the semester and the anticipation of the holidays gathered around the winter solstice produce a time of contrasts at the university. As a faculty member, I always referred to this time of year as “the car chase at the end of the movie.” There is the rush of wrapping up courses, composing and administering final exams, and recording grades; often, graduate committees and defenses are scheduled into already-crowded calendars in order to meet institutional deadlines for progress or degree requirements.

But then, almost all at once, campus goes eerily quiet. The boulevards, buildings, and parking lots go empty. Foot and vehicle traffic slows to a minimum, and the university as a whole retreats to celebrate signs that the shortest days have passed, and that spring and summer are on their way. These quiet stretches are among my favorite times to walk on campus, to reflect on the frenzied activity of the previous months, and to recharge for the spring semester to come.

In the Regents Room in the Chancellor’s suite in Strong Hall, there’s a picture that – for me – captures this feeling, and it’s reproduced here: A lone individual walks in a winter scene toward the illuminated entrance to Hoch Auditorium in Budig Hall in the fading light.

As my first semester as interim dean comes to a close, I thought it would be appropriate to take this moment to thank all of you who work in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences for your effort, dedication, and professionalism. I’ve been privileged to meet and work with great chairs, staff, students, alumni, and faculty this fall, and I think we have initiated some important steps to steadying the College in various ways.

I will also take this opportunity to extend my wishes to all of you for a peaceful and happy holiday season and winter break. I hope you all can find time to take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy time with friends, family, and colleagues. We all have worked hard this year. We deserve it.

–John