January 4, 2021

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Happy New Year!

Welcome to the beginning of 2021. I hope you ended the last year with time spent enjoying the company of loved ones, appreciating special moments and achievements, and anticipating the new year ahead.

Within a few days, our next semester will begin. As Interim Vice President/Dean of Students Glenn Smith wrote to students last week, we will continue our COVID-19 testing protocols, with all residential students required to produce a negative test result before returning to campus residences. We have added a COVID-19 hotline for students as they return to campus, which will provide up-to-date information regarding testing and related policies and procedures. Based on our persistent efforts with members of the Utah Department of Health to include Westminster in state coronavirus mitigation and vaccine efforts, we anticipate being able to test all students returning to campus and making on-campus testing available for more of our staff and faculty. More information will be available in the weekly campus COVID-19 updates, which will resume on Friday.

We’ll open the term next week with Community Days, marked by an informal town hall that I’ll host on Microsoft Teams on January 12 from 3–4:00 p.m., and wellness events on January 13. Our open forum will include a review of the December campus survey results, updates from our strategic positioning work, and what we might expect in 2021.

Our upcoming wellness events are one of the ways we are responding to community expressions of need and interest. January 13 includes a guided drumming event at 2:00 p.m. in Richer Commons and the opening of registration for a virtual marathon to be completed between January 25 and February 23. The following week includes an opportunity to participate in our annual rally and march in commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr., followed by additional events consistent with our anti-racist action commitments.

Prior to the winter break, we had already experienced months of challenges posed by the pandemic—as well as economic hardship, growing recognition of recent and longstanding racial injustices, violence and political unrest, and an election season that still defies closure. Countless surveys from the beginning of the pandemic last spring and through the fall reported increasing percentages of employees feeling burnt out, with at least one study citing 75% of U.S. employees experiencing burnout. In our own December survey, about two-thirds of respondents said they were feeling at least “okay” or better. Although this result might seem encouraging, well-being can be fleeting. Our optimism for the future needs to be cautious and realistic, and the empathy, flexibility, patience and self-care that have helped sustain us over the past year need to continue well into the future. 

We’ll talk more in the coming weeks about many of the suggestions made by faculty, staff and students to help build community now and prepare for our post-pandemic future as a college. In addition to increasing our capacity for on-campus testing, we’ll continue to advocate for greater vaccine distribution and availability for our community. We’ll continue to prioritize safety now while identifying the practices we want to continue into the fall. 

The days of learning, working, and enjoying time together, in person, are increasingly coming into view. Please carry the joy of the holiday season with you into the spring and join me in anticipating a bright future for Westminster.