Greetings, students, and welcome to the start of the Spring semester.
I am incredibly excited to begin 2021 with you, the year when I believe the nation and world will finally overcome COVID-19.
To be sure, the pandemic today remains a real and present threat. Health and safety are our top priorities at UF, and I ask you to join me in starting the semester with a commitment to wearing a mask, watching our distance from others and washing our hands frequently. With the new and more contagious strain of the COVID-19 virus present in Florida, we must be even more committed than last semester to following the UF Health guidelines.
2021 will certainly be a year of significant change. After the terrible events in Washington D.C. last Wednesday, I am hopeful we will cherish and protect our democracy and our democratic institutions while working to overcome divisions. I believe that we as a university have a solemn responsibility to create an environment locally and nationally where we approach our differences, problems and goals with empathy, respect and love for one another.
With hope and optimism, I’m personally looking forward to these 21 things in 2021:
- Asking the faculty to cancel classes for a day in celebration of everyone receiving a COVID-19 vaccination
- Taking selfies with students I meet on campus (with a mask for now, but without a mask in a few months)
- Listening to student concerts on the UF carillon under the brilliant new orange and blue lights illuminating Century Tower
- Guest teaching an in-person class
- Walking from the Dasburg House to Lake Alice and joining a crowd to watch more than 100,000 bats fly out of the bat houses at dusk
- Buying coffee for the students in front of me in the line at Starbucks
- In-person graduation ceremonies, hopefully in April and May if we are all vaccinated
- Visiting UF’s incredible new Florida Ballpark and cheering as the Gators beat FSU
- Celebrating longtime employees, such as Registrar Steve Pritz, who this month marked his 50th year of serving UF students
- Taking our grandchildren to the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History
- Experiencing the roll-out of the university’s artificial intelligence initiative
- Celebrating UF’s top five public research university ranking. Would the faculty approve another day of canceled classes and celebrations when we achieve top five stature?
- Attending a world-class performance at the Phillips Center
- Hearing the cries of the sandhill cranes circling overhead as they head north this spring
- Checking in on what’s happening at “r/ufl” on Reddit
- Laughing at some of the “Swampy UF memes” on Facebook
- Finding out who controls the “The Same Picture of Kent Fuchs Every Day” Facebook page and asking them to “Please stop!”
- Greeting new faculty and staff
- Taking in the exhibits at the Harn Museum of Art
- Making progress on visiting every UF/IFAS Extension office in all 67 counties
- Three words: April Fools’ Day
Again, now that we have turned 21 together, I am greatly looking forward to this semester, and calendar year, with you.