Amid the pandemic, gratitude

A mother in California recently sent me an email. We’d never met, but she wanted to tell me about her son, a University of Florida student who is taking classes and working on campus. She wrote to thank our faculty and staff for the education and experience her son is having this year.

“He is having an amazing year at UFL despite COVID,” she wrote. She contrasted the positive experience of her son at UF with what her daughter is enduring at another highly ranked university in California.

Her words touched me and reminded me how important it is to say these words: I, too, am extraordinarily thankful.

I am thankful to faculty.

Because of them, this student from California and his thousands of classmates are having an exceptional year of learning and life-changing experiences, despite so many hardships. The commitment of UF faculty members to excellence and to their students as they adopt new and challenging ways of teaching, both in person and online, is so appreciated and remembered by students and their family members.

And, in the midst of COVID, UF faculty have continued to excel in their research and bettering communities locally and globally through their clinical and extension leadership.

I am thankful to staff.

I am thankful to the many thousands of staff members who have worked without stopping in the midst of COVID to support our students, to enable our faculty to excel, and who have kept the Gainesville campus and the programs and campuses across the state moving ahead full speed. Amid disruptions and unfamiliar demands, your persistence has ensured students can fully experience college life.

We are all so grateful to UF Health clinicians, epidemiologists and their colleagues who have guided and enabled us to work, learn and live safely on our campus in the midst of COVID. Due to their work and the work of health professionals worldwide, COVID cases are falling steeply both globally and locally. Coupled with the distribution of vaccines and our commitment to sustain physical distancing and wearing of masks, the outlook is incredibly positive.

This brings me to my final expression of thanks.

Thank you, students! You are persisting and you are excelling.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recognized UF as top among six universities for indoor mask compliance. You are persisting in keeping others and yourselves safe. You are also excelling in your studies, both in person and online. You are experiencing a different, but rich, life as a college student.

COVID has proven difficult and exhausting. But there is nothing more encouraging to me than knowing the hard work of our faculty and staff is making a real difference and that our students are persisting and excelling, as described in the email from the mother in California.

I am so encouraged and grateful that this academic year is not just historic, but also great. We have kept our campus open. We have been there for our students. We have contributed to solutions in our community and our planet. For all that and more, all of you have my deepest gratitude and that of many others.