August 21, 2020
Dear Tuck Community,
Although our academic year began on July 1, for many of us the mark of a new year is really when our MBA classes resume. With Fall A classes for first-years starting on Monday, now is that time when our co-creation among students, faculty, and staff fully comes to life. With the school year about to begin in full swing, I am also restarting from the spring my weekly Friday missives to share thoughts, updates, and other information of note about our lives together at Tuck.
T’22s, congratulations on finishing Tuck Launch – and every best wish preparing for Monday. T’21s, I hope that all remains well as you complete your summer internships and begin looking ahead to your start of fall classes, the structure of which in Hybrid Phase One was announced yesterday.
Many thanks to all the students who joined me, Dean Hall, and Dean Jaeger for wide-ranging conversation in our town halls on Wednesday. We clearly heard the value of more information related to the Dartmouth Community Expectations agreement; I and other deans will continue to work with Dartmouth officials on this, and the MBA Program Office will continue communicating with you on this. More generally, to maintain ongoing dialogue into this new year, I look forward to us regularly convening community conversations among the Deans’ Office, other school leaders, and students.
For those students who were not able to join us, and for our faculty and staff as well, below is an excerpt of the remarks I shared at the start of each town hall. As we discussed, I can envision that this new academic year could be one of the most meaningful and impactful in the 120-year history of our School. A year where every one of us doing our part to help maintain the health and wellbeing of our entire community allows us to co-create an immensely rewarding learning experience. We all have been preparing for and starting off this year in our individual ways. Now is the time when we all start to come together. Thank you for all you have been doing, and for all that we are going to do together.
A safe and restful weekend to all.
What Kind of Academic Year Will This Be, and What Part Are You Prepared to Play in It?
I answer this question with a heart that is both hopeful yet apprehensive, with a message of great opportunity yet also great risk.
Why am I hopeful in envisioning great opportunity?
I envision great opportunity for this new academic year because of the salience of our School’s mission, because of what our School accomplished last spring, and because of what our School is preparing to attempt this new year.
Throughout the summer, so many alumni have been sharing with me their belief that our School’s mission is even more relevant in today’s world of the pandemic. Analytical skills, empathy, judgment: our alumni see these capabilities of wise and decisive leadership as being essential in working through and beyond COVID-19.
This past spring at Tuck, we proved our ability to rise to the challenge of an unprecedented all-online term. The creative talents you students elicited last spring – in the classroom and far beyond, in ways small and large – were inspiring and impactful. I couldn’t agree more with the reflection of Tanushree Podder T’20. “I’ve learned at Tuck that nothing is impossible. This is an extremely strong community.” And, these creative talents are already yielding success this new year. Tuck Launch for the T’22s has been a rich and dynamic immersion – one I greatly enjoyed being part of, with Dean Joe Hall and with Professor Ella Bell – and the start of classes beckons with Fall A just a few days away.
When we look to this new academic year, so many of us – you students, and faculty and staff alike – have been excited at the prospect of transitioning back to our distinct in-person learning community as safely as possible. Over the past few months, the Deans’ Office has been collaborating with faculty, students, and colleagues across Dartmouth to imagine, test, and prepare for different aspects of hybrid learning that could be central to that transition path. My fellow deans, faculty, and staff have invested literally thousands of hours in working on what hybrid learning might be.
And in our special spot of the world, the public health in our local environment is currently among the strongest in the United States. These strong local health conditions are the direct result of months of individuals taking seriously their daily obligation to follow campus, state, and federal public-health guidelines to wear masks, wash hands, socially distance, and so forth.
So, I can envision that this new academic year could be one of the most meaningful and impactful in the 120-year history of our School. A year where every one of us doing our part to help maintain the health and wellbeing of our entire community allows us to co-create an immensely rewarding learning experience.
And yet, at the same time, why am I also apprehensive about the possibility of great risk?
Because it might take just one super-spreading person to ruin all this opportunity and compel broader restrictions across the campus, all of which would corrode the trust among students, faculty, and staff that is essential for Tuck’s distinctly collaborative learning. The unsparing contagiousness of COVID-19 could lead to drastic measures needing to be taken for all as a result of the behavior of just a very few.
My apprehension is not hypothetical, in part because of what is happening across the United States in recent days. Several of America’s flagship universities have been forced to cease hybrid-learning efforts, to close their campuses, and to prepare for – or to already start – sending students home. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Monday. The University of Notre Dame and Michigan State University yesterday. Who knows which school tomorrow. And in almost all these high-profile cases, a major source of COVID-19 spread has been social events at which students were violating public-health requirements. What is especially sobering is how fast the spread is at these schools. As late as last Thursday, UNC leaders were proclaiming success in their first week of hybrid learning. 96 hours later, they were closing down the entire effort.
So: What Kind of Academic Year Will This Be, and What Part Are You Prepared to Play in It? That is the question I ask all of us to reflect on. My heart is both hopeful yet apprehensive; I foresee great opportunity yet also great risk. I am always an optimist – that’s why I am wearing my Tigger-colored tie today. I can see a path for all of us to maintain our trust in each other, to co-invest in a hybrid learning environment in a way that few if any other peer schools can pull off.
And yet, to have this hope and opportunity be realized, every single one of us needs to play our part – today, tomorrow, and in the days and weeks ahead.
Let us please make every effort to do this. Let us please make every effort for this year to be one of the most impactful and important in our School’s history.
Dartmouth has formed a high-level task force to plan for and manage possible disruptions related to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, monitor federal and state recommendations, implement guidance, and communicate with our community.