Dear Kent State University Students,
As we wrap up the spring semester, I keep thinking about all the challenges we have faced over the past 14 months. The pandemic forced us into uncharted territory. Every day, there was something new to learn and absorb – virus safety, testing, vaccines.
Our entire university community had to adapt to unfamiliar ways of living, learning and working, while dealing with serious economic uncertainty, at the very time our physical health and mental well-being were being threatened.
Yet, despite these challenges, one phrase keeps popping into my head: At Kent State, we don’t just survive, we thrive.
You didn’t just finish the semester, you finished strong. We graduated nearly 9,000 in 2020, and we are on track to graduate this many or more in 2021, including 5,000 students this May. Whether 2020-21 was your first year at Kent State or your last, you persevered despite the obstacles.
Now, as we look toward fall and hopefully begin to emerge from the pandemic, let’s not just be satisfied with getting back to normal. Let’s aim higher.
We can do better. We can thrive.
So, what does it mean to thrive? Dictionary definitions suggest prosperity, vigor and the idea of flourishing. To me, it also suggests doing the important tasks well, doing them better than others and engaging in transformational work.
At Kent State, our efforts to thrive are guided by our core values and by our commitment to providing students with access to an education and helping them on their educational journey to achieve their degrees. We all thrive through the sharing of knowledge and creative activities. We always aim to show kindness and respect in all we do, to look out for one another and to improve the communities in which we live.
Thriving and not just surviving means pursuing change, forging new ideas and reaching for lofty ideals, despite the problems thrust upon us by the pandemic – and we have done this. Despite a year of pandemic conditions, we have still made important and major strides forward.
Our university has made myriad decisions driven by what is best for students and their success, from bringing our dining services back in-house to eliminating standardized tests for admission to Kent State to launching sweeping diversity and anti-racism agendas.
When this university thrives, you thrive.
Our students have shown true grit and determination in their efforts to overcome obstacles and succeed. I think of how our nursing and public health students turned the pandemic not only into an opportunity to learn but also a chance to serve, by volunteering to perform contact tracing and administer COVID-19 vaccines.
Our Kent State Chorale and our many musical ensembles achieved some of the most captivating performances I can recall, despite their virtual format, or perhaps because of it.
Even our student organizations found ways to thrive, hosting their events online, achieving success and building community, despite not being able to gather in person.
You have thrived in many ways, and I know that we all will continue to do so in the future, no matter what challenges come our way. And when you thrive, our university thrives, too.
As we close out the academic year, I sincerely thank you for the many ways you have contributed to make our university a better place. Your academic research, your activism and your steadfast pursuit of your educational goals under difficult circumstances all prove that at Kent State, we don’t just survive – we thrive!