Welcome Back

January 21, 2021

Dear Tulane Community:

Robert Kennedy once said, “Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.” The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all in so many ways and brought out qualities in us that many never knew existed. It has resulted in countless tragedies but also extraordinary triumphs, including the development of vaccines of historic efficacy in record-breaking time. This crisis has shown the strength of Tulane as we have continued our mission of research, scholarship and service throughout these difficult times.

With students back on our campuses, spring semester 2021 is officially underway, offering more hope than we have experienced in the long year since COVID-19 entered our lives and redefined how we study, work, live and relate to one another. Given the challenges that all of us have faced in the past year – students, faculty and staff alike, I stand in awe of the Tulane community and the commitment and dedication that I have witnessed. You are the ones who have made it possible for the university to continue its life-saving research, life-changing scholarship and service throughout this pandemic. Our thank you list includes researchers working in our labs, faculty teaching in classrooms, healthcare professionals caring for COVID-19 patients, RAs working in residence halls, Campus Health and other Student Affairs staff keeping our students well, Facilities Service personnel maintaining safety infrastructure and many, many more.

In confronting COVID-19, we have gained much wisdom, but we will not let this crisis define our path forward. By drawing from lessons learned last semester, we have enhanced our efforts to protect our campus community and city residents. We are also expanding opportunities for students to interact socially, meet new people and enjoy outdoor programs and other COVID-safe activities, both on campus and throughout our great city. In addition, we will expand physically. This year, we will break ground on Steven and Jann Paul Hall, the new home for the School of Science and Engineering and continue to enhance the on-campus living experience through the construction of a new residential quad Uptown where Bruff Commons used to stand. Tulane is also one of the first universities in Louisiana to begin administering doses of COVID-19 vaccine. The School of Medicine, guided by state requirements, is inoculating those on the front lines of COVID-19 research and community response first. This includes frontline food service and custodial/operations staff who engage directly with the student body in dining halls, residential facilities and elsewhere.

As we reflect on the lessons learned from an unprecedented year, we are also expanding our commitment to building a more equitable and diverse university. A Plan for Now and our longer-range planning related to A Strategy for Tomorrow, will put us on the path to creating a community that embraces the contributions of all and that leads with wisdom. There will be challenges and setbacks on the road ahead as we confront COVID-19 while striving to build a more just Tulane and expand our physical campus. But there is also an undeniable, growing light on the horizon that should give us all hope – and we are moving toward it, together. Welcome back.

Mike Fitts