As the fall semester comes to a close and the calendar year winds down, we have occasion to pause and reflect on one of the most challenging years in our history, both as a university and indeed as a nation. The trials were at once individual and collective. Each of us endeavored to deal with the requirements of social distancing in our own lives and those of our close family members, while working for the common good, and persevering with the research and teaching mission of the university. We lived through an historic presidential election that took on new aspects because of the pandemic—virtual debates and mail-in voting—during which already rising tensions in our society hit a fever pitch.
And Tulane, under President Michael Fitts’ leadership, made the bold decision to hold its fall semester in person, with a combination of in-person, hybrid, and online courses. When the story of this period in Tulane’s history is written, those writing it will need to look at the amazing work done by so many people and units across the university, from our facilities team and our public health staff to our medical school and those who run the dorms and work with our undergraduates. Discussions and debates about the best and safest way to keep Tulane running continue to involve the full range of Tulane’s experts across all nine schools and beyond.
The campus was transformed over the summer months as staff and administration worked non-stop to prepare for this fall, and a hard-working faculty developed new pedagogical techniques and skills in order to educate our students, who diligently adapted to a new paradigm. Among many dedicated individuals here on campus, the faculty and staff of the School of Liberal Arts played an instrumental role in allowing us not only to survive the challenges of this semester, but in so many ways to find means by which to thrive.
Here at year’s end, we share some of the many stories yet to be told that showcase research and teaching of our students, faculty, and alumni during these remarkable times. Collectively, they tell a hopeful story about our future, as scholars and students of the liberal arts show the kinds of creativity and compassion that is the hallmark of our school.
Dean and Professor of English