Dear Everyone:

It was wonderful to be with so many of you in last Friday’s end of program meeting and the awards event that followed!  Thanks hugely for creating the time, and also for the creativity and comradery in the festive headwear adorning the latter session!  We missed you, those who were unable to join us.  Please see here for a roundup of the news and information shared, and here for summary of the awards, prizes, and fellowships announced (with apologies that these appear as powerpoints; putting narrative around all of it would’ve made both the event and the summations extraordinarily/too long!).

I want to emphasize some things that I noted on Friday and appear in some form in the summaries, and also and again to offer thanks: 

First, please note that we’re heading into summer with the expectation that we will at least begin fall semester in distanced learning mode.  While the official decision on this, which will come from Governor Cuomo, hasn’t yet been made, the building powers that be have made the sensible determination to encourage us to plan for remote work.  If we’re able to return to in-person working sooner than expected, that will simply be a lovely surprise.  With this framing in mind, we’ll also be planning toward sustaining our sense of us-ness — and especially folding in our incoming students into that us-ness – with an eye toward the various modes in which we might be working; more on this to follow through the summer months.

Also toward the ends of planning for remote teaching, we’ll do some idea-sharing over the summer in a “just one thing” (h/t Wayne Koestenbaum for the construct) per missive mode – i.e., rather than messages full of links to resources however valuable they might be, we’re going to try sharing one strategy/tactic/practice at a time, which seems very good to me as a way of allowing for actual absorption and consideration and also just less chasing down information through links.  I’ll get this going probably in early June, as we move more definitively out of the present academic year, fyi.

Second, related to finishing this semester, faculty will have seen the information and guidance on grading sent by the registrar’s office (forwarded by Nancy earlier today).  I want to remind both faculty and students in seminars this semester that students have 20 days after a grade is submitted to decide to accept a grade or to take a credit/no credit option instead.  If in what I hope will be the exceptional/uncommoncase that there is an Incomplete given, students will have 20 days after the submission of the letter grade to replace the incomplete, to make use of this C/NC option.  Please make every effort to submit grades by deadline this year; whatever we can do not to add to the fraying edges of this term’s administration would be very good, I think.

Third, for this Friday, Nancy and I are organizing a celebration of those who defended dissertations in our program this academic year.  If you’re one of those people and haven’t gotten an invitation from me (via paperless post), please let me know!  I’ll send more information about the particulars out later in the week to all.

Fourth, I offer and as loudly as possible THANK YOU to everyone for your engagements and efforts through what’s turned out to be a quite astonishing year.  I want especially to express appreciation to Nancy Silverman of course!, to our DEOs Tanya Agathocleous and Siraj Ahmed, to Curriculum Committee Chair Carrie Hintz and Diversity Committee Chair Amy Wan, to Search Committee chair Eric Lott, and to our Satisfactory Progress Officers Mario DiGangi and Feisal Mohamed.  From invigorating and inspiring our conceptualization of curriculum, always in concert with ongoing attention to diversity, to the unfurling of mock job talks and structured attention to placement in and outside of academic career paths, and from the inauguration of new admissions practices, to supporting students even through such bureaucratic mechanisms as satisfactory progress checks, to attending to the manifold and small and large scale things involved in program operations, these are people key to making the learning/teaching/writing/thinking/imagining we cherish possible.  Indeed, what is too regularly cast dismissively as “service” is better understood as the condition of possibility for everything, and intelligence and care with which these colleagues undertake this work is, simply, great.  Committee members are noted in the news roundup linked above, fyi – if nothing else, please take note of every single one of them and with thanks.  

Fifth, my biggest hurrah and warm wishes are for the students!  Take a moment as you finish out the semester to reflect and revel in having learned and laughed and worked really hard both despite and because of the structures and demands of graduate studies, separate and apart from pandemic.  I mean quite literally to take note/make notes of all of it, to give some texture and shape to the year gone by, to provide grounding for the year(s) to come, to provide specificity that hopefully will be experienced as satisfaction.  I’m delighted with and for each of you! 

Two final thoughts for now.  One is simply to note that in the summer, I’ll appear less frequently in your inboxes as we allow ourselves to rest and regroup and at some point will take a few weeks as vacation far away from electronic devices.  I’ll keep trying to respond to emails within 72 hours or so and hope you won’t hesitate to reach out if and as you need. 

And two, a wish: Out of a sense of deep gratitude and concern I know many if not all of us share, there’s a lot of attention these days to the heroism of essential workers, of medical staff, of those for whom sheltering at home isn’t an option, as well as of those finding ways to keep themselves and others fed and housed and schooling despite job loss and varying degrees of state-sanctioned/-enacted abandonment…

Even as I am so very thankful for the many who are really so clearly essential, even as I offer heartfelt acknowledgment of the heroic efforts of the many people (you among them) to keep going,  I’m struck by how intensely I wish much not so much for more heroes, but rather that we were free of conditions requiring heroism – conditions that include, of course, not only pandemic but the gross inequity and murderous ignorance so harshly illuminated in its light.  So, that’s the wish with which I close this final chatty missive for the year: I wish for you, for us, a world absent the need for heroes or resilience and instead one bountifully, sparklingly, outrageously overflowing with cherished Life. 

With deep thanks to and for all you’ve done and do to bring forward such a world,


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