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The academic year begins with challenges … and opportunities

August 26, 2020

Dear West Virginia University Faculty, Staff and Students,

The first day of a new semester is always exciting, but today’s fresh start is unique in the history of West Virginia University. Today, we culminate months of planning, working and changing our environment to bring our community the best and safest possible learning experience during a global pandemic.

This fall semester will be unlike any other that has preceded it. But what remains steadfast is that we pursue our purpose with the highest of expectations. We may have to change the way we teach, learn, work and play, but we will never waver on delivering a world-class learning experience for all.

Opening a campus during this time was not an easy decision. It was a decision made with great care and thoughtful planning. And our gathering together — both in-person and virtual — would not have been possible if not for the efforts of each of you.

I would like to thank everyone who worked so fervently to bring us to this day. Faculty members have innovated to engage students fully in the learning process. Staff members have re-engineered just about everything we do to serve people more efficiently and safely. Students and parents have demonstrated patience as we worked to make these changes and choose the best path forward.

We have done this because we believe so firmly in the importance of education. It is through education that we improve lives, solve problems and forge connections — all of which our world needs now more than ever.

Because of our land-grant mission, West Virginia University has a calling to open our doors to all who seek higher learning. And as we do that, we also must heed the calling to address issues that are affecting our nation and our local communities.

While we battle a health crisis, we also are bearing witness to a powerful movement for racial and social justice in our country. It is not enough to say we support Black Lives Matter; rather we must ensure we act to create a safe and equitable environment for our Black faculty, staff and students. In the coming weeks, we will share the ideas developed by the working groups that were established in June. The work has been challenging, sometimes difficult, but always moving the University forward.

And I believe in this moment of great uncertainty and unrest, West Virginia University will continue to serve our state — and each other — by embracing our mission, addressing areas of inequity and celebrating our unique perspectives to build a better future for all. 

So, as we begin today, my final note is that we approach the semester with transparency, empathy and kindness. This has been a tumultuous time — and the ambiguity and uncertainty of what lies ahead can be overwhelming and frustrating. Take time to recognize what others may be experiencing, while acknowledging your own capacity for change. If you need assistance — whether it be with your studies, work or health — we have resources for you. Remember that we are family at West Virginia University. We take care of and support each other.    

And I know that if each of us embodies the true spirit of what it means to be a Mountaineer, we will rise to the occasion and make this unique year an extraordinary year.

Let’s go!

 signature of E. Gordon Gee

E. Gordon Gee
President, West Virginia University