By Laura Huenneke, Provost and Vice President
for Academic Affairs

Welcome back, colleagues, and Happy New Year! I am always grateful that working in education gives us a tangible fresh start, the new semester a real beginning like that of the lengthening days.

In that spirit, I’m taking a step to increase my informal and face-to-face contact with you. I intend to have lunch (or at least a coffee break) every week or so at one of the eateries on campus, and I invite you to join me. I will be at the du Bois Center’s Peaks dining area from noon to 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15. Please come join me and share whatever’s on your mind.

This is an especially opportune time of year to discuss our outlook from a fresh perspective. New Year’s is often framed around resolutions or starting something new, but over time I’ve found it is often much more invigorating to sweep out the old, to arrange a physical or mental clean-up. Whether old office files or a list of tasks that have lost their urgency, it’s liberating to let go and to toss them.

A literal or figurative clearing out often allows us to make more room for our true priorities.

Let’s talk
Join me for my next weekly meet-up beginning at noon Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the du Bois Center’s Peaks dining area. Come share whatever’s on your mind.

This is key to reaffirming those areas where we do want to concentrate effort and invest in excellence. What does that mean for us as a university? As we continue defining our key commitments, we need to ask not just what do we do well, but what we can stop doing. What is no longer as salient, or as urgent, or as unique? Where might we redirect our energies to make a bigger difference?

We can’t do everything, but those things we are truly committed to doing, we are going to do well, and that means focus and avoiding distraction.

The deans and I are committing to development of a forward-looking academic plan this year—one that will provide the focus we need as the university heads into the next few years. And this work on sharpening our focus and our commitments is an essential foundation.

I look forward to working with you on this difficult challenge. I promise that it will open doors for us.