To the returning and new students, staff, and faculty of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy (COSSPP), welcome to what I’m going to call The Year Like No Other. I am pleased and honored that you have chosen to be a part of COSSPP at what I believe to be an important moment in the university’s long history. While events are bringing great challenges to higher education, I’ll proudly remind all that we are a part of a Top 20 public institution, one where people from around the state, nation, and globe come together to learn, teach, connect, advance knowledge, and do good works great and small.
As you well know and experience on a daily basis, in this Year Unlike No Other the challenges faced by FSU are many and complex, as public health, economic, social, racial, and political winds buffet the institution. I want you to be reassured that the university and college have worked and continue to work very hard to tackle these issues head on.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed our day-to-day lives in a myriad of ways. Like many, I spend my days working largely remotely, missing the collegiality of colleagues and the daily energy of campus. When I am out and about I wear my mask, socially distance, and use hand sanitizer/wash my hands what sometimes feels like hundreds of times each day. There are many lonely, distanced days; but I know that every one of these small actions promotes my family’s health and the health of the broader community.
Within the college, COVID has impacted the venue and methods of course delivery, with most of our courses being offered remotely. This summer the college invested in enhancing the already excellent teaching skills of our faculty and encouraged curricular innovations and new course models. Our primary building, Bellamy, received investment to protect on-site employees and students in the form of even better air quality systems, plexiglass installations, and room-level cleaning.
The university and college are also developing actions in response to the essential #BlackLivesMatter movement. COSSPP has long tried to celebrate and affirm the power of the nation’s diversity and I often describe the college as promoting a marketplace of ideas across the ideological spectrum. But let me state clearly and unambiguously that we will not allow behaviors and language that are racist, sexist, homophobic, or against religious views. While we have made progress, we still have a long way to go to ensure that each of us is judged on our merits and actions, and not by the color of our skin, gender, sexual orientation, and choice of if and how to worship. I see a particular responsibility for our college in this immensely important area as we are home to the social sciences; COSSPP must be leaders and change agents given our expertise and a shared core value that affirms the promise and value of all.
Even given these massive challenges, I suspect you can feel the energy in the air of the Fall semester and the launch of the traditional academic year. As the third largest college at FSU, COSSPP is home to 4000+ undergraduate majors and 600+ graduate students. We generate one in every six degrees from FSU each year, and our graduates are leaders in the private, public, nonprofit and academic sectors. COSSPP’s underlying mantra is “Engaging Today’s World, Producing Tomorrow’s Leaders,” and we deliver on that in our classrooms, our scholarship, and our public outreach.
As you look ahead to Fall, I want you to keep an eye out for the many programming and professional development opportunities being organized within the college. Our social media channels on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn regularly showcase these activities and I hope you choose to get involved in organizations and causes to which you are called. I believe deeply in community building and professional development, and I think the college and university provide wonderful support for your growth as a student, teacher, and professional.
I would also ask you to review and look for ways to advance the COSSPP Strategic Plan and pursue the recommendations of a soon-to-be-completed COSSPP Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan, both of which articulate our vision, values, strengths, and necessary actions. We rely on our faculty, staff and students to implement these plans, so please look for opportunities to help shape the college for the better.
I wish you a great Fall semester, as well as a productive and happy year ahead. I look forward to seeing the great work you do for the college and maybe even seeing you in the halls of Bellamy now and then. If you have any ideas for the continued success and forward progress of the college, please feel free to share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In closing, welcome again to The Year Like No Other! I promise you it will be memorable, and not just for the challenges we face. You will make new friends and colleagues, learn new skills, and find that you have a resilience that you didn’t know you had. Be Safe, Be Well, Wear A Mask, and Go Noles!
Tim Chapin, COSSPP Dean
Dr. Chapin is Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy and a professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University.
The feature image is from Wikipedia.