Message of Gratitude
November 19, 2020
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
It’s November 19. The sun has begun to set early in the evening, and here on campus you can feel the pace start to slow. As we gear down to observe the Thanksgiving holiday, I wouldn’t want to let an important milestone slip by: the completion of the on-campus portion of our fall semester in this historic year. We have stayed open, healthy, and accountable for the full 13 weeks. Now, as we ready ourselves for winter, and many of our students prepare to leave campus for the break and continue their studies remotely, I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude to all of those who made this possible.
If I attempted to name all of the efforts that made this semester a success, you’d be reading this letter well after the holiday, so I will try for efficiency’s sake to simply call out some notable examples:
● My heartfelt gratitude extends to my leadership team and the dozens of staff who developed and implemented our COVID response and planning — from testing and tracing to tracking and reporting, you led the way.
● We had to think creatively and quickly about how to redesign our spaces to prevent the spread of the virus while still fostering the academic rigor our students deserve. I want to express my deep gratitude to our Facilities and Services and Campus Operations and Maintenance teams, whose critical work in custodial, grounds, and transportation has kept our campus healthy and open while other universities had to close.
● Our front-line staff has been truly excellent in upholding all of our commitments to health this fall. The Residential Life staff managed regular and quarantine housing throughout the semester, providing a safe and accountable home for our resident students, while Student Health managed the many ongoing health concerns amid the pandemic. The CulinArt staff in Campus Dining followed new sanitation guidelines and managed to sustain a campus full of hungry learners the entire semester, and our University Police were on the ground every day keeping the campus safe.
● In a year in which gatherings and events have become increasingly complicated to plan, our Conferences and Special Events team executed flawlessly and safely when we greeted important visitors hailing from SUNY and the White House.
● Teams from the Staller Center to the Wang Center to the Library continued to offer virtual arts programming and historical and cultural exhibits.
● Coaches and athletic staff organized safe practices and workouts for our student-athletes.
● Our Budget team made sure that we identified resources to meet our needs, our DoIT staff maintained critical technology to keep us learning and working uninterrupted, and our Human Resources professionals helped us hire, train, and onboard in a virtual work environment while creating a robust employee health effort.
● Our Marketing and Communications staff ensured frequent, timely, and authentic communication to keep us informed and safe. Those in Government and Community Relations worked tirelessly to keep our external community partners informed and engaged, while also advocating for Stony Brook in New York State and Washington, D.C.
● Our Admissions and Financial Aid teams brought in a new class and started working on the Class of 2025 without missing a beat.
● Our faculty has been adaptive, accountable, and deft as we’ve continued to manage the transition to online and hybrid learning plans. Our incredible researchers have continued to innovate and excel, looking toward the future in a time of tumult and change. Our University Senate leadership was instrumental in helping us to craft the plans that made this possible.
● Stony Brook students have risen to the occasion and met the challenges of this year with dignity, honesty, and integrity. We offer them our profound thanks for setting a safe example that the rest of us were proud to follow.
● Many faculty and staff were instrumental in helping our community navigate the election season with respect and understanding. And so many have supported any students feeling isolated and anxious. I am deeply grateful for the help of our Student Affairs and Undergraduate Education teams in all of their efforts.
● In the Health Sciences, our clinical faculty and staff have continued to educate and prepare our future healthcare professionals and serve our community.
● Our doctors, nurses, and Hospital staff didn’t let down for a moment, shifting from the first wave of the pandemic to the pent-up demand of health issues postponed during the worst of the crisis. Now, they are preparing for the challenges ahead.
Thank you to all of those mentioned above and so many more. The sense of community here at Stony Brook University — your passion and sense of shared responsibility — was a large part of what drew me here. And at first, I worried that in these pandemic times I wouldn’t get to experience firsthand the spirit that makes this community so unique. Earlier this month, I attended the Light the Brook event put on by our Undergraduate Student Government. As I stood there and watched the Academic Mall light up, I was able to more clearly see all of those in attendance — physically distanced but very much together in spirit. People were bundled up, watching their dogs play in the cold, night air…savoring a moment of togetherness.
That togetherness was there the whole time. It was there when this university weathered the first of the pandemic in spring, it was there as we carefully planned over the summer, and it was there when we all — students, staff, and faculty — delivered on those plans this semester. I know that this year has felt hazy, anxious, and lonely to many. I know that it has been difficult to feel seen. This message is to let all of you know that I see you — I see the hard work you’ve put in, the commitment you’ve demonstrated, the hardships you’v0e endured, and the sacrifices you’ve made. Thank you to everyone as we move forward into the end of this unique semester and into the start of 2021 — bound by gratitude and togetherness, in the light of Stony Brook.