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Dear colleagues,

It’s been a difficult semester. It began with two campus lockdowns and the tragic death of one of our College faculty. It is wrapping up with news of a transition in university leadership. I wish Chancellor Guskiewicz well at Michigan State and I look forward to working with Lee Roberts when he joins us next month as interim chancellor. In between these momentous semester bookends, there has been no shortage of unexpected events to navigate.

Yesterday, at Winter Commencement, I heard keynote speaker Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody describe what she called the three essential elements to humanity: compassion, listening deeply and bridge-building. She said that as a society we are not doing a very good job at listening to each other, yet we all have a great need to feel heard and respected. Compassion and listening are the keys to fostering connection and building bridges, which often lead to transformational change. This advice was for our graduating students, but it’s a pretty good message for all of us to hear.

This time last year, I sent a message to you asking you to give the gift of grace to your colleagues. Perhaps this will become a new December tradition for me—an annual reminder that life and circumstances can throw curveballs at you—at us—and at everything we know and value. We solved some of the issues that were plaguing us last year, but new ones have arisen—and, it seems, will always arise. I am a firm believer that challenges are best faced by working together, and it benefits us all to recognize that everyone is doing their best. So, go ahead and re-gift that grace you received last year. Let’s make it a Carolina holiday tradition to remind each other of our important mission of touching the future through our teaching, our research and our creative works, and that by working together, we can solve whatever problems come our way.

Thank you for all you have done, and continue to do, on behalf of the College of Arts and Sciences, to serve our students and the state of North Carolina. Best wishes for a restful holiday break with your loved ones.

Go Heels,

Jim White

Dean, College of Arts and Sciences



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