Thanksgiving message

Dear Faculty and Staff:

Last Friday marked the end of instruction for the fall semester.  This has been a difficult semester for all of us: for our students, for our faculty and for our staff.  Most of us are relieved that we have reached this point, and look forward to the Thanksgiving break and holiday starting Wednesday afternoon.

The approach of Thanksgiving is an appropriate time to pause and express our thanks to all of those who worked hard to make sure that our community remained as safe as possible and that we were able to serve our students, whether here in Houston or around the world.  While the list of those to thank is far too long to enumerate fully, it is important to recognize that our successful progress through this semester was made possible by the dedicated and coordinated contributions of many. 

I want to begin by thanking our facilities colleagues who kept our buildings operational and sanitary, which was vital to carry out our mission. Our bus drivers and parking staff maintained our mobility and the ability to get to offices, job locations and classes. Our police officers kept our campus safe, often directly enforcing the health safety rules we adopted.  Our groundskeepers maintained the beauty of our campus.  Speaking for myself and no doubt many others, it was that beauty and safety in which we often sought relief from the crushing omnipresence of the pandemic.  We thank our housing and dining staff who kept our on-campus students, including half of our undergraduate student body, safely housed and well fed. And our residential college teams, including magisters and resident associates, have worked tirelessly to create welcoming spaces where undergraduates could live and learn.

Our staff in information technology deserve special appreciation for enabling our faculty to teach and our students to learn effectively whether they were located on our campus, remotely in Houston or around the world.  The staff in the academic departments and schools have not wavered in their commitment to promote student success, regardless of the challenges. We also thank the people in the centers and institutes who provide supplemental academic and extracurricular support for our students and faculty. We are grateful to our research staff in the various academic units and centers, including the library, who enabled our faculty and other researchers to continue their vital work during the pandemic. The offices of the deans of graduate and postdoctoral studies and of undergraduates carried out myriad and complex responsibilities to assure our students could continue to learn and discover. The office of international students and scholars has shown compassion for the challenging circumstances our international students have faced, and kept our international community informed, in good spirits and in visa compliance. 

Throughout the university, supervisors, both faculty and administrators, acted with creativity and flexibility in enabling our work to continue. And, finally, a huge thanks to our crisis management team, which provided guidance, communication and implementation of health measures since the pandemic began affecting our university in late February.

The list could go on endlessly, but I hope the point is clear.  We want to express our deepest gratitude, our thanksgiving, to everyone in the Rice community who made this semester possible, whatever their duties and however they were able to best perform them, whether here on campus or remotely.

We also want to express our gratitude to our faculty, who adopted new modalities of teaching, and in many cases spent additional time reaching out to individual students who in this time of isolation sought needed help or even just care and attention. In many instances, they made it possible for our graduate students to carry on their work.

With the pandemic now reaching an intensity we have not seen before, with more than one million cases per week, we must all remain vigilant. Care for our own health and safety during this time is vital, not only for our own wellbeing, but also for the health and safety of others.  The beginning of next semester, and probably for at least an extended period into the semester, will likely demand a similar level of health and safety measures. We hope the longer break between semesters will allow our students to return refreshed with a renewed excitement for their education and the experiences they will have as part of the Rice community. Knowing even better now the challenges and frustrations our students faced, we will work hard and creatively to make sure that the rest of this academic year is as rewarding as possible.

The winter holidays now are only one month away.  As an expression of our gratitude for the work of our staff in enabling the university to carry out its mission under these difficult circumstances, we are extending the late December winter break, which encompasses both Christmas and New Year’s.  We are adding to the holiday schedule the Wednesday and Thursday before Christmas, as well as the Monday after New Year’s Day.  Thus the winter holiday will now run from Dec. 23 through Jan. 4.

We wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving and a great beginning to the holiday season.

With warmest regards,