Greetings! I am excited to begin today as The New School’s ninth President. When I accepted this great honor last October, I was overjoyed, and I have been looking forward to this day ever since. I envisioned celebrating this new beginning in the bustling lobby of the University Center, extending many handshakes and hugs, learning names, building personal connections, and feeling the energy that is so uniquely The New School.
None of us could have known that in just a few short months our world would change so dramatically. Our lives are very different, for now. So, today I am saying a socially distant “hello” with this message and home-made video. They are simple means, conveyed with a heart full of excitement and pride for this extraordinary academic institution.
Each of us has had to adapt to an altered reality. As an academic community, we have had to make the massive adjustment to teaching and learning remotely. As citizens, we have learned to vigilantly measure the distance between ourselves and others. As family members and friends, we have lost people we love and admire. In incalculable ways, this pandemic has challenged the very tenants that we think of as constituting a thriving academic community.
But we are not daunted. Since my arrival in New York City on March 16, the day that the city effectively closed down, I have borne witness to the ways in which The New School’s sense of community can both be sustained and sustain us in these challenging times. Community is what we create, every day, through acts of humanity, generosity, and grace. Please, today, reach out to a New School colleague or peer and offer them something positive and heartfelt. I’ll start, by sharing with you all this excerpt from a Gwendolyn Brooks poem from which I’ve drawn inspiration in these difficult times:
that we are each other’s
we are each other’s
we are each other’s
magnitude and bond.
As a first-generation college student, I experienced the profound difference higher education made in my own life—the transformation that can happen when professors and students come together in a focused pursuit of knowledge, meaning, and making. I found my professional calling in the academy and have spent the last two decades leading and advocating for higher education access, innovation, and excellence. I look forward to advancing that work at The New School, a university fueled by creativity, scholarly engagement, and positive social change.
As we embark on this journey together, we owe tremendous gratitude to President Van Zandt. His leadership of The New School and his work with all of you over the last decade helped to create a thriving university that has amplified its legacy of progressive education, increased its focus on interdisciplinary programs, and fostered greater student and faculty support. I am grateful to him for his generous support during this leadership transition.
The New School will chart its future in a complex world and time. We will need to adjust to a new normal and remain unbowed in our commitment to our educational mission and our willingness to embrace difference and change. To be sure this pandemic will test us. Indeed, it will force some difficult choices in the coming days that will be critical to safeguard the future of The New School and the unique educational opportunities this special place provides. I am confident we will rise to even the most complex challenges ahead of us as we work together boldly and with the characteristic optimism and commitment to making a difference that have always set The New School apart.
I look forward to our time together as an academic community—both virtually, for now, and in person in the months to come—and to serving this outstanding institution.
Onward and upward!