Start of Fall Term

President Hanlon shares his excitement and expectations at the start of the academic year.

Dear students and colleagues,

Tomorrow, fall term gets fully underway, as undergraduate and graduate students join professional students who began classes several weeks ago. It sure feels different this year, but no less exciting from where I sit. I hope all of you – whether you're here on campus or learning remotely this term – feel the same. Welcome to what is certain to be a memorable academic year.

Personally speaking, I'm eager to get back in the classroom, albeit virtually this time! I, like all of my faculty colleagues, have been wrapping my arms around the technology I'll be using to teach remotely this term, taking full advantage of the resources available to me at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning and elsewhere across campus. And over the last two weeks, I've hosted one-on-one Zoom meetings with each of my students, getting to know them more personally so that I can tailor our class time and coursework to their specific interests and goals.

I've also witnessed the great lengths to which our entire community of students, faculty and staff has gone to ensure that the term gets off to a great start. During recent visits to the Testing Tent and to check in on the Dining Staff at 53 Commons, I found every staff member and volunteer enthusiastically digging in to get things done. I've also been talking with parents and new and returning students, all of whom are as excited and ready as I am to get on with the business of learning. A big thanks from all of us to the staff members and volunteers who are directly engaged with students to ensure a smooth return to campus. 

As we begin fall term, it's important that we recognize that we are facing a formidable, shared challenge as a Dartmouth community. So, I have one important request of each of you: please be understanding of one another. Students – recognize that faculty, staff and community members have legitimate concerns about staying safe and not carrying the virus from campus to the surrounding community. Colleagues – embrace the excitement that students have upon their return to campus and the enthusiasm they have for learning, including learning from each other. Help them think creatively about how they can safely interact with one another and make new traditions, especially in the absence of being able to participate in the old ones, at least for the time being.  

When I was a child, I remember a time when our neighbor's house burned down. While the house was being rebuilt, my family took in the grandmother. My parents offered her my brother's room, which meant that he and I had to share a small bedroom – an arrangement neither of us liked. We complained to our parents: Why does Mrs. Miller have to stay with us? Why is she so grumpy all the time? I distinctly remember my mom telling us that we needed to think about how she was feeling. She had just lost her home and was separated from her family. As for our sacrifice of having to share a bedroom? This is just what strong communities do, she explained. They look out for one another, regardless of the personal sacrifices required. 

I share this story with you because each of us, in this moment, is being asked to make personal adjustments and sacrifices to keep the community safe, and to follow our Community Expectations and the Town of Hanover's regulations. I know that's not easy, but as my mother taught me all those years ago, this is what strong communities do. I know we can do it. I believe in the strength and compassion of this community above all else.

Thank you for your care and concern and for your ongoing cooperation. I look forward to a safe and productive fall term for all.



Philip J. Hanlon '77