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Fall 2020 Convocation Transcript | Remarks by Chancellor Ford

Published: September 4, 2020

By: Deborah Ford

(Note: The Fall 2020 Convocation Ceremony can be viewed here. Below is a transcript of Chancellor Ford's remarks during the ceremony)

Good morning colleagues and thank you for joining us for today’s virtual convocation as we begin the fall 2020 semester. It feels really different to be joining you from a classroom with a few members of the cabinet who are socially distanced and wearing face coverings. I don’t know about you, but I could really use a hug right now, but I will have to settle for an air hug.  

I know our hearts are heavy for Jacob Blake and his family as he recovers from being shot by a police officer on Sunday evening just miles from campus. Our minds are with the protestors, young and old; black, white and brown who are raising their voices for a full and complete investigation and accountability for those involved and fighting for justice. Our hearts and minds are with the families, business owners, and community partners whose lives have been forever changed by the violence, destruction, fires, and looting and with community leaders, clergy, government officials, law enforcement, healthcare officials and volunteers who are making decisions to protect the community. I understand how hard it is to concentrate on the opening the semester and covid-19 when our lives and the lives of our neighbors are turned upside down. Take a moment. A moment to breathe deeply. 

Offer your thoughts and intentions to those of us who are struggling right now. Acknowledge the range of emotions from anger, sadness, frustration, fear, exhaustion, exasperation from talking and little action, nervousness, uncertainty, and maybe even a little anticipation. We are monitoring the situations closely and will continue to prioritize the health and safety our learning community. As we begin this academic year, find ways to support each other, listen to one another, and embrace our differences, as these are the actions that make our learning community even stronger. 

I’ll be very honest with you, I am struggling with all we are facing and working hard to find ways to channel my heartfelt energy, use my voice, and lead in making things better for our community. I have the support of my family and know I am surrounded by a group of amazing, dedicated, and compassionate campus leaders and colleagues called the UW-Parkside Learning Community that make this work easier and worthwhile.    

I fully believe in the power of the human spirit and I am moved by the Thinking of You notes I have received from alumni, parents, colleagues, and students from around the world.   

Thank you for being my light and my guide during these challenging times. More importantly, thank you for being the light for each other and for our students. How we respond and cope will be different but I know we will respond to yet another challenge and emerge stronger together for our students, for one another, and for the greater community.   

So now, let’s look to the Fall 2020 semester…Welcome to the Virtual Fall 2020 Convocation coming to you from Rita L105.  We are showcasing the new technology installed in over 30 classrooms and showing you what a socially distanced classroom looks like. Thank you to members of the Cabinet, leaders in Innovations in Learning, Campus Technology Services, and the Marketing and Communication team for supporting today’s Convocation.   

 Things are certainly different this year and 2020 will be a year for the record books. But we’re all here in spirit and are committed to making UW-Parkside the place to be for our students. It has certainly been a challenging year so far and everyone has had their share of worries. But, we are all in this together, and that is reassuring.   

Join with me to show our gratitude for all of the essential employees who have kept campus running during these past several months, and who have been preparing classrooms for our students. They have been strictly enforcing social distancing and disinfecting protocols, following CDC guidance, and communicating with the Kenosha County Division of Health.  

Also, a tip of our Parkside Ranger caps to staff who have been working from home, engaging with and assisting students, and keeping up to date with messaging and the virtual learning tools. Let’s begin by highlighting what has happened over the summer. Thank you, Rob.  Now, let’s transition to “celebrating our colleagues!”   

We’ve had quite a few new faculty and staff join us here at UW-Parkside since our last fall convocation in 2019. We are always happy to welcome fresh faces to our campus community and are eager to work with you.  

While the ongoing pandemic has prevented us from engaging in person as much as we’d like, we sincerely appreciate those of you who are joining us as we enter this new semester.  

We look forward to getting to know you and, again, thank you for bringing your expertise and perspectives to our learning community. Even if we aren’t connecting on campus, we are all committed to serving our students and adhering to our mission.  

At the beginning of every academic year, we honor and welcome back our retirees and emeritus faculty and staff.  Today, we recognize the retiree class of 2019-2020 representing 411 years of service to UW-Parkside. Again, while we can’t bring them up to the stage, we would like to say thank you to the retirees today during this virtual presentation.  

Our retirees always join us for the Annual Convocation and many have joined us today virtually.  Please join me in congratulating the retiree class of 2019-20 and in thanking all of our retirees for their commitment and dedication to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.  We will be sending certificates and a print made by a UW-Parkside student to our newest retirees. Congratulations Colleagues! 

Diverse perspectives and insight are valued at UW-Parkside and nothing reflects that more than our annual faculty and staff awards.   At this time, we would like to highlight today’s faculty and staff award recipients. Our faculty and staff awards honor colleagues for their research and creativity, their excellence in the classroom, and exemplary service to our students, our university, and our community.  Some of the processes to select award winners this year were disrupted by the pandemic and we hope to complete the process and provide the appropriate recognition later this year.    

Thank you Sheronda and I look forward to working with you and the EDI councils to advance our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. We are committed to  

  • Fostering a safe and inclusive campus culture and climate 
  • Instituting equitable policies and practices 
  • Becoming a dynamic learning organization 
  • Supporting and empowering students, faculty, and staff 
  • Fostering stronger community partnerships  

We will be scheduling open listening sessions later this week and invite you to join us. As our students reflected in the video on what equity, diversity and inclusion means to them, I invite each of you to consider the meaning of diversity, equity, and inclusion means to you as a member of the UW-Parkside learning community.   

Before we close I want to offer a few reflections on the past few months and our pathway forward. As the oldest child of three daughters, I like for things to be in order and I like to make things better. Call it an attribute or a personality flaw. But it is who I am. Thriving in this world with the pandemic has caused chaos for most of us and for folks who like to fix things and make life better it is hard, just when we have it figured out and decide, something changes and we have to regroup. Nimble, agile, adaptable, resilient, learn, and flexible. These are among the most common words used in 2020.  

Add to the public health crisis of the century the civil unrest across the country and now the shooting of Jacob Blake followed by civil unrest just a few miles from our campus.  

My head wants to make things better but my heart is reminding me to be compassionate, be empathetic, and listen. Higher Education and the pathways to my degrees opened so many doors of opportunity for me. And, I know these same doors have opened for you. As we begin this new academic year, I invite you to think about our students; first in their family to go to college; African American students from Kenosha, Racine or the city of Milwaukee; Hispanic students from Northern Illinois; International Students from around the world; students who have two jobs and are relying on the pell grant to pay for their education; students who want to be doctors, teachers, nurses, artists, actors, social workers, community activists, psychologists, scientists, business owners, digital media experts, police officers, or professors; students who started college years ago and are returning to finish their dream of earning a degree. These are just a few of the characteristics of our amazing and diverse student body.   

Guess what? They are counting on us, yes, you and me, to make things better and to be compassionate, be empathetic, and to listen. One thing I know for certain is UW-Parkside makes the community, the state, and the world a better place. Our work in 2020, no matter the role we play, is more important than ever and our work must continue.  

On Monday, Dr. Laura Gellot, Emerita Professor of History, shared the story of the founding of UW-Parkside with our new faculty and staff. I always learn something new to appreciate about UW-Parkside during her presentation. She reminded us of a quote from our founding chancellor, Irvin Wyllie, He was often asked when the physical campus was being built, “when will the University be finished?” His response, “Never.”   

Yes, our work is never finished but our impact is measured through our teaching, research, and service. Thank you for all you do for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside!  Wishing you a smooth start to this topsy-turvy virtual and face to face semester. We, the members of the administration, are here for you and for our students.   

Let’s go Rangers! 

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