The Admin Corner - Lesley Nye

Dear Undergraduates,

As we barrel towards the end of another academic year and prepare to say “au revoir” to our soon-to-be-graduates, I hope we can all take a moment to appreciate the time that we have been able to spend together and reflect upon what we have overcome in the past few years, both as individuals and as a community.

The last three years were unprecedented in US higher education, and in the history of the world. We were forced to alter the ways we work, study, teach, interact, play, and socialize. Caltech, like our institutional counterparts, had to move rapidly and flexibly within a constantly shifting landscape—something that is especially challenging to an institution so grounded in tradition and history. The faculty reassessed management of their labs and learned how to engage in hybrid and virtual instruction; staff were required to respond creatively and immediately to extraordinary demands; and the students had to…well, give up their hopes and dreams of a typical college experience. And meanwhile, we all worried about the well-being and safety of our loved ones and one another.

We were also separated from this community we call home. Despite the hours and hours of Zoom meetings and calls, Team conversations, Discord threads, ridiculously imaginative efforts to bring people together (without actually bringing them together), and other attempts to normalize interactions and pursue the educational and research missions of the Institute, it was a singularly isolating and painful year and a half. Returning to campus alleviated some of this, but the ongoing pandemic continued to make things difficult to regain any sense of normalcy.

But you all know this all too well.

I just want to take this opportunity to thank you. To thank you for your resilience, your strength, your flexibility, and your perseverance. For your intellectual brilliance, your generous hearts, and your desire to make this world a better place. For your contributions to the continued success of your peers, your mentors, and your faculty. And for allowing us all to take this wild ride with you. Here’s hoping no generation will ever again have to manage such a complex and Covid-y undergraduate experience. And to the graduates out there, best wishes and have fun!