Dear parents and families –
Today marks the end of final exams, with commencement ceremonies scheduled for this weekend. I often find myself reflecting back on the year when we reach the end of the spring semester, but this year feels different, and I realized I wanted to send a message acknowledging the close of the academic year to our parents and families.
As Dean of Undergraduates, it is not usual for me to write directly to parents. My communications typically are restricted to Rice newsletters and remarks delivered at official campus events, like New Families’ Orientation at the start of O-Week. But as the coronavirus situation grew more serious last spring, I started sharing messages written to students directly with parents, something I continued throughout the summer and until the fall semester began. This was notable because as an institution we embrace our role in helping facilitate student growth as individuals and independent adults. For me to communicate directly to parents was a sign of the significance of what was happening - that circumstances and decisions regarding the fall start at Rice were unique and serious. Direct communication with parents was necessary to ensure that, together with their family, students could make an informed decision on how to engage with our campus this year.
As I am sure you know, the year at Rice has gone relatively well. COVID in our community has remained low; since August 1 we have completed more than 150K tests for COVID (around 84,000 of these were tests given to undergraduate students), with a positivity rate well below 1%. More recently, we arranged for students to receive COVID vaccinations on our campus, and surveys of our students show that nearly 9 out of 10 undergraduate students are vaccinated. When I think about the pandemic and how our students have navigated this at Rice, I find myself amazed by and incredibly proud of them - and I hope you feel the same way about your student. Our successes this year could only occur because we are fortunate to have a thoughtful, responsible, and community-orientated student body.
That said, there is no doubt that this has been a challenging year, one that shook up how our students engage with peers, staff, and faculty. Yet I find myself optimistic about what’s to come for Rice next fall. As you can see in various messages logged on our COVID communications page, we have begun easing up a bit on some (but certainly not all) of the restrictions established in response to COVID, and we are hopeful for a normal-ish operational posture come the start of the Fall 2021 semester in August. For those of you with a student who is continuing at Rice next year, this campus-wide communications page (as well as the undergraduate student communications page), are good places to periodically check for updates on our campus status. As we move through the summer, we will be messaging out to students and the broader Rice community with updates relevant to our fall semester start.
And with that, I want to end by saying thank you. As parents, the support you provide to your student is always crucial to their success at Rice. Kudos to each of you, I hope your families are well and that you enjoy a lovely summer.
Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates