Cultures around the world celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of spring, whether that celebration takes the form of Lent and Easter or of the Cherry Blossom Festivals of Japan. Because the academic calendar roughly follows the agricultural calendar, keeping students in class during the fallow months and releasing them for the harvest, school commencements align with celebrations of spring (or early summer!) and have some of that same feeling of new life, hope and promise.
This year commencement and the end of the 2020-2021 academic year feel especially momentous because we are all emerging from the hard months of the coronavirus pandemic, into the light and warmth of both the change of seasons and our renewed ability to socialize, exercise, and enjoy community life safely.
The pandemic has been truly horrible, taking more than half a million of our friends, neighbors, and loved ones, and revealing again the toll that health inequities and bias impose on lower-income and minority communities. Further, we know that vaccines are not available equitably around the world, and that the pandemic won’t fully end until they are. One piece of our emergence into the light of spring and summer must be a commitment to change those things about our society and our world.
Yet, we should also reflect on the good that was revealed by the pandemic, especially how members of the Cal Poly community rose to the challenges, whether by developing a cutting-edge saliva testing method that we used on campus this spring, deploying wastewater surveillance technology, or simply by wearing a mask, social distancing, and keeping each other safe. Those are reasons to feel hope and promise, and to be Cal Poly Proud!
I look forward to the fall quarter in September, and to campus returning to more or less its normal life. More than 87% of fall quarter classes are being offered face to face, and we expect to have the residence halls close to full. Cal Poly is meant to be a residential campus where students engage in hands-on learning. Many thanks to the faculty and staff who created face-to-face, Learn by Doing experiences this year despite the pandemic! There’s much more to come in the fall (along with virtual options for those who cannot be vaccinated or for other reasons aren’t quite ready to return in person).
Many congratulations to the class of 2021, who got to graduation despite all the obstacles the coronavirus could put in your way! I invite the whole Cal Poly family to join in celebrating the grads, the warm weather, the return of socializing more freely, and what I know we all hope prove to be the waning days of the pandemic. Go, Mustangs! Go! Go! Go!
Jeffrey D. Armstrong