Dear Parents and Guardians:
Many of you know that Pat Lampkin, our long-serving vice president for student affairs, delayed her planned retirement for almost a year, lending her steady hand to the University’s COVID-19 response. With both our blessings and regrets, we said farewell to Pat earlier this month. Given what is expected to be a brief period of transition between Pat’s retirement and the arrival of our new vice president, President Ryan asked if I would assume the role of acting vice president. I look forward to staying in touch with you during the rest of the semester.
Thoughts about loss and longing are in the forefronts of our minds as we mark the one-year point since the pandemic took charge of our lives. As the mom of two high school students, I have witnessed the deep impact of these losses. One year in the life of a high-school or college student represents multiple rites of passage – sports seasons, championship games, theater productions, concerts, the prom, graduation, orientation, living in a dorm, making new friends, joining clubs, adapting to new academic demands, establishing a sense of independence, and more. Even greater than the loss of experiences like these has been the tremendous loss of life, which has touched the extended UVA family both directly and indirectly. When viewed in total, the pandemic’s toll on our collective lives is staggering.
Many of you have written us in recent weeks. We understand and empathize with the frustration and related emotions you are feeling. Like you, we want what is best for your student. The recent decision to relax several restrictions, as described in last week’s Spring Update, along with the arrival of spring weather promise new opportunities for students to connect with others and enjoy the beauty of the larger Charlottesville area.
Healthy social connection with others is important for well-being. Several resources are available to students, including the well-being guides and a new digital activity hub to help them find COVID-safe things to do. A weekly newsletter focused on safe, healthy activities -- the Wahoo Weekender -- is available by signing up. The Involvement Calculator is another way for students to explore their interests and find matching activities.
Long before the pandemic, we were focused on students’ mental wellness. This focus remains vitally important. We will continue to prioritize healthy ways for students to still follow the necessary rules while doing things to boost their overall well-being. In a recent UVA Today interview, our director of counseling, Nicole Ruzek, discussed pandemic fatigue and offered some insightful thoughts. If you haven’t read the article, I hope you will take a few minutes to do so.
In the area of ongoing concerns, we are very concerned with what we are hearing anecdotally about students traveling for “spring-break-like” trips outside Charlottesville and Albemarle. This is not a good idea. We hope you will make sure your student is traveling only when absolutely necessary. Since the pandemic began, as you know, travel of any kind – especially outside the United States and to locations where large numbers of people are gathering – poses a high risk for spreading the virus and creating new outbreaks and surges. Such travel potentially affects not only the area visited but also the UVA and local Charlottesville communities once students return.
If you or your student needs more information about the University’s current travel policy and precautions, please see the coronavirus website. The website includes procedures to follow for leaving, returning, and testing when travel is critically necessary.
The potential for spreading the virus through St. Patrick’s Day celebrations also is concerning. University Dean of Students Allen Groves communicated with students about this topic today.
In closing, I want to reiterate we will continue to do everything possible to help students actively connect with one another within the current restrictions. As you have heard many times, we must balance those needs with public health needs and the expert guidance we are receiving from our medical colleagues. We all remain very optimistic that things will continue to improve as more individuals get vaccinated and transmission of the virus is reduced.
Thank you for all you do as parents of our students, especially during this challenging time. I hope you and your extended family are remaining safe and healthy.
Susan M. Davis
Acting Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer