Reflections on the end of the academic year

Dear Members of the USF Community,

The racist hate crime that killed 10 of our sisters and brothers, and injured three more, at a Buffalo supermarket Saturday has affected me deeply. I know that you, too, are grappling with this horrific event, along with the increase in white supremacist violence that is occurring throughout our nation.  

These murders and acts of hate are weighing heavy on our hearts as we prepare for these final days of the semester and the academic year. As we pray for the families and loved ones of those personally touched by the murders in Buffalo, I want you to know that I am praying for each of you. The times in which we live require so much courage and conviction — qualities that we must demand of ourselves and our political and civic leaders, and qualities that are central to a USF Jesuit education. 

Over the past few weeks, I have been reflecting on how to address the members of the Class of 2022 on their graduation day. I found myself thinking about the qualities that our remarkable and talented students have developed during their time at the University of San Francisco — qualities that were nurtured by their teachers and mentors, with support from every member of our beloved community.  

COVID, of course, disrupted months of our graduating students’ academic and campus experiences. Yet thanks to their own perseverance and our entire community’s support, they succeeded.  

Our graduating students’ time at USF has been shaped by external forces and events, from hate crimes and racism like we just witnessed in Buffalo, to environmental catastrophes, political upheaval, voter suppression, and the war in Ukraine. In this chaos, I find comfort that in every degree program at USF, students are invited to take up questions of justice, confront injustice, engage in challenging conversations, and join with others to change the world.

Our graduating students are leaving us with more courage and more humility. And that, too, is because those qualities are fostered at USF — in and beyond classrooms.   

As we come to the end of the academic year, I wish all of you — graduating students, returning students, faculty, librarians, staff — time to spend with loved ones and time to reflect and rest during the summer months. 

The campus will not be shuttered during summer, of course. Summer classes will begin soon, and a long list of campus repairs, construction, and renovation will get underway. And we are preparing for a very busy new academic year in August. To name just a few items to come this fall:

  • We have taken title of the blood bank building on Masonic Avenue, which means that this fall we will begin additional study into how our students will benefit from this exciting new facility. While we cannot move into the building until the current tenants move out, you can expect to hear from me and the space committee with a call for proposals on how to use the space.
  • The extensive work by representatives from across the community to implement the 2027 Strategic Plan will continue in the fall with the assembly of the Strategic Plan Advisory Council and the initial two Strategic Plan Working Groups. As you will recall, these working groups will focus on goal #5 (ensuring USF is an equitable and extraordinary place to work) and goal #6 (developing inclusive and participatory share governance structures). Thanks to the many faculty, librarians, staff, and students who have had a hand in this important work to date — and who continue to be engaged in shaping our future.
  • We will welcome two new deans, Otgo Erhemjamts in the School of Management and Eileen Fry-Bowers in the School of Nursing and Health Professions. And, as various search processes continue, we expect to welcome other new leaders to our campus in the year ahead.

And, of course, in August we will welcome hundreds of new undergraduate and graduate students to our community from across the country and around the globe.

I hope the coming days will be productive and gratifying for you. I look forward to seeing many of you at commencement ceremonies and celebrations this week.

Thank you for all you have done for USF, for our students, and for each other this year. Thank you for your prayers for the people of Buffalo and for our world.

Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J.