Dear Members of the USF Community,
I am delighted to welcome all of you to the University of San Francisco’s 2022-23 academic year.
It has been a pleasure to greet our new undergraduate, transfer, and graduate students and to welcome back our continuing students. I also had the opportunity to meet many parents and family members during move-in days and at various receptions.
Over the last week, we moved in nearly 2,800 students to our on-campus housing. That’s almost 10 percent more than last fall when we were just returning to in-person activities. I am grateful to the exceptional staff in Student Life who took care of innumerable logistical details and to the volunteers from across the university — including student-athletes and alumni — who were on hand to answer questions, give directions, direct traffic, lift boxes and suitcases, and support the newest members of the USF community as they arrived and settled in. Thank you!
I was also very happy to see hundreds of students, faculty, librarians, and staff in person at our Community Convocation earlier today, and glad, too, that hundreds of parents, alumni, and other friends of USF could join us virtually. “Innovation” was our theme, and Provost Chinyere Oparah and I outlined how we are approaching many of the priorities for the year ahead, with input and ideas from all of you.
If you were unable to be there or watch live, I invite you to view the video. Provost Oparah and I look forward to communicating with you regularly about our progress in the year ahead in meeting our goals and implementing aspects of the 2027 Strategic Plan.
Many of you took time to submit questions in advance of Convocation. One of the questions was posed by a student who asked: “How important is it to have international students at USF?” Our international student presence on campus is not only critically important to our mission and values — particularly our commitments to diversity, inclusion, equity, and global justice — but also to our alignment with the growing recognition that Jesuit education is increasing on an international scale. Earlier this month, Provost Oparah and I participated in the worldwide assembly of the International Association of Jesuit Universities at Boston College. The Rev. Arturo Sosa, superior general of the Jesuits, in his keynote address spoke about the difference between multiculturality and interculturality; never before has it been more true that, as the early Jesuits said, “the world is our home.” Interculturality goes beyond living in healthy coexistence of multiculturality. Interculturality involves active steps to go out to meet other cultures with humility and openness. With international students here on campus, it is a great gift that our community in San Francisco allows students and all members of our community to do that right here on the Hilltop — over lunch tables and in residence halls; in classrooms and labs; on intramural, D1, and club sport playing fields; in travel and study abroad opportunities.
So, Jesuit higher education is a global effort, embracing our 27 colleges and universities in the United States, but also in partnership with the more than 180 Jesuit institutions across the world. Provost Oparah and I left the assembly enriched by the meaningful conversations with representatives from Jesuit universities in South Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, and East Asia, and we are excited about many opportunities going forward.
The challenges of the past few years still resonate with us. The isolation, pain, and loss that accompanied the COVID pandemic continues to have repercussions for all of us. I know from my conversations with parents and families that the concerns for their students’ safety — including physical safety, holistic well-being, and mental health — is very real. As we communicated, we are linking indoor masking to national and local guidance. At this time, the transmission rate for COVID in San Franciso is still high, so we are requiring face coverings inside campus buidings. Public health matters, including COVID and now monkeypox, are priority matters for us. Information on COVID plans and protocols are communicated regularly by email and posted on USF Together.
USF is a community committed to working for justice, asking important questions, finding global solutions, and learning about and supporting each other. As we begin the academic year, I pray that our work individually and collectively to make an impact here on campus and around the world will be fruitful and meaningful.
I hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe and staying healthy, and I wish you a wonderful, gratifying, and productive new year.
Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J.