• President Edward Burger
    Carlos Barron

Dear Southwestern students,

Welcome home! As today is the first official day of the 2019–2020 academic year, I want to share with you a reflection as we begin anew, offer some updates that will be of interest to you, and extend a few invitations to some upcoming special events. As our campus comes back to life each fall, I’m always inspired by the energy and enthusiasm that surround us. Every time I see a thoughtful smile or an engaging exchange of ideas around campus, I’m reminded of how fortunate we all are to be members of this intellectual community.

At this year’s Matriculation Convocation, just two Saturdays ago, as we welcomed our newest students to Southwestern, I shared our expectations for us all: that we be upstanding members of this community, open-mindedly engage with its instruction and discourse, and hold genuine respect and empathy for each other as well as for the diversity of thoughtful ideas. These practices of living are some of the most effective ways to overcome the evils of bigotry, racism, violence, and ignorance—none of which is welcomed on this campus.  

In terms of our physical surroundings around campus, much is new including various renovations in many residence halls. Most significantly, however, is the completion of the Fondren–Jones Science Center. Yes, all of our natural science disciplines now connect in one state-of-the-art building, and yes it will allow even greater opportunities for high-impact intellectual experiences for both students and faculty, but it really is a space for all—even those who are not necessarily drawn to the sciences. I hope you will explore the many open areas offering spaces to connect with others, study, relax, and simply enjoy.

In addition, you will notice the beautiful redesigned outdoor area between Mood-Bridwell Hall (our next academic building to experience a major renovation) and the Science Center. That nearly completed quad—named the Jones Plaza—will not only offer outdoor classroom opportunities, places to sit, think, and recharge (yourself as well as your e-devices), but also will include a main gate to campus offering a new SU photo op for all to enjoy. Finally, the Debby Ellis Writing Center, now in its 20th year, has a new home inside the library. These new spaces were funded by donors who are investing in you—our students—to make your experience on campus even more meaningful and uplifting. We’ll celebrate the official Grand Opening of both the Science Center/Plaza and the Writing Center on Friday, October 4.

To make the most of your time at Southwestern, I invite you to be active and engaged inside and beyond the classroom. Luckily, that’s easy to do through the meaningful opportunities across our ever-evolving curriculum (this fall we’re welcoming 11 new full-time faculty members, including five tenure-track faculty) and meaningful co-curricular opportunities through our Mosaic program and our new Residential Experience. We launched the new Civil Discourse and Free Speech Initiative last year in response to our country’s divisive political climate, and we’re continuing our commitment to open, respectful, and thoughtful debate this year with the 2019 Roy and Margaret Shilling Lecture, featuring Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and conservative advisor Mary Matalin. Please join us on Friday, October 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the Alma Thomas Fine Arts Center for this thought-provoking conversation between two of the nation’s leading political minds. Attendees will need to sign-up for tickets to Alma Thomas, but we’ll also be live-streaming the entire event on the Academic Mall, in case you wish to enjoy the conversation al fresco (or forget to reserve a ticket).

Last but not least, in the spirit of community traditions, I hope you will join your friends, faculty, staff, and their families on Friday, September 6, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the Pirate Parrrty, our annual academic year kick-off. With a Pirate-themed photo booth, carnival games, live music, and, of course, excellent food and much more, this celebration is a great opportunity for all of us to have a little fun as a campus community before the many curricular and co-curricular challenges of the semester kick into full-gear.

I wish you a most meaningful and uplifting academic year.

Sincerely yours,

President Burger