Welcome back to campus

Colleagues,

I yet again find myself with the rhetorical challenge of the traditional start of the semester message. It is an understatement to note how this spring semester is different than last year, or how the past month has been its own roller coaster in terms of national events and our own local preparations for the COVID-19 vaccine. The message I would have written at the beginning of January would have expressed different sentiments than what I would have written last week.  In some ways, pushing back the start of the semester was serendipitous as this message can be more optimistic.  There is reason to have cautious hope as we embark on the start of a new semester.

At the same time, this semester will still present numerous challenges that require our resilience and persistence. The Governor’s budget outlook contains some bright spots, such as discontinuing furloughs, yet we all will be asked to meet the challenges of working under continued hiring freezes and budget cuts. We still need to practice an abundance of caution to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19, while being mindful to care for ourselves and others as we continue to endure all the corresponding challenges together.

In this, I find grounding myself in our shared institutional mission and values help me to reflect on what is important and why we do the work we do in the first place. Our mission of outstanding learning, discovery, and engagement is why some of us are busy preparing syllabi, getting ready to guide the newest generation of researchers, or working on the next breakthrough of knowledge to help our communities. It is why some of us are guiding prospective students through the application process or explaining the complexities of financial aid to extend the benefits of higher education to a new cohort. It is why some of us continue to dedicate extra hours to ensure everything in our institution is in working order from the buildings, to computer and internet infrastructure, to managing data, to supporting students and faculty, and to the extensive behind the scenes work that may go unnoticed but is essential. More than ever, the work of educating Nevada citizens is important, and cannot happen without the continued excellence of everyone in our campus community.

Although our work won’t be easy, I also encourage us to celebrate and recognize what we have been able to achieve. Whether it is in recognizing the efforts of outstanding administrative or academic faculty through Honor the Best award nominations (check out the Faculty Awards website for more information on awards managed by the Faculty Senate office), or recognizing, appreciating, and acknowledging the work our colleagues do on a daily basis. Let’s make this a semester to continually remind one another that what we do is important and all contributions matter.

This semester we are also tasked to remind our state legislators that our work matters and higher education is essential in Nevada’s recovery. I’m excited to advocate on behalf of faculty in the upcoming legislative session and work with the newly appointed Director of Government Relations and Community Engagement Michael Flores. In addition to the budget, we are also tracking the Governor’s announcement of reviewing the organization of community colleges, the impact to employees of budget cuts on PEBP benefits, and bills impacting student accessibility such as scholarships and tuition waivers.

To ensure faculty are kept up to date on all the higher education bills and budget discussions, Michael and I have set up an email announcement listserv that any faculty member can join if they want to receive updates.

We will use this listserv to announce committee hearings or opportunities for public comment throughout the session and provide talking points to help faculty who want to advocate during the session. Those who wish to subscribe to the listserv need to send an email to: legislative_announce-join@lists.unr.edu including the word “subscribe” as the subject and leaving the message body blank. You can also follow Michael and me on Twitter for additional updates (@MikeFloresLV and @AmyPason).

Representing the voice of faculty is more important than ever, and I ask you to help me in this endeavor by reaching out to your Senate Representatives or email me at apason@unr.edu to share thoughts, concerns, or suggestions you may have. There is still work to do, but there is also reason to be hopeful. I appreciate all faculty do on our campus, and I wish you all the best this Spring Semester.

Sincerely,

Amy Pason
Faculty Senate Chair, 2020-2021
Associate Professor of Communication Studies