February 5, 2021
Phew! We’ve made it to 2021. While it has not been a magical break from 2020, it has brought us new hope and possibilities. For instance…
COVID vaccines are here. While we will continue to offer classes in a virtual format through Summer semester, I anticipate that in Fall, we will have in-person classes with masks and social distancing, along with some virtual classes. Ultimately, the vaccines will allow social distancing to be relaxed, and we will be able to fully occupy the buildings. Online programs will continue via the internet. For anyone who would like to check their eligibility for a vaccine, click here: https://myturn.ca.gov
Education post-pandemic. Our experience with virtual and online classes and with virtual offices has led us to ask what about each of these modalities can we retain in order to provide the most effective learning environment for students? I’m excited to announce that the Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion MA and PhD; Women’s Spirituality MA and PhD; and East-West Psychology MA program will be offered online, beginning in Fall 2021. Other programs that were virtualized due to COVID will be returning to in-person learning as possible. Our commitment to innovative education propels us to continue thinking beyond classroom modalities toward hybrid approaches in which students will most thrive. While a “return to normal” certainly sounds comforting, we are also committed to developing new educational paths and opportunities for our students that take advantage of the strengths of the range of options open to us.
Equity and justice. 2020 has highlighted the imperative for a diverse, equitable, and socially just institution and society. The CIIS Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) has been especially active over the last year, offering a range of events for faculty, staff, and students. Director Rachel Bryant’s Strategic Roadmap forwards our goals to operationalize racial justice, increase diversity and equity, expand BIPOC and liberatory perspectives, create a culture of restorative practice, and develop institutional assessments. We will continue to build community collaborations on this front, as well as be attentive to necessary changes on our own campus.
Economic forbearance. I am very happy to say that in these difficult economic times, we have been able to provide support to our community. We have worked mightily to maintain faculty and staff employment throughout the year. I am grateful to our trustees and alumni for their donations, and for federal CARES Act funding, both of which has enabled us to provide hardship funds to students with particular need. For the second year, we are holding tuition constant to help with affordability. We have also kept our counseling clinics open, via telehealth and have reopened the acupuncture clinic after getting acupuncture approved as an essential health option. These clinics have been even more vital for low-income individuals, as the need for services has grown during this time and as other options decreased.
Deeper engagement with the climate crisis. The extreme weather and wildfires that loomed large last year is just another reminder that climate change cannot be ignored and that it intersects with other social and geopolitical issues. Attention to this problem pervades our curriculum, especially in the School of Consciousness and Transformation with its attention to such diverse factors as building eco-resilience, mental health and the environment, and the impact of philosophy and religion on climate.
Admissions is going strong. Enrollment and applications for next year are up—a sign of the times, as the need for therapists, acupuncturists, and integrative health practitioners has become even more apparent. Equally apparent is the growing need to address the big picture questions that are the foundation of our humanities programs. An integral transdisciplinary approach has never been more relevant or more necessary as society considers the interconnected issues of our time.
In the darkest moments of 2020, I imagined the day when light would dawn. I am hopeful that day is finally here. We have far to go toward forging a more just and equitable world—as individuals, an institution, and a society, but I am confident that our historic mission, adapted for the times, will greatly help to this end.
As always, I wish you continued health. I am so grateful and proud of this community.