Stepping Into a New Normal

September 15, 2021

Dear Members of the Harvard Community:

Sherri CharlestonIn her poem “Late October,” author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou writes, “…we begin to stop, in order to begin again.” Autumn, with the busy beginnings of school and the wistful end of summer, calls us to take pause.
For me, this September in particular is a time for reflection and for reverence. One year ago, I began work at Harvard amid a pandemic and presidential election. Over the months, I have met many members of our community, made new friendships, and worked together—with all of you—to build a more equitable campus environment. Even with all we must be grateful for, many of us have also experienced loss. We may mourn the loss of friends or loved ones, or loss of our old routines and ways of interacting with the world. I mourn the loss of all of the above.

At this moment, we are all stepping into a new normal and if we learned nothing else from the past year, it is that change is hard. Our reactions to a return to campus, to work, to hobbies, and social schedules will be as distinct as we are. Whether you feel eager or anxious about returning to in person interactions, it’s important to stop and reflect.
I urge you to be patient with yourself and with each other as we reflect on the losses of the past year and adjust to new ways of being. We will not forget, but we can honor, remember, and incorporate what we have learned into this new beginning.
As you create routines for the year, I encourage you to make community and self-care a priority, and take advantage of the numerous wellness resources across campus. For those feeling anxiety or overwhelmed, please take advantage of Harvard University Health Services new 24-hour mental health hotline for students. Similarly, all employees can are eligible to receive help via the Employee Assistance Program or Behavioral Health. Another great resource is the community itself. Take time to make social connections, register for a skill-building classes via the Center for Workplace Development, or join an online meditation.
We can also support each other by celebrating our individual and group achievements. This month Harvard acknowledges Latinx Heritage Month and applauds the important contributions, history, and heritage of the Latinx community. Check back throughout the month for activities being added in honor of Latinx Heritage Month, and learn more about other equity and inclusion efforts via the University’s new Diversity and Inclusion webpage
Whether this is your first or your fifteenth year at Harvard, whether you are a student, staff member, faculty, postdoc, or another member of our Harvard community, I wholeheartedly welcome you, or welcome you back. I hope you will continue to share with the Office for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging team your ideas about how Harvard can be more equitable and inclusive and join us at our upcoming community gatherings throughout the year. Together, we will make Harvard a place where everyone can thrive.
In community,

Sherri Ann Charleston
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer