Dear Hokies,

Welcome back! We are excited you are here and to reconnect with all of you as we start a new academic year. There is still so much we must figure out about living and learning together amid a pandemic, but I applaud you all for the steps you have taken for us to return to being in person again. The simple sights of students crossing the Drillfield, talking with each other outside of academic buildings, heading to McComas, or being out and about around Blacksburg have been a strong reminder of what is exciting about Virginia Tech.

During the Welcome Week Kickoff event, I reminded students of my advice from orientation about authenticity and approach.

When your life is lived in an authentic way you show up as the very best version of you – and not your roommates, friends, classmates, or family members. You allow curiosity to fuel your interactions with others where you learn more about them and they learn more about you.  You bring your whole self and enrich the diversity of identities, viewpoints, and perspectives that undergird our Principles of Community. Essentially, you can ask big and bold questions of each other – and you can expect big and bold answers.

When you open yourself to the limitless opportunities to ExperienceVT you intentionally choose the relationships and experiences that will help you be more authentic, more curious, more generous, and more vulnerable. A key component for all of this is that you will thrive on connection and association with others. Your time at Virginia Tech will not be a solo endeavor. When you invest in relationships with others you extend the circle of people that want to care for you. And by the way, this will happen whether you are introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in between.

For the past 18 months we have all lived a daily life spent within smaller circles of people and reduced our physical engagement to maintain good public health. As our community of over 35,000 students comes together again, we want these to be positive collisions with each other and not regress our community social norms and standards. As we’re reunited, let’s look for opportunities to reduce harm and enhance our physical and mental health. This weekend will include many opportunities for positive social behaviors whether you are in Lane Stadium, on the Drillfield, or anywhere throughout Blacksburg. And, as you enjoy the time with each other this weekend and beyond, let us remember that the pandemic continues and requires important healthy commitments:

  1. Keep your mask on when inside campus buildings.
  2. Wash and sanitize your hands as often as you can.
  3. Get outside as much as possible and make good choices.
  4. Stay in Blacksburg – now that you’re here, stay here, and enjoy being back.

Of course, if you should be directly impacted by COVID-19 please know that the Dean of Students Office can be helpful in supporting your isolation and communicating with your faculty about the need to be out of class.

Once again, I am excited to have all of you back as the hallmark of campus life is our students being present, learning and living together, and moving freely about the local community as citizens. I know it can be hard, but we must again put others first, make hard decisions, hold ourselves accountable, and model our uncompromising commitment to public health and to each other. I ask you to join in me in making this year, your best year!

Go Hokies,

Byron Hughes,
Dean of Students

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