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Students, faculty and staff,

Life transitions have taught me many lessons. Primary among them is to not let the past nor expectations of what should be ruin my appreciation for the present. Certainly, the last few years have not resembled the past nor have they fit into any expectations I might have held. However, when I stop to be fully present with what is and truly consider all that I have, I am very grateful for this next normal.

My mission as a leader of an arts and sciences college is to ensure that our students have whatever is necessary to help them flourish no matter what normal might look like for them. The College of Arts and Sciences has fully embraced this next normal as evidenced by the energy of our students and the engagement of our faculty and staff. In August 2021, we cautiously re-entered campus masked as the COVID-19 Delta variant began to surge. By the end of spring, we were largely maskless and fully enjoying the campus and all the rites of spring, including a new CAS tradition: Arts Week.  

Arts Week entailed a celebration of student engagement in the fine arts. The festivities included The SpongeBob Musical presented by our students in the Department of Theatre, several recitals and ensemble performances (some of which were rescheduled from 2020), and the annual BFA exhibition. Creative writing students were even able to collaborate with our visual artists as they developed poetry inspired by pieces displayed in the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts. I am grateful for the opportunity to share the work of our students and faculty with the university and with our local communities. It was an inspiring celebration and one that we hope will continue and thrive into the future.  

This past summer, I was also able to spend time with K-12 students—predominately from Birmingham City Schools—who are participating in the many programs offered through the Center for Community Outreach Development (CORD) led by Dr. Mike Wyss. It was fun to be around youngsters again as they demonstrated their new lab skills and shared their research. I look forward to welcoming those same students to campus in four years and seeing them conduct research in the new Science and Engineering Complex which is on target to open Phase I by Fall 2023. 

Until then, I’ll work with my colleagues as we welcome thousands of new students and 27 new CAS faculty members to campus. Whatever the next normal holds, we will always prioritize the health and safety of our community and ensure that our students develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities that enable them to accomplish their goals and dreams again and again.

Go Blazers!

Kecia M. Thomas
College of Arts and Sciences

robert palazzo