You’ve likely read about the 80-year longitudinal Harvard study that found that social connection — the relationships we form and nourish throughout our lives — is the single most important determinant of a happy and healthy life. Dr. Vivek Murthy, a friend and the former US Surgeon General, picked up on this theme in his recent book, Together. The research confirms what so many of us know intuitively: friendships, family, and a sense of belonging to a caring community give us strength, comfort, fulfillment, and meaning.

While there are certainly pieces to work on here at BUA, we are over what I’d describe as the initial hurdle: restarting in-person learning in a way that mitigates risk. I am proud of this faculty, staff, and especially these students for their partnership, which has made that possible. We are now focusing a great deal of energy on the second hurdle: creating pathways for students to build connection when the risk-mitigation strategies make that more difficult. It is exciting to watch those connections form. Over the past week, fifty student-led clubs have sprung up, many of them meeting remotely to allow for participation among students on campus and at home; I love that these clubs draw students from every grade, mixing kids who otherwise might never become friends. I visited the Boys and Girls Soccer practices yesterday, watching kids do what generations of kids have done as the leaves turn. I watched our jazz combo, the Swamp Cats, practice on the front lawn in front of a small but grateful audience. We hosted a movie night last Friday, followed up by the Battle of the Besties this evening. We have opened up outdoor spaces for lunchtime for students to be together and enjoy one another (and this beautiful weather). We are working on plans for class meetings and other larger virtual gatherings to create that sense of being part of something bigger — something important. And we will keep at it. The greatest gift we can offer to this generation of students is the chance to be together, and I feel privileged to be at a school that can do just that.

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