Welcome Back

Aug. 27, 2013

Dear Members of the Brandeis Community,

As campus comes back to life in the early fall, it is with great excitement that we anticipate a productive and fulfilling year ahead. Welcome to the Class of 2017, new graduate students and new faculty and staff, and welcome back to returning students and those of you who have been away for the summer.

This year, our first-year students read Edward P. Jones’ “The Known World,” an acclaimed novel that looks at issues of place, the difference between legal and moral constraint, control over one’s own destiny, and the moral ambiguities of slavery in a particular historical moment. I have had the pleasure of reading along with our students and will facilitate one of the discussion groups, which I am looking forward to as an opportunity to get to know our new Brandeisians and talk about some of the significant ideas so important to our identity and mission as a university. These discussions anticipate the kinds of scholarship that our students and faculty will examine in their classrooms and in our community throughout the year, and that our students will synthesize as they forge their own educational path.

You may notice some changes to our campus facilities that took place over the summer. The East Quad’s Pomerantz and Hassenfeld have been renovated, and swipe-card access control has been installed in 17 residence halls. A solar hot-water project (part of our sustainability initiative) has been installed at Charles River Apartments. The retaining wall on the Loop Road has been replaced, making pedestrian traffic easier and smoother on that side of campus. The Rabb steps have been given new Brandeis blue-and-white handrails, and new banners on several of our buildings, matching the ones added to the Squire Bridge last spring, lend even more color.

We’ve added new picnic tables behind the Usdan Student Center and made improvements to outdoor spaces across campus, including the Usdan courtyard, several residential quads and the patio outside the libraries. We hope you take advantage of these spaces to enjoy some of the perks our new dining services partner, Sodexo, is bringing to campus, including the food trucks that will come to campus occasionally, offering choices targeted to the interests that students, faculty and staff expressed during the vendor selection process. This fall, some of the food and beverage changes on campus include the new availability of produce from Russo’s, refreshed options in Usdan and Sherman, and the opening of the Stein for lunch with a new menu. Sodexo will serve Starbucks coffee in the library café and is working on installing a fully licensed Starbucks outlet; a Dunkin’ Donuts will also come to campus later this fall.

Even though our schedule is somewhat challenging at the beginning of the academic year, with much coming and going for the High Holidays in September, we have many exciting events planned. I hope everyone will make an effort to attend the outstanding roster of community events that have been created for the fall — each with its particular Brandeisian notes of emphasis. Even when we are not holding classes, Brandeis is a community of individuals who care for one another and look out for the well-being of the whole. In addition, once again Kathy and I invite you to join us at the Break the Fast event on Saturday, September 14, on the Great Lawn.

I have met with the Orientation Core Committee and am impressed by the roster of Welcome Week activities, including our annual Activities Fair and Club Connections Conference. I am very proud of our involved community; there is truly something for every interest. The first of 12 career fairs will happen on September 24, with the Hiatt Career Center hosting the Business Consulting and Finance Forum. Other highlights in September include the KaBOOM! Playground Build Day, at which we are partnering with Bentley University and community members to build a playground at Prospect Hill; the 24-Hour Musical; and a series of Hispanic culture events through early October. Fall Fest this year features a performance by actor/comedian Judah Friedlander, from the sitcom “30 Rock.” I also want to thank the team that worked over the summer to upgrade the Brandeis Events Calendar. Brandeis-sponsored events on and off campus can now be submitted through a link at brandeis.edu/events.

Our elite-eight women’s soccer team returns to the field on August 30 against MIT, and the men’s team returns from its sweet-16 season on September 4, also to take on MIT. Both the men’s and women’s teams were ranked 12th in the nation in this year’s preseason poll. Brandeis Athletics is hosting an Athletics Homecoming Weekend on October 12 with numerous games and events, including a celebration of our soccer coaches’ combined 75 years at Brandeis.

The start of the academic year is always full of promise, and I am looking forward to experiencing this renewal with the entire student body and community. There are few things more rewarding than seeing our students learn, discover, achieve and accomplish their goals. My personal best wishes to all of you.

Warm regards,

Fred Lawrence