August 29, 2017
At convocation last week, I had the pleasure of welcoming our 600 or so new doctoral and master’s students. Joining me were John Morning, vice chair of the Graduate Center’s Foundation Board, Presidential Professor Tony Ro, and alumna Tamara R. Mose (Ph.D. ’08, Sociology). All three spoke eloquently and thoughtfully about the Graduate Center and their experiences here. Xiaoming Tian and Nora Bartosik, D.M.A. students, then gave us a beautiful performance of ‘Questo amor’ from Puccini’s Edgar.
Today, I have the equal pleasure of welcoming everyone at the Graduate Center to the start of a new semester.
The beginning of the academic year offers all of us a chance to reflect on what has passed and what lies ahead.
On national and international fronts, it has been a troubling summer. At convocation, I spoke about how the deadly violence in Charlottesville reminds us of our responsibility to model reasoned debate and public discourse. At the heart of the research university, they are essential to a democratic and humane society. They form an important part of the public mission that underlies what we do.
This year, we welcome seven new faculty members who will help us carry out that mission. We all stand to benefit from the new perspectives and diverse expertise they bring to the Graduate Center.
Over the summer, faculty, students, and administrators were active in many spheres, speaking and writing about issues — ranging from racism and immigration to neuroscience and disease — that have broad implications for our society. Ever present in this work are the inquisitiveness, thoughtfulness, and collaboration that characterize our work.
I saw these qualities emerge last week as the solar eclipse briefly eclipsed our daily routines. Deans, students, staff, faculty — even our very busy provost — gathered to glimpse the phenomenon. And they didn’t just don dark glasses that they had purchased on Amazon. They put physics to work, creating homemade camera obscurae. A few of these inventions made it to the sidewalk in front of 365 Fifth Avenue, where they were generously shared with passersby — a spontaneous teaching moment and an illustration of science as a public good.
There are few experiences more gratifying than teaching, and this semester I have the pleasure of teaching a class on the history of the caliphate. As always, it is deeply rewarding to be back in the classroom and to collaborate with students and with fellow history faculty members.
In a few weeks, we will kick off our fall events programming. I do invite you to make a habit of attending the seminars, lectures, and concerts that take place in nearly every room of the Graduate Center. Trust me: these speakers and performers embody “The Life of the Mind in the Heart of the City,” as we like to describe ourselves and what we do. Events such as these not only highlight the research and talents of our own faculty and students, but also introduce us to ideas from beyond the Graduate Center.
In the coming days, you will read more news about the Graduate Center in our monthly 365 Fifth newsletter. I will also reach out throughout the semester about the progress we are making on our strategic plan and other important initiatives.
I look forward to seeing you at our fall community meeting, if not before then. In the meantime, you have my best wishes for a stimulating, rewarding, and productive semester.
Chase F. Robinson