This has been a historic and unforgettable year. Like many of you, we have faced the COVID-19 pandemic, an earthquake, once-in-a-generation wind storms, wildfires anti-racism protests, and uncertainty surrounding the election. I am so proud of our community, as everyone has worked very hard to adapt and cope. This spring, we had to pivot to an online learning format with only days’ notice. Most of our faculty and staff did not have much of a break over the summer, as everyone worked hard to prepare for a hybrid fall semester, as most of our class stayed online in the fall. And, as I write this letter, we are finishing a challenging final exam period, as everyone had to adapt law school final exams to a virtual format. As a result of these challenges, many in our community have faced financial challenges, and had to learn how to work from home and care for family members. I had to learn new “management skills” when my son’s preschool closed for several months and I found myself with a four-year-old at home.
Yet, despite these challenges, we adapted, and we overcame. Our students survived. And, in the typical spirit of the S.J. Quinney College of Law, many of them found new ways to make a difference in their communities. This week alone, Kari James, President of the National Native American Law Students Association, coordinated a resource drive to help elders on the Navajo reservation, and our Justice Lab students, led by Professor Anna Carpenter, presented to Salt Lake County on the intersection of government IDs and access to governmental services. Our faculty continue to make incredible contributions to our community. For example, within the last week, Professor Paul Cassell represented victims of Jeffrey Epstein in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and was recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice for his exceptional victims’ rights advocacy. Today, we learned that Professor Erika George will be honored for her exceptional human rights work at the upcoming national gathering of the Society of American Law Teachers in January. I am so impressed with our faculty’s dedication and resiliency. Our staff have also been working extra hard to ensure that we continue to support our law school community. Over the past several months, staff have taken on new duties and learned new tools and skills. We could not accomplish all we do without their incredible efforts.
During this time of holiday giving and reflection, I am also incredibly thankful for our larger S.J. Quinney College of Law community. Our alumni and supporters have been incredibly generous this past year and have come to our aid repeatedly. Many have donated money to support student scholarships, which are crucial to attracting great students and decreasing their financial anxiety during their challenging times. Many others have also reached out to help mentor and provide job opportunities for our students. These are invaluable opportunities that we simply cannot thank you enough.
As we look forward to 2021, I am confident that law will continue to light the way. And, I find myself filled with hope as I ponder the many wonderful things that our community will accomplish in this upcoming year. I very much look forward to the time when we may gather again in person, and, until then, I hope you are well and staying safe.