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Chancellor Mnookin: Spring Semester Welcome

January 24, 2024

The following message was sent to all students, faculty and staff from Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin on Jan. 24, 2024.

Dear members of the campus community,

Welcome to the start of a new semester! I hope you had a terrific – if slushy – first day of classes. And I sincerely hope you have returned to our campus feeling rested and ready to take on the important work of teaching, learning and discovery. I’m grateful to those who remained on campus during winter break and were integral to our operations. I am also delighted to extend a special welcome to our newest students.

A new semester offers a fresh start and an opportunity to recommit to the values that sustain us. As I write this, we are buffeted by crises around the world and are well into a presidential campaign season that will likely exacerbate division in our often-polarized nation. While we share an instinct to respond to suffering and injustice with action, let us also lean into care, compassion and grace for those around us during these turbulent times.

As the semester gets underway, we recognize that global events, particularly the war in Israel and Gaza, will continue to impact members of our campus community. The conflict has also led to a deeply concerning rise, nationally, in antisemitism and Islamophobia. Over the course of the fall semester, both Jewish and Muslim students on our campus shared that they have felt, at times, unseen and unheard, or judged or stereotyped based on their identities. I have written previously about the critical imperative to unite against hate and create an environment that fosters dialogue across difference in pursuit of greater understanding. As an educational institution, over the course of this semester and beyond, we will translate those words into action with lectures, symposia, facilitated dialogue, skills training and other opportunities to continue building a culture where everyone feels seen, heard and valued. This is challenging, important work. I hope that many of you will participate, and I have faith that, together, we will respond to the urgency of the moment and work to create an even stronger, more inclusive culture where all can thrive.

Our great university is and will continue to be a quite incredible place that opens its doors wide to Wisconsin and the world, a center of excellence in education and discovery across a dazzling array of fields. We are a university that changes lives and strengthens communities, driven — as we have been for 175 years — to innovate for the public good. What takes place here also offers an unending source of inspiration. One upcoming event that is sure to inspire is our annual MLK Symposium, which celebrates the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., each year with an engaging and thought-provoking speaker. This year, we’ll hear from acclaimed writer and actor Anna Deavere Smith. I hope to see you there.

Students, faculty, staff: it is you who make UW–Madison one of the world’s greatest universities. And thank you in advance for joining together with empathy and a dedication to pursuing and nourishing inclusive excellence. We come from all corners of the globe, the nation, and from every county in Wisconsin. We have so many different identities, interests, commitments and beliefs, and both our differences and our commonalities are sources of collective strength. Let us embrace our shared identity as part of THIS wonderful community of Badgers; together, I know we can work to make our university even stronger.

I look forward to connecting with you in this new year, and wish you a successful, productive and fulfilling semester. On, Wisconsin!


Jennifer L. Mnookin


Tags: chancellor