A unique year calls for a unique observance. Emerging from a year that brought unseen challenges and returning to a community united in learning and discovery, Colorado State University will take a moment to gather at a Fall Reflection.
The president’s Fall Address is a long-standing tradition at CSU that is held on the Oval and includes both a presidential address recapping the past year as well as and a community lunch. But instead of gathering on the Oval for a Fall Address, the CSU community this year is invited to a reflective and healing event on Wednesday, Sept. 1, at 11 a.m. on the Lory Student Center’s west lawn. Lunch will be provided to all attendees.
“We are an incredibly resilient community, and the Fall Address has often been an important reminder of that resilience,” said President Joyce McConnell. “Following catastrophic flooding on campus in 1997, President Emeritus Albert Yates brought the campus together on the Oval specifically to remind everyone of just how strong we are and how much we can overcome. In the same way, we want to respond to the needs of our students, faculty and staff as we return to campus after a unique and extraordinarily challenging year.”
The shift from a fall address to the Fall Reflection follows requests from across the CSU community for an opportunity to acknowledge the challenges of the recent year, including the loss, illness, isolation and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the emotion caused by national events.
“People need to grieve, and they need to heal,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Blanche Hughes. “We’re excited to be back together on campus, but we know that this still is not a ‘normal’ year and that not everyone is OK.”
Hughes and McConnell both will speak briefly at the Fall Reflection and will then invite attendees to write whatever they want on a slip of compostable paper. These reflections – whether acknowledgments of losses, hopes for the future or other personal messages – will be dropped into a freshly-dug hole on the LSC lawn, where they will nourish a Bosnian pine tree that will be planted.
“The goal of our Fall Reflection is to just invite people to come together,” McConnell said. “Whether they are struggling with recent events or energized about this semester, we want them to know we value their lived experiences and we are here for them going forward. And by coming together to plant a tree, we are doing something powerful. That tree will put down roots and grow. And that’s what the CSU community does, as well.”
McConnell, Hughes and other university leaders also have worked to build and communicate extensive mental health and wellness resources for students, faculty and staff this fall. Students seeking help and resources should visit CSU Health Network, while employees can find resources through the Employee Assistance Program, the CARE Program and other HR programs.
“I’ve reminded a lot of people over the past year that, while it’s still true that Rams Take Care of Rams, last year we added the phrase Rams Take Action,” Hughes said. “Our Fall Reflection is one way we are taking action to help our whole community. I’m excited and looking forward to seeing everyone on the LSC lawn on that first beautiful day of September.”