On a beautiful, warm first day of September, President Joyce McConnell offered words of thanks and optimism at the campuswide Fall Reflection, held on the Lory Student Center West Lawn and featuring a picnic and tree-planting.

As students returned to campus full-time after 18 months of an ongoing pandemic, McConnell invited the Colorado State University community to join in a collective moment of reflection. The event, which included lunch for all attendees, was held in place of the traditional Fall Address CSU presidents have given on the Oval over the last two-plus decades.

In her remarks, McConnell acknowledged the physical and mental hardships many endured over the last year and a half: loved ones lost to COVID-19 or cut down by senseless violence; people across the nation affected by pervasive racial injustice; and shared experiences like proms and commencements taken away from young people.

Just like the community rose to the challenge of the catastrophic 1997 flood, the last 18 months brought Rams together in a pandemic response that took strength and courage, McConnell said.

Person writes a note during CSU Fall Reflection
Person drops a note during CSU Fall Reflection
CSU Fall Reflection 2021

CSU community members wrote reflections – acknowledgments of losses, hopes for the future and other personal messages – that were dropped into a freshly-dug hole on the LSC lawn, where they will nourish a Bosnian pine tree.

To commemorate the moment, honor the past and look to the future with optimism, McConnell invited all those gathered to write a message on a compostable slip of paper and plant it with a Bosnian pine sapling finding a new home near the gathering site. “My piece of paper says, ‘grateful,’” McConnell said.

“You’re here today, an essential part of this resilient, hopeful CSU community,” McConnell said. “And like this tree will be, you are part of the CSU community forever.”