This past Friday evening, I found myself sitting at Merlo Field feeling a profound sense of joy, gratitude and hope.
Our men’s soccer team was playing in an exhibition game against Corban University. Across the field from me were over 2,200 students, cheering on their fellow Pilots and enjoying each other’s company. In the preceding days, I met countless students and their families from across the nation and across the globe. I fired the Shipstad cannon, I played the drums in front of Villa, I posed for photos with the Schoenfeldt lion. I saw, firsthand, the energy of our new and returning students, all of them so excited (and yes, a bit nervous) to begin our new academic year together.
As I watched the game at Merlo, I reflected on how grateful I am for these experiences. The University of Portland — our University — is at its best when it is full of life. For 18 months, as we studied and worked remotely, the quintessential spirit of UP took on a different and, admittedly, muted tone. But during Move-In and Orientation Week, I felt that spirit return.
We have been blessed with an extraordinary opportunity to come together again; to re-engage with our sacred community and our beautiful Bluff. Thanks to our universal vaccination requirement, our indoor masking policy, the excellent leadership provided by our COVID-19 Steering Committee, and buy-in from community members, I am confident in our ability to create a safe and successful academic year together.
We also have the opportunity to renew and refresh our University, and lean even more into our identity as a Catholic, Holy Cross institution. Indeed, the past 18 months served as an inflection point. From the pandemic, to the national reckoning on racial justice, to our University’s own experience of listening to the voices of students who felt marginalized and ignored, we are now presented with an opportunity to use all that we have learned and put it to good use to make University of Portland even stronger than before.
As we enter into this new academic year together, and as we consider the rich opportunities before us, I’d like to return to a sentiment that I’ve taken to expressing often: UP is our University. This University belongs to us, as students, staff, and faculty. Certainly, some individuals on campus (including me, as Acting President and Provost) have positions of formal leadership, and we bear lots of responsibility for how our University functions and lives out its mission of teaching & learning, faith & formation, and service & leadership. But in truth, this University is ours to share, to love, and to lead, and we are all responsible for our mission and for how we engage each other as members of our community.
Last week, I spoke with our sophomore students. I encouraged them to become true citizens of UP. I think that we should all strive to do the same. A UP citizen is someone who engages deeply with our institution. They care about their fellow Pilots and want our University to be the best possible version of itself. A UP citizen recognizes the role that they play in advancing our Catholic, Holy Cross values of faith, hope, charity, compassion, and solidarity.
UP citizens check in on friends who are struggling to adjust to college life. They sit with the person who might be dining alone in the Commons. They comfort the person down the hall who is feeling homesick. They sign up for Moreau Center and Campus Ministry programs, they go on Outdoor Pursuits trips, they attend performances and athletic events and academic presentations. They are active participants in class and go to their professors’ office hours. They take full advantage of all that our community life has to offer.
When a UP citizen sees an injustice, they say something and take action to correct it. When they encounter someone who is not living up to community expectations, they gently intervene and try to set that person on the right path.
A UP citizen fully recognizes that this is our University and lives deeply into their role as a co-creator of our community. This type of citizenship is needed at all times, but especially now as we re-engage with life on The Bluff and envision our future together as a UP community. Indeed, after eighteen months of remote study and work, I hope that we all feel a desire to experience the things that we simply couldn’t experience before. Let’s resolve, together, to be great citizens of our shared University.
As we start this new academic year together, please know of my prayers and best wishes. Thank you, God bless, and Go Pilots!
Herbert A. Medina
Provost & Professor of Mathematics