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While outside the days grow shorter, the transitional time of late fall into early winter is also a time of great light. Festivals and holidays like Diwali, Hanukkah, Advent, and Christmas all celebrate illumination in the time of darkness and encourage each of us both to reflect on those times things have brightened our lives and to pass the flame forward in a spirit of generosity to others. 

As we prepare to end our fall semester together and begin what I hope to be a restful and joyful winter break, I wanted to share an article with you that has been on my mind: a New York Times op/ed by columnist David Brooks called “The Essential Skills for Being Human.

In his essay, Brooks remarks that “the real process of, say, building a friendship or creating a community involves performing a series of small, concrete actions well: being curious about other people; disagreeing without poisoning relationships; revealing vulnerability at an appropriate pace; being a good listener; knowing how to ask for and offer forgiveness; knowing how to host a gathering where everyone feels embraced; knowing how to see things from another’s point of view.” All things we attempt to do well here.

Brooks calls those skilled at these actions to be Illuminators, people who brighten the lives of others through authentic connections, and he talks about the concrete skills we need to sharpen our own luminary prowess. We are looking at these habits as a faculty as we continue to stoke the fire of connection and curiosity in our students, and I hope they might enrich your lives as well.

Thank you for being a part of University, and best wishes for a bright holiday season.

–  Alicia