All USF students received the following announcement from President Paul J. Fitzgerald on Aug. 17: Join me for Fall 2020 Convocation. After one click, a colorful graphic of the Golden Gate Bridge, Lone Mountain, St. Ignatius Church, the Bay Bridge, and Transamerica Pyramid would fill their screens, inviting them to register for Fall Convocation on Zoom. An unconventional invitation to an unconventional beginning of the semester.
John Iosefo, a senior politics major and president of ASUSF Senate, opened up the space to Fitzgerald who welcomed students, staff, and faculty to the new semester through a Zoom stream, with a mask on his face and a corner of St. Ignatius Church peering through the window behind him.
Fitzgerald opened his address by reviewing the current state of the world. “We are living in a time of systemic racism being exposed. This week in Kenosha, another Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot by police. We are living with the bad air quality and perhaps evacuations caused by the wildfires, and of course, we’re living through a global economic recession,” he said.
After acknowledging the challenges of living in our current world, Fitzgerald emphasized positive news at the University: the School of Nursing and Health Professions received a five-year, $2.5 million federal grant that will support scholarships for students of color to promote diversity within the nursing workforce; the School of Education is forming a new concentration in racial justice as well as partnering with Kaiser Permanente in a separate project; the School of Management is launching a master’s program in marketing intelligence and a bachelor’s program in business analytics; the School of Law is launching a program in animal law; and the College of Arts and Sciences is launching professional certificates in data ethics and crisis communication, as well as an engineering program.
Several notable guest speakers also logged on to the event, each with connections to the University that are either personal, through family, or through the larger Jesuit community.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed ‘13 spoke about how her experience at USF influenced her to uplift the importance of its Jesuit values during these challenging times: independent thinking, curas personalis, and a commitment to justice and service. She encouraged creativity in forming communities and highlighted the necessity of these communities.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, whose parents attended USF and who received a Jesuit education himself, said the resilience and capability built with a Jesuit education are needed now more than ever in this rapidly-changing environment.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi followed Breed and Newsom and said the role of Congress during this unstable time is to provide safety and success to students whose security and educational path have become disrupted due to the virus. Pelosi also said she has faith in USF faculty and staff to ensure the deliverance of a quality education this semester, despite its online nature.
Fitzgerald closed the convocation by saying, “To you all: stay safe, stay strong. I wish you a semester filled with wonder, discovery, grace and blessings, connections and accomplishments.”