What a year! I wish the exclamation point might signify only the many wonderful, recent accomplishments of our students and faculty but, as you well know, this punctuation mark has a lot of ground to cover. I’m happy to report that to my knowledge our CLS community has been safe so far and not too directly affected by Covid. Many of our students have decided to join their families overseas, and we wish them all the best and a safe return. Our large incoming class of graduate students has joined us—Connie, Eva, Ishan, Jesus, Jose, Nava, and Timothy—albeit for the most part by Zoom, and I hope that all of us will contribute to make them feel welcome.
As for what lies ahead, I trust we will engage collectively in reflecting on and responding to the events of the last several months—from the pandemic to Black Lives Matter protests across the globe and environmental disasters in Australia, California, and elsewhere—and help each other more resolutely pursue the urgent, necessary discussions and interventions in our scholarly fields. In particular, I ask all of you to propose your ideas for seminars, activities, and projects that address these critical concerns at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
I also hope that our current and future leadership in CLS will prioritize helping our most advanced graduate students to navigate the difficult waters of the post-Covid job market. One means to this end is to make sure that the administration agrees to guarantee students’ funding in their 6th and 7tht years. So far, I am happy to say the dean’s office has responded very fairly and supportively to our requests for help.
Amid all these obligations and concerns, of course the primary task is to find the resources, buoyancy, and creativity to bring our scholarly endeavors to fruition and realize our vision for the future of the program. A new version of the QE is now in place for our students that aims to provide more consistency and flexibility across home departments. While currently in its initial stages of discussion, a possible collaboration with the University of Shanghai that Sam Weber is spearheading looms as a dynamic and exciting prospect on the horizon.
As we look back at this astonishing year, let us raise a cheer for the inspiring succession of awards, fellowships, and other milestones achieved by our students: from Kritish’s ACLA Bernheimer Prize for best dissertation of the year, to Viola’s honorable mention for the Beiling Wu Prize and departmental prize for best paper, as well as the important fellowships that Azadeh, Menglu, and Sorrel each have garnered. Several of our students completed the Ph.D., namely Jonas, Marjan, Maziyar, Nadav, Olufolahan, and Scott; Jonas and Scott secured excellent postdoctoral positions respectively chez nous and with UCLA; and Marjan and Maziyar landed two outstanding tenure-track assistant professorships at Bilkent University and Clemson University. We should celebrate as well the wonderful senior theses of our undergraduate majors, Lois Biggs, Lucy Yang, and Camille Lopez-Silvero. They all participated with faculty members in a very moving graduation ceremony that our brilliant DUS Tristram presided over on Zoom. I want to thank him and our DGS Evan for having made this difficult year not only bearable but rewarding and meaningful.
Finally, I am sure I speak for all of us in voicing my heartfelt gratitude to our extraordinary program administrator Sarah for everything she does on a daily basis to assure the CLS community’s thriving success.
Director, Comparative Literary Studies Program
Professor, French and Italian Department