Week of March 23, 2020

Virtual Meeting to Answer Your Questions

Sent: March 25, 2020

To: Alumni

Dear Dickinsonians:

I would like to invite you to join me Monday, March 30, at 3 p.m., for a virtual meeting on the ways Dickinson is meeting the challenges of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. During this livestreamed meeting, I will be joined by Kirk Swenson, vice president for college advancement, who will help answer your questions and address your concerns. I invite you to send your questions in advance to alumni@dickinson.edu.

As with much of the rest of the world, we are now having our staff and faculty work remotely.  We have moved to online courses and postponed Commencement in order to protect members of our community and to comply with recommendations and mandates from the state and federal government.

We are being as flexible as possible as we navigate these uncharted waters, but we will need your help. This is a critical time for Dickinson, and your college needs your support. We will be sharing many ways that you can help us in the coming days. First, I hope you all show your support during our Day of Giving, which will be held April 7. You can also help right now by contributing to our Emergency Response Fund. This fund will help Dickinson respond to our current challenge and support the most vulnerable members of our community during this unprecedented time. We are a flexible, innovative and revolutionary community, and if we all work together, as we have so often in the past, we will come through this even stronger than before.

I also want to share that we have made the difficult, but probably not unexpected, decision to cancel our on-campus Alumni Weekend events this year. While of course we look forward to seeing you on campus in the future, we felt that this was the right decision for the sake of your health and safety, as well as the health and safety of our entire community. We are thinking creatively about virtual events for that weekend, as well as more opportunities to connect virtually and in-person in the coming months.

Here at your college, we are adjusting to this new normal. Our remote classes started this week, and while we know there will be bumps along the way, many faculty and students have shared with me that things are going well. With the close faculty relationships with our students, I am confident that we can work with all of our students, some of whom have been compelled to remain in residence on the campus, to help them through this challenging time.

While we have provided information on these measures through our COVID-19 Dashboard, which contains FAQs for students as well as faculty and staff, this is an unprecedented situation and information is changing daily. I’ll be happy to share my most up-to-date information on Friday.

During the town hall I will explain how we are adjusting our recruiting efforts, how you can stay connected to your college, and how we all can support each other and our students during this difficult time. And I will answer many of the questions you send in as well.

I know this pandemic is posing challenges for everyone, including each of you and the people you love. Dickinson is no exception. But as Dickinsonians, we are a resilient community, historically dedicated to working together toward the common good, an ideal never more important than it is today. I look forward to discussing with all of you just how we can continue to do that.


Margee Ensign

Checking In

Sent: March 24, 2020

To: Employees and Students

To the Dickinson Community:

I write today not with a major announcement or development, you will be relieved to hear, but simply to check in with each of you. My thoughts are with you all as we continue to meet the challenges facing us. Please, please be sure you are taking care of yourselves and connecting—virtually—with others. We need those connections.

We have all had our lives radically disrupted by the spreading COVID-19 virus. I am concerned especially for those most deeply impacted by the current crisis—those who have had loved ones fall ill and those across the country who have seen their jobs and their livelihoods disappear. Community leaders are rallying together and holding regular calls to make sure that we continue to meet the needs of our local neighbors. Carlisle truly is a community with a conscience.

Our remote classes started yesterday; early reports are good. We know there will be bumps along the way. That is inevitable. And we certainly aren’t looking for perfection. But I also know that our faculty—who know our students and have deep relationships with them—will continue to provide a strong academic program, even if for now it must be at a distance. Any faculty member who has concerns about a student’s well-being or any other specific situation, please let the CARE Team know. For any other general issues, please contact me at president@dickinson.edu.

Last week, I had the opportunity to hold a virtual meeting with parents and students. This Thursday, March 26 at 3 p.m., I will hold another virtual meeting for faculty and staff. Neil Weissman, provost and dean of the college, and Bronte Burleigh-Jones, vice president for finance & administration, will join me. If you have questions, please send them in advance to employeequestions@dickinson.edu and we will cover as many as we can.

Like all of you, I know that times of challenge can also be times of growth. I have been reflecting on our mission here at Dickinson. We are all here to educate leaders who will work for the common good, leaders who have been armed with the knowledge and the skills to confront an uncertain future. And of course we are in the midst of uncertainty now. So our mission truly is as critical today as it was at our founding. We have faced challenges before: in our personal lives, in the life of our college, in our community and in our nation. We have learned from and overcome those challenges to emerge wiser and stronger than before. This time will be no different.

Thank you for all you are doing to continue the mission of this revolutionary college.


Margee M. Ensign

Commencement Postponed

Sent: March 23, 2020

To: Employees and Students

To the Dickinson Community:

It is with enormous disappointment that I announce we have made the difficult decision to postpone Commencement. I suppose it will not come as much of a surprise, given the situation. Neither senior week activities nor Commencement weekend activities will take place this May.

Seniors, I know how terribly disappointing this must be to you. This is not the way you wanted to finish your time with us at Dickinson. I know you miss being on campus with your friends and that you wanted to celebrate with our community, as we wanted to celebrate with you. However, this unprecedented crisis requires unprecedented responsibility of each of us. For your safety, the safety of your family, the safety of your friends, and the safety of our entire community, it is clear that we cannot continue to plan for a large in-person celebration this spring. We simply can’t.

But please understand that we are not canceling Commencement. We are only postponing it. I promise that you will have a chance to hear your name announced and you will walk down the steps of Old West—when it is safe to do so.

In the meantime, we are working on developing creative virtual ways to acknowledge your accomplishments. I have enjoyed watching some students from other institutions holding “Fauxmencements” which they share on YouTube. If you have ideas for virtual celebrations, please email them to us at ideas@dickinson.edu.

Seniors, I know you have real concerns about jobs, internships, fellowships or graduate school once your coursework is done. Staff at the Center for Advising, Internships & Lifelong Career Development remain ready to help you define your goals and develop a concrete action plan. You can schedule Zoom appointments and see workshop offerings using Handshake or by contacting Pam Blessing at career@dickinson.edu. Information on the official conferral of degrees will be sent in a later communication.

Thank you all for the many ways you have stepped up to the challenges of dealing with COVID-19. Daily you have shown me the sort of community that Dickinson College truly is: caring, responsible, flexible, honorable and courageous. The common good has truly been our priority. I have never been more proud to be a part of this community.

Please be sure you are taking the time to care for yourself during this very stressful time. Reach out to neighbors and others who may be vulnerable. While we must be physically distant, we can continue to connect by phone, by email and over social media. Even in isolation we can, and we should, be together.

Be assured that we will continue to provide regular updates to you, and please do not hesitate to reach out with questions.


Margee M. Ensign