Welcome Back! A Message from the President

As students, faculty, and staff embark on the new academic year, President Herbst outlines some anticipated highlights.

Students walking on campus on Aug. 27, 2018. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

As students, faculty, and staff embark on the new academic year, President Herbst outlines some anticipated highlights. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

To the UConn Community:

For all those returning to campus for the start of the fall semester: Welcome back!

This past weekend, we welcomed the Class of 2022 to our campuses across the state. The new class is 5,500 students strong, and they are incredibly impressive: their mean SAT score is 1306, the highest in UConn’s history. They include 175 high school valedictorians and salutatorians, and will add a record 550 freshmen students to our Honors program. They also reflect the diversity of our state and nation: this year’s incoming class is the most diverse new class UConn has ever seen, with more than 40 percent being students of color.

And they, like all of our students, will be taught by outstanding faculty, including both new arrivals we recruited from other great institutions and many others who have been at UConn for decades.

There are too many exceptional faculty on our campuses to list, but I will point out one new colleague in particular: UConn recently recruited an outstanding new researcher, Fumiko Hoeft, from the Weill Institute for Neurosciences at the University of California-San Francisco. She began at UConn this semester as a professor of psychological sciences and director of the Brain Imaging Research Center.

Fumiko is a neurophysiologist, with a focus on brain development, neuroimaging, literacy acquisition, and dyslexia. She has published widely, been the recipient of many notable awards, and has delivered more than 160 keynotes, talks, and workshops across the nation and the world. Her work has been widely covered in the news media including The New York Times, NPR, CNN, the New Yorker, and Scientific American. 

She is a great example of the exceptional researchers and teachers we continue to draw to UConn as we build on our already impressive academic strength.


There will be countless events held on our campuses during the semester; I wanted to draw your attention to two of them:

First, on Monday, Oct. 15 we will welcome former FBI Director James Comey as this year’s speaker at the Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum.He will deliver remarks and then participate in a Q & A at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts.

Mr. Comey served as the director of the FBI from 2013 through 2017. Earlier this year, he released a book about his life and career, A Higher Loyalty – Truth, Lies, and Leadership. Clearly, he has played a significant role in American public life in recent years.

As you know, the Fusco Forum is an annual event made possible through the generous private donations of the Fusco family, who established this fund specifically to allow the University to host high profile speakers.

This event will be open to all UConn students, faculty, and staff. Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis to members of the UConn community. A separate communication on obtaining tickets will be sent as we get closer to the event.


Second: a book has been chosen for this year’s UConn Reads program. UConn Reads is a community-wide reading program and book discussion for the entire university community.

We have enjoyed a wide variety of books from an array of genres from, The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen, to Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

This year, we wanted to change things up and choose a book from a genre we haven’t previously explored in this program: science fiction, broadly interpreted. After receiving nominations, the UConn Reads Selection Committee chose A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin as this year’s UConn Reads book.  I look forward to some very imaginative panels and discussions that really push our collective intellectual envelope!


In other news, the Committee on Civil Discourse and Dialogue met during the past academic year to discuss new opportunities for UConn to embrace and enhance thoughtful dialogue and debate on our campuses. The committee will make a number of recommendations, including reviewing the university mission statement, developing a faculty role committed to increasing the use of dialogue as a learning tool, modifying FYE courses for all entering students, and developing programs that enhance the current work of the Initiative on Campus Dialogue. The final report and recommendations will be finalized and shared with the community in September.


Lastly, the “Swing Tree”at the edge of Mirror Lake is a beloved spot on campus – well-known and often photographed. If you have been there lately, however, you may have noticed that the tree appears sick. According to UConn arborists, it is. They are not entirely sure why, but are taking steps to attempt to nurse it back to health. We have many special trees on our beautiful campuses, but this one stands out and we would hate to lose it. So if you see work going on there, or it is temporarily roped off, that’s why.

I join you in looking forward to another fun, rewarding, and challenging academic semester.

Once again, welcome back!

Susan Herbst