College of Liberal Arts

College Communications

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April 7

“Nothing endures but change.” Heraclitus

“The only lasting truth is change.” Octavia Butler

Dear Liberal Arts students,

There is no shortage of internet accessible quotable advice about endurance and life’s seasons of uncertainty and change. It ranges from pithy to platitudinous, and feels largely unhelpful in the midst of disorienting times like these. The two epigraphs above frame hundreds of years of thought; their writers: Heraclitus, a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher from 500 BCE and Octavia Butler, a 20thCentury African-American writer of speculative fiction. Heraclitus and Butler offer plainspoken and prophetic wisdom: life is change. There’s no avoiding it.

This past week during the first week of remote teaching, I have heard many stories of faculty and students triumphantly adjusting to change. These include stories about large-sized lecture classes with better attendance then before the Spring Break and coronavirus disruption. Classes with lively screens full of little blue hand icons and students ready to converse with each other in new ways. And faculty and students initially sharing confessions about Zoom-related trepidation, reaching the week’s end with excitement and renewed feelings of collegiality. Overall, the message that I heard was this: “We are going to make it.”

There are four weeks left to the Spring 2020 semester. We are just about to the point at which graduation bleachers are being assembled by The University’s buildings and grounds staff... The semester’s end is in sight. Be determined to make it through successfully. The Student Affairs Division Team is dedicated to supporting The College’s students and finding creative ways in which to celebrate the graduating Class of 2020. Change inspires resiliency and growth. If you need support, please let us know, and take advantage of The University’s offers of assistance (add links to Student Emergency Services; Mental Health and Counseling; TX Well-Being).

I will leave you with a change-themed poem from Stanley Kunitz, a poet from my childhood hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts. Kunitz notes the bewildering aspects of change and the triumphant ones, as well. He also reminds us that life is an educational series of journeys. And so, we forge on. Be well and take good care.

“The Layers”

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Stanley Kunitz, "The Layers" from The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1978.

Dr. Mia Carter
Associate Dean for Student Affairs
College of Liberal Arts
The University of Texas at Austin


March 27

Dear Liberal Arts Students,

Many thanks to you and your families for your patience as The University and the country figure out how to navigate our way through this sudden and evolving coronavirus crisis. When I wrote to the student community on the 20th of March, I accentuated the “soft skills” that are associated with the Humanities. For example, empathy, compassion, and philosophical and spiritual reflection. Today I want you to remember our additional Liberal Arts and Humanities’ skillsets: critical thinking and analysis, evidence-based argumentation, and rigorous consideration of situational and contextual complexities.

Pass/Fail, non-penalized Q-drops, and Withdrawal options for Undergraduate students are extended until May 29. Please do not feel rushed to make this choice.  The flexibility with the grading policies in a time of crisis are an institutional way in which to acknowledge the various challenges that have come with the coronavirus interruption and the sudden transition to on-line instruction. None of us were prepared for this. We can make it through these times by supporting each other.

Please think very seriously and carefully about your own best options for the successful completion of the Spring semester. We realize that some of you may not have computers or high-speed connectivity; some may not have a quiet place in which they can study and participate in synchronous instruction; some may be caring for siblings or parents; some might need additional and specialized support for learning disabilities and different ableness... The University and The College are aware of the vast range of challenges that students will be experiencing. We would like all students to answer our questionnaire so that we can better understand your concerns for Spring 2020 but if you are in immediate need of technology support or other funding please apply here.

Many helpful resources and links to forms for technical support with Zoom and other platforms and Student Emergency Services can be found on the COVID-19 site. These resources will also be saved on a College of Liberal Arts Student Affairs Division website; this site will also have links to the information and resources that are continually coming from The University’s President, Provost, and Dean of Students.

As you are preparing for the semester’s online restart on March 30th, keep in mind that you will have time in which to adjust and learn new skills for the online synchronous and non-synchronous classes. Examine the uniqueness of your situation and prepare for success. Be your own best advocate: be proactive about asking for assistance and support from your Professors and Instructors. Seek out the expertise, wisdom and counsel of your peers. Attend to the present realities of your lives, but keep part of your mind on the future, as well. Take good care of your own well-being and mental health, and practice resiliency. For example, the Zoom platform offers opportunities for students who are typically quiet in class to raise that little blue hand icon to ask a question, comment on a passage, or engage with a fellow student’s remarks. Refuse to be a mere spectator; be a participant-contributor.

A meaningful education is about your individual postgraduate and professional adult life; it also benefits society and its future possibilities. Know that everyone--faculty included--is feeling a bit adrift and at sea. Try not to allow yourself to feel defeated by the overwhelming experiences of the present; this crisis will end. After it passes, we each might discover newly developed resources of strength.

Outside of instructional time, make time for down-time with your classmates: schedule Zoom binge-watching suggestions; talent shares (guitar playing, juggling). Revive the classroom community that you had before Spring Break and the outbreak. Connect creatively.

The Student Affairs Division and your College of Liberal Arts advisors are your allies in this period of tumult. Call on us for sustenance and support. Be Well. Thrive. And rise.

Dr. Mia Carter
Associate Dean for Student Affairs
College of Liberal Arts
The University of Texas at Austin


Liberal Arts Career Services is hosting online programming

Texas One Stop has partnered with colleagues across campus to create Keep Learning, a new digital resource dedicated to student success in a remote learning environment. Keep Learning provides tips and tools so students can keep focused while studying virtually on a clear path toward graduation, as well as portals to a variety of campus-wide support resources. Students can easily access the Keep Learning webpage directly through the Texas One Stop site. Please contact onestop@austin.utexas.edu with questions about Keep Learning or Texas One Stop.

March 20

Dear Liberal Arts Students,

First off, on behalf of The College and the Student Affairs Team, I hope that you and your family and friends are all safe, healthy, and are feeling well-supported. We aim to do our very best to maintain connections as a scholarly community. Humanities virtues can serve us well in these distressing and uncertain times. Liberal Arts ideals have given us shared and solid foundations: empathy and compassion; ethical practices like selflessness and sharing; time for philosophical and spiritual reflection; and care and concern for our vulnerable and neglected fellow human beings. This is who we are. Our practices of coronavirus-necessary “social distancing” need not affect our mindful attention to mutual connections. We are all vulnerable; viruses do not respect borders. We will make it through these times with determination, fellowship, and faith.

As for the programmatic road ahead, the College is implementing new ways to continue academic advising services with social distancing practices in place due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Until further notice, all Liberal Arts advisors are currently working remotely, although they will not be advising in-person they will still be able to connect with you.  Student Affairs staff are doing their best to maintain regular business hours (M-F 8am-5pm). 

By the resumption of classes on March 30th, each of you will receive communications from your departmental advisor/advising office with information regarding how best to connect and make an appointment.  The Advising pages on departmental websites will also be updated to reflect this new information and any subsequent changes as they occur.

In addition to standard advising services, IT staff is working to establish online processes for Q-drops, Pass/Fail changes, Withdrawals, and other transactions.  Students will NOT need to conduct any of these transactions in person. As these digital processes are rolled out, we will be sending out successive communications and posting information on the Student Affairs website.

Although academic advising is now remote, we remain focused on the mission of serving each of you to support your educational goals and ensure that you have the best possible undergraduate experience as a Liberal Arts student at The University of Texas at Austin. 

Please also be sure to check out this information from Soncia Reagins-Lilly, the Dean of Students that was emailed to students on March 19th; it provides detailed information including how to access emergency housing, assistance with WiFi, or other technology needs.  

Please do not hesitate to reach out to your Academic Advisor or anyone within Student Affairs. Take care of yourselves, be kind, focus on your total health and well-being. We will keep The College of Liberal Arts’ vibrant community in our hearts and minds. Be well.

Dr. Mia Carter, Associate Dean
The University of Texas at Austin
College of Liberal Arts
Office of Student Affairs