Amid the familiar bursts of color and warm breezes that call us back outdoors for another glorious North Carolina spring, there are signs of a return to a pre-pandemic way of life. In light of increasing vaccinations and decreasing case numbers, Governor Cooper lifted the mask mandate at the beginning of May, with a plan to end most of the Covid-related restrictions in June. Duke was able to hold an in-person graduation, and is committed to having all students back on campus in the fall. So, while there is still a long road ahead of us, it’s reassuring to see some tangible plans for a return to normalcy.

As we start to recover from the pandemic, this quarter’s newsletter focuses on what true healing looks like. Although everyone’s experience was unique, the pandemic undoubtedly brought some loss to all of us, whether in the form of isolation, missed opportunities, or, for too many of us, the loss of family or loved ones. Set against the demonstrations for racial justice of the past year, the differential impact of Covid on BIPOC communities underscored the need to address continued structural racism and inequities in the healthcare system—key issues for reproductive justice. So, while many people are understandably very excited for a return to normal, many of us also want to reflect on how we grieve the losses and process the experiences and lessons of the past year to redefine a better normal. This suggests changes beyond continuing to mask while sick or integrate more work from home.

As we move toward a more relaxed summer schedule, I challenge you to consider how you could reimagine a better world, and what role you can play in shaping it. At Duke’s commencement, singer and activist John Legend spoke to the lessons of interconnectedness and love, forcing us to recognize that life is not a zero sum game, and we all do better when everyone does better—not only wise words for new graduates entering the world, but for all of us as we rebuild and redefine a post-pandemic normal.

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