Dear Alumni and Friends,

With the end of commencement ceremonies and celebrations held over the past several days, the school year officially has come to a close. Congratulations again to the class of 2022, as well as the graduates from 2020 and 2021, for whom we were, at long last and not a minute too soon, able to celebrate in person. It was overwhelming and rewarding to see so many graduates, alumni, and their families gather in person on campus, and it all made for a fitting end to such an extraordinary year.

This year, the world’s focus gradually began turning toward living with COVID-19, and so in some ways the year marked the end of the pandemic’s grip on the school and our collective community. As Danielle Allen put it during her Class Day address last Wednesday, the class of 2022—and I would add to that the graduates from 2020 and 2021, as well as future graduates—are the classes of resilience. Indeed they are. I have been endlessly amazed by our students’ imaginative capacity for adaptation, reinvention, and perseverance amid the deep disruption that has defined the past two years. And as unspeakable tragedies continue to mount and leave little reason for hope—most recently the shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas—I find optimism for our future in our students’ seemingly irrepressible determination and ideas to make our world a better place.

We all need that optimism and the sense of possibility it evokes. It is foundational to the design and planning disciplines—the notion that there must be a new and better way—and our fields are capable of delivering on it. Our contemporary world is facing many challenges—from climate change and housing crises to deeply rooted social inequities—and now is the time when all of us need to not only demonstrate our expertise, knowledge, and ambitions, but also our ethics and values as an indispensable part of our work as designers, planners, historians, policy-makers, theorists, and educators.

I wish you all a peaceful summer, and please do take the time to rest and take care of yourselves. I already can’t wait to see what inspiring work the fall will bring. To recent graduates and all alumni, I look forward to crossing paths at future alumni events and to reading about your future adventures. Good luck to all!

Kind regards,

Sarah M. Whiting
Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture
Harvard University Graduate School of Design