President Joe Bertolino, who has successfully led as Southern’s 12th president since 2016, will conclude his tenure effective June 1, 2023. Since taking office, Bertolino has worked to establish Southern as the social justice university of Connecticut, with an emphasis on access, opportunity, and student success and engagement. Below his final farewell message to the campus community.
Dear Southern Family,
This past Friday, we celebrated our undergraduate commencement together. And as always, it was a powerful, vibrant occasion, both for our graduates and their families. As I read some of the stories from our Class of 2023, I am humbled by the vision and determination of our students. But each student’s success is more than just the story of the individual.
It’s part of the shared story of all of us here at Southern. When I first arrived at Southern in 2016, I charged our campus community to treat each other with dignity, respect, kindness, compassion, and civility. Our commitment to those pillars and our mission of social justice has never wavered. And in fact, these core principles strengthened our institution during times of both celebration and challenge.
We are a community of care, and the dedication and compassion displayed by our faculty and staff have always been exceptional, which is why, as I move into my final weeks as president, I am comforted in the knowledge that this university will endure and continue to transform lives in ways that will have a lasting impact on future generations. We’ve done a tremendous amount of work in our journey as an aspiring social justice university, and that work begins and ends with you.
In that spirit, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on my seven years at Southern, the work we’ve undertaken, the progress we’ve made, and most importantly, the relationships we’ve built throughout our extended community. Earning NECHE reaccreditation was a community triumph and provides us with a springboard for future accomplishments. While the accreditation for the School of Business and the College of Education speak to the depth of quality in those programs, I am proud of the growth and effectiveness we’ve shown in our students’ support services, from CASAS to the expansion of university access, early college programs, and scholarships.
The provost and his team have championed our first Southern Faculty Fellows in Residence program for underrepresented and minoritized populations. Our now-established DEI team has worked alongside faculty and staff to help facilitate a more equitable and welcoming campus, and our advancement team has overseen the growth of both large-scale gifts and smaller contributions that all add up to record numbers on our Day of Caring and valuable scholarships for our students.
Our sustainability practices are viewed as a model systemwide, and we are routinely listed among the nation’s greenest colleges. We’ve added new buildings for the College of Health and Human Services and the School of Business, along with the Obama Magnet University School, a public partnership with the city and its schools that is held as a model nationwide. Our BioPath collaboration with the City of New Haven provides a direct pipeline to our students to enter the region’s rapidly growing bioscience industry.
And we’ve become a hub for area arts entities. The Long Wharf Theatre, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, the Elm Shakespeare Company — all in residence here at Southern — provide workshops and field experience for our students. In athletics, we continue to dominate in sports like swimming, diving, track and field, with a string of conference titles and national championships.
We’ve introduced new workforce-driven doctoral and master’s-level programs, and our faculty scholarship and academic grant successes have soared. Southern was honored with its very own Rhodes Scholar, unique among our peers. Who can forget the tough months of the pandemic when we pulled together and displayed our true character as a community to keep the university operating and maintain student learning in the face of adversity.
Beginning June 1, Dr. Dwayne Smith will step in to serve as interim president at Southern. Know that I have faith in his ability to lead our institution and further our mission, and I wish him nothing but the best of luck in the weeks and months after my departure. I am eternally grateful to have landed at Southern, and it has changed me for the better.
I have learned from you and been inspired by you. Your compassion for students and dedication to their success are singular and impressive. Know that Bil and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to serve and to be part of the Southern family. We will miss you very much. Thank you. And as always, one last time, go Owls!