Dear Monarch Nation:

I am honored to welcome each and every one of you to Old Dominion University for the 2021-2022 academic year! As we return to daily life following the summer months and in the midst of the continued pandemic, I am confident that we will quickly focus on the tremendous excitement and limitless opportunity before us this semester and throughout the year in both a healthy and safe manner. Whether you are new or returning, I am so pleased that you are part of Monarch Nation. For those who are new, thank you for choosing to be a Monarch! In the weeks and months to come, you will witness first-hand what defines the ODU journey. And, I cannot wait to experience these special moments with you as this also marks my first semester as a Monarch. For those who are returning, your steadfast commitment to our mission and our institution does not go unnoticed! This type of outreach, including engagement and support, is so important at a time in which our institution and our nation can be a beacon of hope to the world with our focus on freedom and opportunity. In times of uncertainty and tragedy, as evidenced by the recent events in Afghanistan, we must band together and be Monarch Strong for those we know and for those we will never have a chance to meet!

Today marks the beginning of our adventure together as classes begin. Over the past week, our campus has come alive with anticipation and enthusiasm for what the new academic year will hold for all of us, both as a caring community and unique individuals. Over the course of the coming year, we will join together in reflecting on ODU's history, while also planning for our bold and promising future, as part of a campus-wide strategic planning process. Our strategic plan will identify the many ways in which we, as engaged Monarchs, can daily demonstrate excellence, as well as transparency and accountability, all while being student-centered in everything we do.

Together, as a caring and inclusive community of scholars, we will continue the amazing work we are known for through rigorous academic programs, strategic partnerships, and active civic engagement, while also focusing on research efforts and workforce growth; corporate and community partnerships and economic development; strategic enrollment and renewed focus; student engagement and academic success; philanthropic giving and alumni engagement; and marketing, branding, and communication. The comprehensive strategic plan, which will be developed over the course of a full year of robust meetings and rich discussions, will bring to life our shared vision of being a forward-focused public research university that is both innovative and entrepreneurial as we propel ODU to national and international prominence! This collaborative and important work will be achieved through the utilization of internal and external focus groups, as well as a steering committee and multiple subcommittees, representing all campus constituencies. I look forward to beginning this process in October and engaging with each of you as we move forward!

As we prepare to officially launch the strategic planning process, you are encouraged to participate in a series of upcoming open forums to be held during the week of September 6, 2021. Invitations have been sent to all students, faculty, and staff outlining the dates, times, and locations of these forums, which will provide an opportunity for you to engage in a collaborative conversation about the many ways in which we can strengthen our institution, including our programs and services. If the week-long Monarch Nation Tour with seven stops and six cities to engage with our alumni and friends is any indication, members of this community are passionate about our campus and eager to tell their ODU story!

With each of you as dedicated Monarch citizen leaders, I am confident that we will continue to strengthen our beloved University and its lasting impact throughout Hampton Roads, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and beyond. Our individual and collective achievements speak volumes about the quality institution we are blessed to be a part of each and every day. Without question, there is great work happening every day by our talented students, world-class faculty, and dedicated staff. And, by working together, our achievements will only continue to build, with no limit to what we can achieve! I offer you warmest wishes for a great start to the 2021-2022 academic year and a fall semester filled with passion, persistence, and perseverance! GO MONARCHS!

With Monarch Pride,

Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D.