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Interim President's Friday Message

Updated on Jan 8
Tags: students, all updates

Welcome to the Winter 2021 term

Happy New Year! I very much hope you've had a restful break, and time to recreate over the holidays.

As we continue a cautious approach to on-campus teaching and other activities, our on-site population remains low. I've recorded a video to wish you all the best for the new year and speak a bit about the forthcoming terms. Please take a few moments to view it. I welcome any feedback you might have at the.president@uregina.ca.

Nursing professor receives international honour

Members of the University community make contributions locally, provincially, nationally, and internationally. One such member who has recently received international recognition for her work is Dr Shela Hirani, associate professor of nursing.

The World Health Organization declared 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife – a designation that took on added significance as nurses and other health care workers played a critical role in the world’s fight against COVID-19. As the year came to a close, Women in Global Health noted that “amidst a global pandemic, the courageous work of nurses and midwives deserves, more than ever, to be honored.”

To recognize that work, Women in Global Health (in partnership with the World Health Organization, the International Council of Nurses, the International Confederation of Midwives, the United Nations Population Fund, and Nursing Now) recognized 100 outstanding women nurse and midwife leaders from around the world.

One of them – and one of only five from Canada – is Dr Hirani. Her citation from Women in Global Health highlights her impact on the lives of marginalized and vulnerable groups of women and young children. Over the past year, her work has included development of an evidence-based knowledge mobilization tool to promote, protect and support breastfeeding during the pandemic.

Congratulations on this international recognition, Dr Hirani - you and your work bring honour to the entire University community.

Providing students with hands-on lab experiences

In recent messages to campus, I have noted some of the innovative work faculty and staff have done to create a rich remote learning experience. This week, I would like to highlight the way two Faculty of Science departments have created hands-on experiences for students learning remotely.

Last term, the Department of Geology developed, assembled, and distributed hundreds of lab kits to students in various courses. In some labs, video clips were used to demonstrate field and lab techniques, and in Geology 240, students completed special exercises to participate in a drone-based virtual field trip. The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science assisted Geology 210 students by 3D-printing blocks representing mineral crystals. And for labs that did take place in-person, special kits were created to reduce or eliminate sample handling by multiple students.

These preparations - which required hundreds of hours of work from professors, technical staff, lab instructors, and teaching assistants – have also been made for geology labs taking place this term.

In the Department of Physics, “remote delivery” of labs has taken on a new meaning. Through a partnership with Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), University of Regina students can design and then perform experiments over the internet using remote-controlled equipment housed at KPU. After completing the experiment, students turn in a lab report that explains their experimental process, analyzes the data they obtained, and discusses the results. The Department of Physics plans to host some of these remote-controlled experiments in the future and share them with KPU and other institutions.

Other remote-delivery physics labs feature videos recorded and edited by Geremy Lague, the Faculty of Science’s communications specialist. Students follow along with a written lab manual while watching a Youtube video of their lab instructor giving a pre-lab talk and performing the experiment. They then enter the data generated into a pre-programmed spreadsheet so they can perform the analysis, discuss the results, and answer conceptual questions on the material.

These are just a few of many innovations that enrich remote learning across the University. Next week, I will focus on ways to ensure a fulfilling experience for those whose face-to-face course components look very different than they did before the arrival of the pandemic.

The fragility of democracy: Washington on Wednesday

Several weeks ago I wrote of the University's mission: building a world in which reason is prized, not irrationality; a world that values truth, not lies; a world that is characterized by care for all, not anti-social ignorance and thuggish madness. In this context, Wednesday's events in Washington cannot be passed over in silence.

What we witnessed, disbelieving, was the product - some would say the inevitable product - of a growing tide of unreason and irrationality, and an unending stream of falsehood. Inside the Capitol, "murder the media" was scratched into a door while thugs roamed the hallways and vandalized offices. Writing in The Guardian, Rebecca Solnit argues that democracy itself is at stake, as is "the authority of facts and evidence and history and science."

Many reading this message have, as I do, American relatives, friends, and research collaborators. I will never forget what I saw from Washington on Wednesday, nor will I conceal my concern for their wellbeing in the weeks and months to come.

I am also powerfully reminded, once again, of the University's role in standing against the forces of unreason and mendacity that gave birth to Wednesday's violence.

Let us recommit ourselves to kahkiyaw kiwâhkômâkaninawak's vision of building a society in which we want to live, a society founded on the central values of respect, integrity, and honesty.

Sincerely,

Thomas Chase

Interim President and Vice-Chancellor