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Interim President's Friday Message

Updated on Jan 15
Tags: students, all updates

Providing in-person learning experiences

As readers will know from last week's message, the current term features a very small number of in-person labs, studios, and other face-to-face components.

This week, I want to focus on two instructors who are working hard in the Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance to provide a fulfilling experience for students whose face-to-face course components look very different than they did before the pandemic arrived.

Professor Robert Truszkowki in printmaking and Dr Melissa Morgan in choral music have been kind enough to share their and their students’ experiences with different types of in-person teaching and learning.

For Robert, the successful delivery of face-to-face course components takes into account the unique nature of the printmaking discipline, and relies on a group effort. He says:

So much of what it means to be a Printmaker relies on being together. We share equipment, we share space, and we forge a community.

The success of Fall 2020 in the Printmaking studio was not accidental. I am very fortunate to work at an institution that values science and rational thought, as well as hard work. The Research Office, the HR Health, Safety, and Wellness Office, and my colleagues in Visual Arts and MAP have guided me (and others in similar situations) to make informed and thoughtful decisions about how Printmaking could happen on campus, not simply if.

My students, though, deserve the real credit. They have adapted with ease and grace to the pretty unnatural changes I foisted on them. Of course they wore masks, cleaned more strictly than normal, signed in and out of the studio - all the (new) normal COVID stuff. But despite these challenges they rose to the occasion and, I think, came to appreciate being together in a time when we really don’t get enough of that. And they – we – have Printmaking to thank for it.

For their part, Melissa and the members of the University of Regina Choirs have “reimagined the rehearsal process” to create a new type of face-to-face experience in a virtual context. Melissa says:

When we initially attempted to have online rehearsals, many choristers discovered that without the ability to hear other singing voices around them, or see facial expressions and cues, online singing felt isolating. As a result, the singers left online rehearsals with sentiments of insecurity and unfulfillment.

Rather than focus on singing in isolation, we’ve decided to concentrate on the specific musical components we rarely have a chance to explore during a normal face-to-face year. To that end, our workshops feature musical professionals and specialists including composers, teachers, soloists, and a movement coach who live as close as Moose Jaw and as far away as Colombia.

In lieu of face-to-face concerts, the choirs have also worked together to create virtual performances. Students are placed in virtual groups of four in which they record and submit their individual audio parts. The audio files are then fused together with a video file and posted to our University of Regina Choirs YouTube channel. We have published three virtual performances, which may be viewed by following us at @urchoirs on Facebook or Instagram or visiting our YouTube channel.

We are committed to continuing our emphasis on community with the hope that our “virtual in-person experience” will help the University of Regina Choirs be an even more caring and inclusive ensemble in the future.

Thank you, Robert and Melissa, for your dedication to your students.

Supporting students and the wider community

With the pandemic disrupting the jobs and income of many in the community, the University’s annual United Way fundraising campaign took on added importance this year.

Earlier this week, the campaign committee announced that faculty, staff, and students at the University raised $97,361 for the United Way this year – far surpassing the target of $85,000.

Thank you to campaign co-chairs Dr Christopher Oriet of the department of psychology and Doug Moen of the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, the campaign committee, the canvassers in each area, and everyone who contributed to this worthy cause.

I also want to thank Student Affairs for working with Chartwells in December to facilitate a large donation of non-perishable food that was in storage after COVID-19 forced campus food services to close. Staff from Hospitality Services, Housing Services, Enrolment Services, and the Campus Store sorted, loaded, and transported four truckloads of items such as granola bars and frozen meat, fruit, vegetables, bread, and desserts. The donation was divided between Souls Harbour Rescue Mission and the URSU Cares Pantry initiative for students.

These initiatives speak volumes about the University’s commitment to students and the communities that surround and support us.

U of R Education grad student on talking to young people about climate change

Laura Lynch of CBC's What on Earth recently broadcast a segment on talking with children about climate change. Part of the segment featured award-winning U of R alumna and current MEd graduate student Aysha Yaqoob, who teaches at Balfour Collegiate in Regina. Ms Yaqoob outlines how her teaching practices were formed by her own experiences as a student, and about how she has modified her approach as she learns from students’ reactions to the material she presents.

Ms Lynch asks her how teaching about climate change in a high-school English class “dovetail[s] with lessons about Shakespeare and grammar.” Ms Yaqoob's responses are fascinating, and illustrate the techniques she uses to help her students understand climate change.

Open the link here to hear the 10 January segment of What on Earth. Ms Yaqoob's conversation with Ms Lynch begins at about the 12'15" mark (there is a cursor at the bottom of the program webpage if you wish to go directly to their 7-minute exchange).

A semiquincentennial concert

1770 was an eventful year. In January, an outbreak of bubonic plague began its sweep through Russia and Ukraine. It would last two years. At the end of March, Immanuel Kant celebrated his appointment at the University of Königsberg in Prussia as professor ordinarius der logic und metaphysic. On 7 May, Marie Antoinette arrived in Versailles, and nine days later married the future Louis XIV of France. Four days after that, at a celebration of their wedding, a stampede led to the deaths of more than a hundred citizens. And later in the year, philosopher Friedrich Hegel was born in Stuttgart.

As 1770 drew to a close, a boy was baptized in Bonn the week before Christmas in the Church of St Remigius. Though the exact date of his birth was not recorded, his name was entered into the baptismal record: Ludwig van Beethoven.

As 2020 drew to its close, to honour his semiquincentennial (a wonderfully sesquipedalian noun) the Regina Musical Club organized a performance of all five of Beethoven's sonatas for cello and piano. Cellist Simon Fryer has taught in the past through the Conservatory of Performing Arts, and pianist Dr Katherine Dowling is a lecturer in the department of music. They were introduced by Regina Musical Club President Colleen Murphy, who is Associate University Librarian (Teaching, Learning, and Research).

The Regina Musical Club, which supports three scholarships at the University, has kindly made this performance available free of charge until 31 January. You may find a link to it, as well as to Simon’s description of the sonatas, on the Musical Club’s website. Colleen’s introduction of Simon and Katherine is followed by the approximately two-hour performance.

Listening to this performance by superb Regina musicians is an ideal way to usher in 2021 ... an eventful year which will, we trust, witness the abating of the pandemic, and be filled with music and hope.

Sincerely,

Thomas Chase

Interim President and Vice-Chancellor