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Interim President's Friday Message

Updated on Feb 12
Tags: students, all updates

Spring Convocation will be virtual

Earlier this week, I wrote to graduating students informing them that the University’s 47th Spring Convocation, originally scheduled to take place in person on 9th-11th June, will be a virtual celebration.

COVID-19 remains a significant threat in our communities – so much so that public health regulations do not currently permit gatherings of the size required to celebrate Convocation in person. Even with vaccines now being administered, it is unlikely that these regulations will change significantly in the next few months.

As they've done for the past two celebrations, the Convocation team is planning ways to celebrate the Spring 2021 graduating class. These include a video and graduation packages that contain a commemorative program as well as each graduating student’s degree, diploma, or certificate. Three honorary degree recipients will also be celebrated. The Convocation team will send additional information to graduands in the coming weeks.

I want to thank the class of Spring 2021 for their patience and understanding, and congratulate them on their achievements. Well done!

Engineering and Applied Science alumnus creates scholarship

As we prepare to celebrate our current class of graduands, I want to highlight the generosity of one of our alumni, Samit Sharma.

Mr Sharma, an alumnus of the Industrial Systems program in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, recently made a $100,000 donation to create the Gaia Power’s Samit Sharma Scholarship for Graduate Engineering and Applied Science. Thanks to Mr Sharma’s generosity, for the next decade a $10,000 scholarship will be awarded annually to a graduate student conducting research in an area of particular relevance to the field of engineering in Saskatchewan.

Mr Sharma’s company, Gaia Power Inc, is based in Ontario and has been involved in several renewable energy projects in Saskatchewan. Two years ago, its Western Lily wind farm near Grenfell began supplying electricity for SaskPower.

Mr Sharma – thank you for maintaining a connection to our University and province. We very much appreciate your generous support of the students who are following in your footsteps.

Students contribute to ebook on Canadian political history

"When we began this project, it was another way to keep students interested in what was a most unusual term. The class had good dynamics - and a great group of students - to begin with and I thought an ebook of their research would help a little. I am glad it all worked out well.

This is how history professor, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and Associate Dean of Arts (Research and Graduate Studies) Dr Raymond Blake modestly describes a notable achievement – the publication of an ebook authored by him and eight students in his HIST403/803 class last term.

Entitled Canada and Speeches from the Throne: Narrating a Nation, 1935-2015, the open access ebook examines how prime ministers of Canada have used the Throne Speech as a means of defining their vision for the nation. It contains an introduction by Raymond and features the term papers of eight students: Brady Dean, Sarah Hoag, Rebecca Morris-Hurl, Braden Sapara, Dayle Steffen, Joshua Switzer, Alexander Washkowsky, and Deklen Wolbaum.

Thank you, Raymond, for your innovative approach to teaching, learning, mentoring and research. And congratulations to Brady, Sarah, Rebecca, Braden, Dayle, Joshua, Alexander, and Deklen on engaging so enthusiastically with your coursework and contributing to the study of Canada’s history.

The research of Dr Gordon Pennycook

Since joining the Faculty of Business Administration in 2018 after a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale, assistant professor of behavioral science Dr Gordon Pennycook has quickly become one of the University’s leading researchers and most highly sought-after media commentators.

He has dozens of publications to his credit, and his research on “fake news” has been featured in publications such as the New York Times. This past fall, he was named a Member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. Last week, he spoke to the University of Regina Senate about his research.

As part of the University’s continuing efforts to promote the research of our faculty members, University Advancement & Communications is showcasing researchers via media, social media, web stories, and short video profiles that may easily be shared. The first of these, produced by Jon Tewkbury and Krista Baliko, features Gordon and may be viewed here. I encourage you to watch it to learn more about Gordon and his world-leading research.

Reminder – February is Black History Month

The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Office reminds us that February is Black History Month – an opportunity to reflect upon and honour the contributions made by Black people to society in areas such as science, technology, education, politics, art, and sport.

Pauline Streete, the University’s EDI Officer for Research, discusses the month’s growing significance:

In Canada, the space occupied by Black people includes a growing list of firsts. Some people who come to mind for me are: Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, the first African-Canadian to hold a tenure track position at Dalhousie University; Rosemary Brown, the first Black person elected to the British Columbia Legislature; Lori Seale, the first self-identified Black female RCMP Commissioned Officer; and Viola Desmond, who is now featured on the Canadian ten-dollar bill.

The recognition of the role Black people play in our past, present and future is especially significant when we reflect on last year and the critical awakening advanced by the Black Lives Matter movement.

A list of events organized by the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan in celebration of Black History Month can be found here, and a number of other resources are available at the Government of Canada’s Canadian Heritage website. Together with the EDI Office, I encourage you to explore these websites throughout the month and celebrate Black Canadians’ important contributions to our country.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science – and a notable appointment

It is fitting that in a week when the University of Regina marked International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a former member of our University’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science was appointed to a key leadership position at a neighbouring university.

On Tuesday, the University of Lethbridge announced that Dr Dena McMartin will become that institution’s Vice-President (Research) effective 1 July 2021. Currently Associate Provost of Institutional Planning and Assessment at the University of Saskatchewan, Dena previously served as Associate Vice-President (Academic and Research) at the University of Regina.

Dena is a strong advocate for women in the STEM disciplines and a role model and mentor to many. She maintains a strong relationship with numerous members of our University community, and we are proud of her and her achievements.

Congratulations, Dena! We wish you all the best.

“Do it for others”

A central privilege of teaching is the opportunity, and indeed the obligation, to help others realize their strengths. Many readers will recall a mentor - perhaps a teacher, professor, or coach - whose words and example altered the course of their lives, helping them to see the world in a new way, and to realize potential of which they were perhaps unaware.

John Weaver, a long-serving professor at the Juilliard School, passed away recently. His student and successor at Juilliard, organist Paul Jacobs, has written an affectionate tribute, emphasizing that rather than imposing on students his own style of playing, Weaver instead "magnified individual strengths and helped students develop ... a personalized approach to the instrument."

When Jacobs told Weaver that it was impossible to repay all he had done for him, Weaver responded thus: “Don't try, you can't. But do it for others.” Thus the privilege becomes an obligation, a paying forward of the debt we owe those who, years ago, inspired us.




Thomas Chase

Interim President and Vice-Chancellor