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Interim President's Friday Message

Updated on Nov 27
Tags: community, all updates

Innovative remote teaching during the pandemic

Last week's message highlighted some of the exceptional research being done at the University during the pandemic. This week, I will focus on innovative teaching that enhances students' remote learning experience.

Remote teaching strategies in the Faculty of Arts are the subject of a recent story on the University website. Dr Raymond Blake of the Department of History is one of those featured; he arranged for former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to participate in one of his courses on Canadian History. Students in historian Dr Donica Belisle’s “Doing Women’s and Gender History” course have created and shared tutorials on using a range of web resources in their research. And historian Dr Philip Charrier has invited alumni to participate in virtual question and answer sessions to help students learn how their studies might translate into graduate school and employment.

Teaching staff in other departments in the Faculty of Arts have been similarly resourceful in their remote teaching. Dr Gordon Asmundson, for example, invited incoming Fulbright Canada Research Chair Dr Andres De Los Reyes to lead a virtual research career planning session as part of a psychology graduate seminar. Likewise, geography and environmental studies professor Dr Ana Hidalgo was also able to engage experts – in this case from the City of Regina’s planning department – to work virtually with students in her “Urban Planning” course.

In the Faculty of Science, biology laboratory instructor Dr Maria Davis has equipped her plant physiology students with materials for their own “at-home labs” so they can conduct experiments on nitrogen assimilation and root nodulation in peas. This provides an opportunity for experiential education even in a remote setting. Students unable to do the experiment at home undertook an alternate communication activity, creating a podcast to make concepts in plant physiology accessible to the general public.

Fellow biology laboratory instructor Heather Dietz says that “transparency, humility, honesty, flexibility, and kindness go a long way in creating [a] student-centred remote learning community.” She provides her microbiology students with kits with which to practise the essential "hands-on" aspects of microbiological techniques safely at home, creates opportunities to develop science process-skills via Labster's simulated experiments, and uses small asynchronous discussion groups and free platforms, such as Kahoot! and Flipgrid, for community-building.

Maria and Heather’s teaching was featured on the Study International website in September, and this past summer they contributed to a peer-reviewed Canadian Journal of Microbiology article on curriculum innovation.

Thank you to these and all other teaching staff for making the remote learning environment a rewarding one!

Repatriation of Annapoorna statue formerly held in University collection

Via Zoom on 19 November, High Commissioner of India to Canada Mr Ajay Bisaria joined representatives from the Department of Canadian Heritage, the MacKenzie Art Gallery, the University Library, and myself – for a ceremony that has generated much good will for the University.

This ceremony marked the formal beginning of the repatriation to India of a small statue of the Hindu goddess Annapoorna. Taken from a shrine in the Indian city of Varanasi by art collector Norman MacKenzie in 1913, the statue was part of Mr MacKenzie’s 1936 bequest to the University of Saskatchewan – Regina Campus. It remained part of the University of Regina art collection stewarded by the MacKenzie until artist Divya Mehra discovered its provenance while she prepared an exhibition of her work.

More about the statue of Annapoorna, including a photograph, is found in a feature story on the University website. The repatriation ceremony was also covered by the Times of India and many other Indian media outlets.

In addition to Ms Mehra, many have played a role in making this repatriation a reality. In particular I wish to thank Ms Alex King, Curator/Preparator of the President’s Art Collection, Brett Waytuck, University Librarian, and Kate Zhang, UR International’s Manager of International Relationships and Partnerships.

Thomas Chase

Interim President and Vice-Chancellor