An Unusual Start to an Unusual Semester

VIU Provost and Vice President, Academic

September 15, 2020 - 2:00pm

I want to welcome you all back to an unusual fall semester after an unusual summer break. I know the messages about uncharted territory have become cliché as we head into a semester of yet more “firsts.” Getting to the execution point of all these “firsts” has been a transformational journey for most of us at VIU. No position has been left untouched, and summer time when we usually have a chance to catch our breath was, this year, busier than ever.

The work our faculty undertook to redesign their pedagogy and bring our courses online was, and continues to be, immense and is noticed and appreciated. The workload was accompanied by creativity, research and professional development to ensure our students receive the quality teaching experience they have come to expect. The cross-faculty and cross-discipline collaborations that have developed show how willing we are to support each other and learn from each other. The Centre for Innovation and Excellence has done an amazing job of supporting faculty to re-imagine for on-line pedagogy, hybrid course delivery and alternative assessments, which will benefit the quality of our courses and our students.

The first weeks of September differ dramatically from past years. The busy-ness of our campuses, the line-ups at the Campus Store, the hustle and bustle after a more muted summer is absent, and it makes the transition harder to spot, but it is there. The leaves are still falling and the light is still changing and we are still welcoming a whole new cohort of students to VIU, and becoming reacquainted with upper-year students, albeit through Zoom. Now more than ever, these students need the supportive relationships that are part of VIU’s reputation.

I have no doubt that students will experience an exceptional education, meet their required learning outcomes and complete their programs with all the knowledge they need to excel in their fields or future educational endeavours. I have this confidence because I have seen some of the coursework our faculty have developed and I am confident it will create exactly the type of learning outcomes our students need. Congratulations – this was no small feat.

I want to share a piece of wisdom from one of my cross-Canada colleagues who writes an annual “start of the year” message.  Among other things, this year she reminds us to stop on occasion and remind ourselves: “It’s good enough” and “It’s going to be messy” and that we have to ensure we take care of ourselves in order to take care of our students. Taken together with the outstanding efforts of all, I hope there is a balance in your lives and an acceptance that we are learning together.

We have spoken at length about how we are all in this together, but I want to unpack what that means. While our instructional faculty are often the first and closest relationships our students have with employees at VIU, they are not the only individuals eager to provide support and form those bonds. We pride ourselves on our support services. We have advising staff who guide students through their program, we have counsellors who support students to manage the stress and emotional challenges they may experience throughout the year. We have employees in Accessibility Services who are armed with many resources to help our students and faculty. Instead of friendly cashiers in the cafeteria, we have safety ambassadors (who look very familiar). The Co-curricular Office is focused on helping students form those important peer-to-peer connections which are such a key piece of the university experience. We have employees at the gym who are an important point of contact for many students. “Being in it together” means that we all do what we are best at doing to support our students and if we are unsure or need help, we reach out to our colleagues. I encourage you to bookmark the following pages on our website, which will help you connect with some of these people and resources. If you’re not sure where to start, the weekly VIU Digest employee enewsletter has lots of important information and the Communications and Public Engagement team is always open to helping.

I am excited about the year ahead. It’s going to get messy, but it’s going to be a great year. We will learn together and co-create a different University for the future conditions.  I think we are equipped to meet these challenges and turn them into opportunities to thrive. Again, this is because of efforts that VIU employees undertook this summer to ensure a great fall. Thank you so much.


Dr. Carol Stuart

Provost and Vice President, Academic

Tags: Teaching and Learning