Letter to students from Dean Mummery

We have all experienced an enormous amount of change to the way we learn, work and live in the past several weeks due to COVID-19, and a lot has been asked of our faculty members, students and staff both within the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation and across the University of Alberta campus. 

These times of rapid change and the burden of the uncertainty of what the future holds has certainly taken a toll on us all. While I too am feeling the impacts of change, uncertainty and physical isolation, I have also been overwhelmed by the willingness and rapidness of our faculty members, students and staff to adapt to the change. From our instructors taking all our courses from in-class to online in a matter of days and the response of our leadership teams to ensuring students questions and concerns are addressed, to the communication from every area of the faculty and the quick steps taken by all teams to work from home in order to do our part to flatten the curve is nothing short of remarkable.

Everyone has responded to these changes with grace, professionalism and collegiality. It is because of you all, I am feeling fairly optimistic that we will continue to persevere and get through these challenges together. The Faculty leadership team, as well as the Athletics and Campus & Community Recreation leadership teams, the Student Services office and KSR instructors have been doing a wonderful job in responding to questions and concerns to the best of their ability and in a timely manner. With that being said, I understand that everyone still may have questions and concerns, and I encourage you all to continue to reach out to your instructors, student advisors, leadership team members and direct supervisors as we make our way through these uncertain times.

We hosted a series of virtual town halls with graduate and undergraduate students last week. Thank you to everyone who attended and continued to ask great questions. I’m happy to share a brief summary of what we discussed in the meetings.

Undergraduate Students:

CREDIT/NON-CREDIT GRADING 

  • As a result of the global pandemic, the University of Alberta has decided to move to CR/NC for the Winter 2020 Term. An email on how the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation will assign official academic standings was sent to all KSR undergrads on Wednesday, April 1. If you have any questions on this matter, please contact the Student Services office at ksradvisors@ualberta.ca
  • We understand this is a concern to many students, especially those who are looking to apply to medical or physiotherapy/occupational therapy graduate programs in the near future. We have been in contact with the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta. The Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry provided me with a statement that I will share in writing through our communication channel about the efforts they'll take to consider the COVID pandemic when looking at admissions. I also have a similar statement from our Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine for the OT and PT programs stating they will not use winter term 2020 grades in assessment of any GPA for entry into the Faculty of Rehab Medicine. This means that whether you get a grade or a credit, you will not be disadvantaged there. This is the approach Rehab Med is taking with any applicants from any Canadian universities, and they said they expect other OT/PT programs will do the same. We do not have confirmation on that just yet, but is something we’re working on getting.

SPRING/SUMMER 2020 COURSES AND PRACTICUMS. 

  • The University of Alberta has made the decision to offer Spring and Summer 2020 courses through remote delivery. This decision ensures you have certainty about how courses will be delivered and that the term(s) can be offered as outlined, it also allows you to make informed choices when registering for classes. The move to remote delivery for the Spring and Summer 2020 terms balances the health and safety of students; instructors and staff with academic success.
  • We anticipate that additional courses will be made available in the coming weeks, creating further opportunity for you to progress academically. All course offerings will be finalized for April 18 for the Spring 2020 term and by June 19 for the Summer 2020 term. Please check back in Bear Tracks to see if there are new offerings that interest you. Additional information and FAQ's can be found here.
  • What this means for KSR is that classes will be delivered online. In-person labs will not be offered for Spring/Summer 2020.
  • We’re looking at all our courses for Spring/Summer 2020 as some can be delivered remotely, and some that can’t. In some cases, the assigned course instructor will be sending out a survey to those already registered in a class to gauge whether students are willing to take the class in an online environment or not. This includes classes with in-lab components and PAC classes.
  • We’re also going to watch the course registrations closely for the next few days and will let students know which courses will indeed be going forward for Spring/Summer 2020, and which ones will not.  
  • Most importantly, these classes will be graded meaning we will not be using the Credit/No Credit system for Spring/Summer 2020. 
  • KSR is waiting on directives from the University of Alberta for the strategy for Spring practicum placements. Our Practicum Advisor, Tracey Whatmore, will be in contact with students impacted by this individually once that strategy has been communicated to the faculties.

Graduate Students:

TEACHING 

  • As a result of the global pandemic, the University of Alberta has decided to move to CR/NC for the Winter 2020 Term
  • This means some of you will be taking or marking courses that are now CR/NCR as opposed to graded. We understand for those who are marking and TAing courses, you may receive some questions from students. We encourage you to reach out to our Associate Dean of Undergraduate, Angela Bayduza (ksradu@ualberta.ca), with any questions you need help answering.
SUPPORT FROM FGSR
  • FGSR has asked graduate students and their supervisors to fill out what they call an inventory of where students are in terms of their progress in their degrees and research. The information provided in these inventories will help FGSR better determine what type of support mechanisms they can provide to students. We will hopefully see an update about those mechanisms from FGSR soon.
  • FGSR has been great in communicating with students. For a list of all the FGSR updates, please visit this link.
RESEARCH.
  • We are working hard to understand how research funding will be impacted by COVID-19, particularly as it pertains to tri-council funding, and will communicate any updates as soon as we have them.
  • We have also been speaking to researchers and PIs to see how their research is being impacted and what the trickle down effects are for graduate students. We realize that students conducting thesis-based research may be experiencing a suspension of research right now, and understand how stressful this can be. We welcome you to reach out to your supervisors or to our Assistant Dean of Research, Tanya Berry (ksradr@ualberta.ca) to discuss your situation and brainstorm ways to work around the challenges.
  • We understand that lack of information is frustrating, and we are working hard to mitigate the risk to research on all levels. We will communicate any decisions and updates as they come up.
DEFENSES.

 

Spring 2020 Convocation: 

  • The University of Alberta has made the difficult decision to change this year’s ceremonies and will not be holding in-person ceremonies this June and instead will move to a virtual convocation to celebrate all that students have achieved.
  • The virtual convocation will be held June 12, 2020 Initial plans are in progress but no details are yet available. Details will be provided as they become available and posted at https://www.ualberta.ca/registrar/graduation-convocation.
  • We are working on plans for KSR students convocating, including virtual options and in-person photo with the Alberta Bear in your caps and gowns at a later date when it’s safe to do so. More details will be provided once they are finalized.

I understand that students may be feeling unsettled and anxious about the recent, rapid changes to their learning. Learning remotely and practicing physical distancing may also be bringing up feelings of loneliness. I want to remind you that you are not alone, that we are here to support you as best as we possibly can. 

Please remember to reach out to classmates whenever you’re feeling the weight of everything is much too heavy to carry on your own. Arranging virtual study groups or afternoon virtual coffee breaks can help ease the anxiety and loneliness you may be experiencing. Social connection is important during these times, and I strongly encourage everyone to try the many virtual avenues to maintain that connection.

Remember to look after your health, and try to stay as physically active as possible. There are many great resources out there for tips on how to maintain physical activity in isolation, including an educational and informative blog by our Associate Professor Loren Chiu called Exercise in Isolation.

Resilience is key right now, and how we bounce back after times of hardship really has a lot to do with social connection and support. If you don’t have these supports in place, please reach out. The University of Alberta has a number of great resources for students that you can access, or you can reach out to the Alberta Community and Social Services Help Line by texting or calling 211.

Take care of yourselves and one another.

Sincerely,

Kerry Mummery, PhD, FASMF
Professor and Dean
Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation