From the President’s Desk: April 9, 2020

Dear colleagues and students,

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Dear colleagues and students,

Circumstances for all of us have changed so much in only one month it can sometimes be difficult to fathom. Along with people across Canada and the world, we are now living our lives much differently than before — some of us are adapting to working at home while managing the needs of young children. Others are learning how to hold distant friends and family close through computer screens. For those who are suffering from COVID-19, the challenges are much greater — which is why we have come together to do as much as possible to flatten the curve and reduce the number of people who will be impacted by this disease.

Here at the University of Alberta, we have seen an incredible transformation in a very short period of time — thanks to the efforts and adaptability of every student, faculty and staff member. At its best, a university education not only provides learners with new knowledge and hard skills, but also builds their capacity for creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and adaptability. Yesterday marked the end of classes. At the beginning of this term, none of us could have imagined how these skills would be tested by term’s end.

To our students: Thank you for adapting mid-stream to new classroom formats, new syllabi, and new grading schemes. To our instructors: Thank you for working quickly and creatively to give our students the best learning experience possible in very difficult circumstances.

Although our campuses are quiet, with few people still working on site, our work certainly continues. My thanks to all staff and faculty who are working remotely to ensure that the university’s operations — from student services through to information systems, administration and facility maintenance — continue to run without disruption. And my appreciation goes to those who are on the front lines of the emergency response, working to make the best decisions possible given the uncertainty and constant flux.

Not only are so many working hard to ensure that the U of A continues to deliver on its core mission — there are also many at the U of A who have taken on the challenge of the COVID-19 crisis with unexpected creativity. I think of the researchers who have reimagined research projects, started work on a vaccine, and responded to quickly emerging COVID research funding programs. Others are directly supporting needs in the community — I think of the team in Chemistry who began producing hand sanitizer, the team in the Metabolomics Innovation Centre who created the COVIDmapper, or the medical students arranging childcare for front-line responders. In a few short weeks, there are already too many stories of ingenuity and compassion to count. However, you’ll find some of these incredible stories of the U of A’s multifaceted response to COVID-19 on our revised “News” site.

As we prepare for the future, this capacity for innovation will continue to be just as essential. The province and the U of A are dealing with an economic challenge not seen since the Great Depression. The impact on families, friends, and neighbours is dramatic. I am connecting with colleagues in Ottawa making the case for financial support for the province, our key industries, and our communities, employees, students, and research. This support is critical.

As a university community, we are here to help. While we deal with the immediate challenges posed by COVID-19, we will also continue to support the rebuilding of Alberta’s economic and social prosperity in all sectors—from energy and agriculture to arts and culture and healthcare to AI and bio-technology. As a university community, we must build and strengthen our partnerships with Alberta’s businesses, industries, and community organizations, and with them, find innovative and compelling solutions to the challenges we will face together during recovery.

Thank you again for your patience and understanding as well as your creativity and flexibility. Together we will continue to respond as quickly and effectively as possible through the peak of the COVID-19 crisis and prepare for a return to normal activities as soon as we are able.

David H. Turpin
President and Vice-chancellor