To the members of the University College community,
I hope you, your families, and your loved ones are healthy and in good spirits during these challenging times. I am writing regarding our community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to update you on our plans for recovery.
I am thankful for how the UC community came together to implement physical distancing, and for the close ties among you that I know will help you cope with this necessity. The connections among faculty, students, and staff are what make University College the special place that it is; and being there for one another even though we are apart is crucial.
Your dedication to keeping the students in our residences safe has been commendable. Our front-line staff in the Residences and Food Service continue to take excellent care of our students who stayed with us on campus, and for this I am deeply grateful. Our Student Life and Advancement teams have also developed creative ways to engage with our students and alumni online, no matter where they may be. Among many other initiatives, the ‘UC Daily’ series of virtual programs and events supports our students’ personal and academic success, while our alumni connect through, for example, an online reading by a UC author of her book. Staff in the Registrar’s Office have been extremely busy supporting UC students, including reviewing more than 500 applications to the COVID-19 emergency grant program and awarding over $500,000 in funding to domestic and international students in need.
As we turn our efforts from response to recovery, we must acknowledge that recovery will be slow and unpredictable, and safety will be our priority. However, there are a number of reasons to be positive about the future at UC. The final stage of the UC building revitalization is underway, and renovations to the quadrangle are slated to begin soon. Students, staff, and faculty can look forward to using our beautiful, newly upgraded spaces once it is deemed safe to return to campus. Our faculty members are making plans for fall term teaching scenarios, which will likely blend smaller, in-class seminars with larger, online lectures, depending on the advice of health authorities.
The leadership of our Vice-Principal, Professor John Marshall, and Program Directors, Professor Emily Gilbert, Professor Jim John, and Professor Sarah Wakefield, who are all in the final weeks of their appointments, has been invaluable to this process and I am grateful for their service. A new academic leadership team will take over in July, with Professor Emily Gilbert as Vice-Principal, Professor Paul Hamel as Interim Director of Health Studies, Professor John Vervaeke as Director of Cognitive Science, and Dr. Siobhan O’Flynn as Director of Canadian Studies, who each bring a great deal of experience to their roles. In view of the challenges associated with moving from classroom-based teaching and learning to online and hybrid models, Dr. O’Flynn has also been appointed UC Online Teaching Advisor for the 2020-21 academic year. An expert in digital pedagogy, she will be a resource to faculty members and instructors teaching in our programs. Adding to these strengths as we enter the new academic year is Dr. Myrto Grigoroglou, who joins us on September 1 as an Assistant Professor in Psycholinguistics, with a joint appointment between Linguistics and Cognitive Science. A search is also currently underway for a limited-term Assistant Professor in Health Studies, who will be jointly appointed to Human Biology.
In more ways than I can enumerate here, the College’s operations have benefited in these taxing times from the expert leadership of Chief Administrative Officer Yvonne MacNeil. I was very pleased to learn that she has been awarded the 2020 A&S Dean’s Outstanding Administrative Service Award. Please join me in congratulating Yvonne; I cannot think of anyone more deserving.
As we head into summer and fall, please remember that recovery will take time and patience. The University of Toronto is preparing for a gradual return to campus, with as much on-campus activity as is practicable, sensible, and safe. For the latest information on how U of T moves forward together, please consult the recent messages by U of T President Meric Gertler and A&S Dean Melanie Woodin, as well as the U of T COVID-19 updates page. We will also post College updates on the UC website.
I would like to once again extend my sincere gratitude to all members of the UC community for the flexibility and dedication you have shown over the past months. Our front-line staff continue to perform their critical work caring for our residence students on campus, and I cannot thank them enough. Equally, I am immensely grateful for the dedication of those staff and faculty members who are helping to keep the College running from afar, working from home and dealing with the challenges associated with that.
I encourage you to connect regularly with your colleagues and fellow students for their well-being and your own; a call, email, or act of kindness can make a big difference. Please do everything you can to remain healthy and help others stay healthy too: practice physical distancing, wash your hands often, and self-isolate if you’re not feeling well. Taking these simple steps will go a long way towards safeguarding the health and well-being of our community as we move towards recovery. Thank you for your participation in this effort.
Principal, University College