It was not clear in March 2020 how we would fare during the uncertain time ahead. Effective response strategies had to be developed swiftly where none existed before. But these strategies would have made little difference were they not informed and implemented by every office, department, college and centre in the university over an unpredictable and lengthy period of time.
The lives of students, staff and faculty members have been disrupted as they have never been before. Transitioning to learning and working from home has been a stressful and complicated adjustment for everyone. Days spent in isolation from fellow students and colleagues for such a long period have affected people’s mental health. Friends and family members have fallen ill from COVID-19; tragically, some have died from it. All around us, signs of the pandemic’s toll have been apparent and have been experienced by every member of our university community, including our 160,000 alumni around the world. To respect this, the Canadian flag flies at half-mast on our campus today.
Yet the past year has proved to be a productive one at USask, full of what would be considered exceptional accomplishments in any year, let alone this one. We are educating more students now than we ever have in our history, and extraordinary research has been undertaken that will positively affect the lives of many. Through the exceptional efforts of our health-related colleges and units, and their many alumni who have worked on the frontlines throughout the past year, our university has contributed to controlling the pandemic in crucial ways that continue to prove our value to the province and beyond.
Now exactly one year after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, I am confident we will emerge united, deliberate and creative in our commitment to being the university the post-pandemic world will need. The pandemic is not over, but I am thankful we are now beginning to see beyond the difficulties and challenges of this past year, and that a better time awaits on our horizon. And I thank all members of the USask community for upholding the vision, mission, and values of this great university over this past intensely challenging year.
President and Vice-chancellor
University of Saskatchewan