While we look ahead to 2022 after a challenging pandemic year, we know that our campus community is better prepared than ever to deal with whatever comes next. Your dedication and determination to protect yourselves and each other by following public health guidelines has truly been an extraordinary success story. Daily I am reminded of the resilience and responsiveness of our entire campus community that have helped minimize transmission of COVID-19.
With vaccination rates for faculty, staff and students exceeding 95 per cent in the fall, the overwhelming cross-campus support for having a fully vaccinated campus in January has opened the door to even more in-person activity in the 2022 winter term. As we have continued the transition from remote on-line engagement—teaching, learning and working—to more robust on-campus activity, we have also learned that we have a tremendous capacity for change and an ability to overcome challenges in these extraordinary times.
From addressing pandemic priorities and the challenges of climate change, to training the next generation of professionals and leaders in all fields, USask is making a difference in our community, our nation, and our world. Despite the pandemic, our university is on track for another year of record enrolment and graduation numbers in 2021/22. Our students and our 165,000 alumni worldwide are continually proving to be responsive to unprecedented challenges in a world more globally connected than ever before.
The pandemic has reaffirmed our reputation as a research leader nationally and internationally, with new funding and support to position our VIDO facility as Canada’s Centre for Pandemic Research. VIDO’s achievements are just one example of how our university is making discoveries the world needs at our outstanding research centres that include the Canadian Light Source, the Fedoruk Centre, the Global Institute for Water Security, and the Global Institute for Food Security.
In so many ways, these challenges have brought out the best in our campus community, a community that is more open to new opportunities and new possibilities than ever before. As our Post-Pandemic Shift Project has confirmed, there indeed has been a shift in how we see our future responsibilities and roles, rooted in a new respect for others and staying more connected than ever before. Those connections and commitments have also served as the foundation for three major initiatives in 2021—the first Indigenous Strategy solely created by Indigenous peoples at a U15 research university; our new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan; and our new Sustainability Strategy.
For now, as 2021 comes to a close, please take a moment to reflect on all that you have accomplished and all that you have overcome in a year that we will never forget. I hope you all have an opportunity to refresh and to refocus on the year ahead and on the opportunities that await.
Most importantly, I hope you take the time to safely re-connect with those who matter most, and cherish special moments with friends and family, colleagues, and fellow students.
I wish you a happy holiday season and all the best in the new year.
President and Vice-Chancellor
University of Saskatchewan