Message from the President: Building a stronger, more connected UPEI community

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This message was distributed to UPEI students, faculty, and staff on March 27, 2020 to their @upei.ca emails. While we will continue to update our COVID-19 website, the latest news will be first shared with the UPEI community by email and notifications will be sent by UPEI SAFE, the University’s safety app (available on The App Store and Google Play).

Dear Members of the University Community,

It has been a week since I last wrote you, but it has been nine weeks since we have been communicating with you about COVID-19. This is a pandemic like no other, and it will have ramifications for our University, our province, our country, and around the world that are still unknown.

I will continue to write you weekly; it is so important to stay connected as the COVID-19 crisis evolves. Along with the Chancellor, the Chair of the Board of Governors, Senior Executive, Deans, Directors, and Supervisors, I continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis, so we will advise you as soon as possible if there are any changes in our response to COVID-19. I am in touch often with Emma Drake, president of the UPEI Student Union, who is wonderful at briefing me on how her peers are doing. I am also communicating regularly with Premier Dennis King, who continues to wish us well as we do our best to carry on with the semester.

As a campus community, we have had to make some difficult decisions, but all of them have been made with the health, safety, and security of students, staff, and faculty at the top of our minds. By responding quickly and implementing a number of preventative measures on campus early, UPEI is playing its part in helping to prevent the spread of this virus.

It has been extremely important that our campus stay open for the delivery of essential services, including keeping the residences open for our students. Many, who were able, elected to travel home early, but I know that some students are not in this position. I want to thank the Residence Services staff, the Chartwells team, and our Facilities Management division for allowing us to maintain this “home away from home” for our students.

I am so grateful to our faculty and staff who are so committed to ensuring that our students successfully complete the semester and progress through their studies with as little disruption as possible. Many of our students have applied for the first summer session, and it is our intention to support them as faculty and staff transition to delivering a full session using online tools and technology.

This week, registration opened for incoming first-year students. The response has been very encouraging, and I am so proud of how we have welcomed these future students despite the challenges we face today. We have all rallied and are supporting each other, and I want to acknowledge everyone’s efforts to be creative, patient, and flexible. I have always known this, but UPEI students are amazing in the face of adversity, and I thank them for their willingness to adapt. We are all in this together.

There are also many ways that our faculty, staff, students, and alumni are answering the call to contribute to the broader community.

Last week we learned of the great news that an interdisciplinary research team at UPEI, co-led by Dr. Bill Whelan and Dr. Andy Trivett and featuring faculty from Physics, Sustainable Design Engineering, Chemistry, and Veterinary Medicine, has received a CIHR grant to repurpose, in response to COVID-19, a diagnostic tool they have developed for the detection of viruses in farm animals. The UPEI researchers will apply their patent-pending LabAnywhere™ technology to detecting human diseases in remote locations. Read more

This week, Dr. Travis Saunders’ Active Living Lab in Applied Human Sciences launched a research program where kinesiologists are offering ergonomic assessments for Islanders who are working from home. The work, led by research coordinator Carrie Jones, is being supported by the Workers Compensation Board of Prince Edward Island. Read more

Students in the Doctor of Psychology program are researching evidence-based, mental health resources and plan to provide these online. I am thankful that Dr. Jason Doiron and his colleagues in the PsyD program continue to connect with their vast networks in mental health.

Dr. Nick Krouglicof, Dean of the Faculty of Sustainable Design Engineering, is serving on the newly established COVID-19 Innovation Task Force formed by the Government of PEI to look into producing several types of personal protective equipment (PPE). The team at FSDE has already prepared a proposal that outlines how they will be able to mobilize resources. They are to be commended for their initiative and willingness to participate in this provincial effort to respond to a national call to supplement the supply of PPE.

Several faculty have participated in interviews with local, national, and sector-based media to share their expertise as it relates to COVID-19, including the Atlantic Veterinary College’s Dr. Jason Stull, veterinary epidemiologist with expertise in infectious diseases; Dr. J McClure, large animal medicine and infection control; and Dr. Martha Mellish, Ambulatory Equine Service.

UPEI is proud to count many of those leading efforts in public health and health care during this crisis as alumni. Dr. Heather Morrison, Chief Public Health Officer; Marion Dowling, Chief of Nursing; Dr. Tim Burnley, Health Information Specialist; Dr. Carolyn Sanford, Provincial Veterinarian, and Dr. Maggie Cameron, acting Provincial Epidemiologist, are only a few of the UPEI graduates who are helping to keep Islanders safe.

Closer to campus, our E-Learning Office at the Robertson Library and our Student Affairs team have placed resources for “Resilient Teaching” and “Resilient Learning,” respectively, on UPEI’s Moodle page. Our UPEI Student Union, guided by Emma Drake, has announced a fund to help students who are facing financial difficulties due to COVID-19. This will certainly supplement other supports that are available, including the UPEI Adversity Awards. A few years ago, the University established these awards for students facing difficulty and adversity. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, we have added $70,000 to this year’s funding for the Adversity Awards in order to help students who have been severely impacted by the pandemic.

These are just a few examples in which UPEI is continuing to play an important role in the community by reaching out to offer our resources, research capabilities, and knowledge to others. Our University motto is “Faith, Knowledge, Service,” and I am reminded every day how much our UPEI community members exemplify these values whether in times of prosperity or during a mounting challenge like COVID-19.

I thank each and every one of you for your contributions toward building a stronger and even more connected UPEI community.

Best wishes,


Alaa


Dr. Alaa S. Abd-El-Aziz
President and Vice-Chancellor
University of Prince Edward Island

 

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