Message from the President: Step by Step

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This message was distributed to UPEI students, faculty, and staff on June 12, 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 on UPEI SAFE, the University’s safety app (available on The App Store and Google Play). View UPEI's Operational Ease-Back Plan for information about the University's plan to gradually return to campus.

Dear Members of the University Community,

During my career as a professor, I have often spoken to my students about how research is a step-by-step process. Each step is necessary in order to develop one’s research from idea to discovery. This description is comparable to the progress that the University has been making to ease gradually back to campus. We are moving through each stage, step by step, and we are slowly, but surely, making positive gains.

Just as there are many steps in the research process, many hands are needed to successfully complete a research plan. This is also true for UPEI’s Operational Ease-Back Plan. I am so grateful to have a great team of administrators around me who have contributed to our success to date. Our Vice-Presidents, CIO, Deans, University Librarian, Associate Vice-Presidents, Directors, and Managers from both academic and administrative areas have continued to put the health, safety, and future success of our students first, as we work our way through the uncharted territory of COVID-19. We are where we are today because of this excellent leadership along with the wonderful faculty and staff at UPEI.

June 15 will mark the beginning of Stage Two of UPEI’s Operational Ease-Back Plan, which reflects the next step in expanding the gradual return to working, teaching, learning, and conducting research on campus. During Stage Two, the general operating hours for campus will be expanded to 8 am–5 pm, the meeting-size limit will increase from five people to 15 people indoors (while observing physical distancing of 2 metres/6 feet), and employees who have an individual office space, as well as those who share a workspace where physical distancing can be maintained, will be able to return to work on campus. Supervisors will continue to employ scheduling tactics in order to reduce overall numbers on floors, in buildings, and on campus at any one time. Individuals can continue to work from home if approved by their supervisors.

It is also exciting that more students will be on campus during Stage Two, both to conduct research and for clinical practice. I spoke to the Dean of the Atlantic Veterinary College who mentioned that the first fourth-year student from out of province has arrived on PEI to begin her 14-day self-isolation, in advance of beginning clinical practice on July 6, with others arriving over the next week or so. The Dean explained how his team worked with the Government of PEI to develop a plan to re-integrate students from out of province, in order to allow them to complete their clinical practice requirements. I am pleased to report that we are also working on a University-wide plan to support students who will be arriving from out of province for the 2020 Fall Academic Semester.

Also, on June 15, our Deans, under the leadership of the Vice-President Academic and Research, will be communicating more details directly to students about the course delivery plan for the upcoming 2020 Fall Academic Semester. I attended a meeting on Monday where the Vice-President Academic and Research outlined the plan that was developed after many meetings between the University Librarian, Associate Vice-President of Students and Registrar, and the Deans and their respective faculty and staff. The Vice-President Academic and Research has also been in a number of discussions with the President of the UPEI Faculty Association to keep her informed. I know very well that, with the hybrid model we will be using in September, our faculty will do everything they can to ensure that UPEI will deliver high quality education that allows our students to reach their full potential. I am confident that the creativity and dedication of our faculty in delivering their courses and supporting their students, either virtually or in person, will be exemplary.

Although COVID-19 has changed some aspects of how we teach and learn, UPEI remains committed to providing access to rewarding learning experiences online and, when possible, in-person in a safe and responsible manner. UPEI courses will be primarily online for the 2020 Fall Academic Semester with exceptions for in-person, on-campus instruction. These exceptions are for accredited programs in health and clinical-based programming (such as Nursing, Veterinary Medicine, Doctor of Psychology, and Sustainable Design Engineering), as well as for some lab-based courses in Science and performance-based programming in Arts (such as Music and Theatre). We have several robust platforms to ensure students, regardless of their location, are fully engaged and have direct access to their professors.

I recently met with the Premier of Prince Edward Island, the Honourable Dennis King, who assured me of the Government’s ongoing support. Throughout the pandemic, our Premier has continued to ask for updates on our progress and our needs, and what the Government can do to help UPEI. I am grateful to him and to all the Members of the Legislative Assembly of PEI as well as to our Island Members of Parliament and Senators for their care and concern.  We are fortunate to have a close-knit University community enveloped by a close-knit Island community.

I also met several times with my fellow presidents of Atlantic Canadian universities that are members of Atlantic University Sport (AUS). It was with mixed feelings that the AUS came to the decision earlier this week to suspend varsity sport competition until January 2021. While disappointing, the decision was the right one in terms of keeping the health and safety of our students as our top priority. While this means that Panther Sport will look very different this Fall for our student-athletes, coaches, supporters, and fans, there will be a reassessment of the situation in October with regard to the Winter sport season. I am confident that our UPEI Athletics and Recreation department will provide our student-athletes with many opportunities to continue training and stay engaged so that they will be ready to resume competition as soon as it is safe to do so.  

On a positive note, and one that benefits the health and wellness of our broader University community, the UPEI Fitness Centre and Panther Academy Camps will be reopening in the coming days (details will be released soon). I want to thank the Vice-President Administration and Finance and the whole Athletics and Recreation team for their diligent efforts in developing a plan that allows them to provide these services in a safe manner.

Every time I am on campus, I see more and more people and am reassured that we are planning the way forward, safely, for the upcoming academic year. A guiding principle in the UPEI Strategic Plan 2018–2023 is to provide quality education while supporting our students in and outside the classroom. We are going through a difficult time; however, we will continue to uphold this tenet and focus on our strategic priorities. I will write again to update you on UPEI’s progress at the end of July and prior to the start of Stage Three on August 3. Until then, let’s continue to be positive and take things, step by step.

Best wishes,

Alaa

 

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

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