COVID-19: Response to the Community

The current global pandemic has touched each of us differently. For universities like ours, it means finding ways to be more flexible than ever as we continue with our mandate of providing education to all those who seek it. Additionally, we are innovating and sharing our resources to help communities, whether through donating equipment to hospitals or developing knowledge through research projects. By staying open, flexible, and operational, we are doing our part to help in the fight against COVID-19.

On this page, I will occasionally post broader community updates and other items of interest as they relate to TRU and COVID-19. This information is over and above the information on TRU’s dedicated COVID-19 site, which will always have the latest updates as they pertain to students and employees.

In times of uncertainty, information is helpful. It is of even greater importance to keep in mind our values — those that guide us, as individuals, to know what is important; and those that we share when we work together in a life-changing and community-shaping institution like TRU. I encourage everyone, regardless of your connection to TRU, to stay informed, stay safe, and take care of one another.

— Brett Fairbairn, President and Vice-Chancellor

Letters to the community

From TRU Connections: Alumni and Friends

 A Message of Opportunity

From Dr. Brett Fairbairn, TRU President and Vice-Chancellor
September 2020

Dear Alumni and Friends,

I hope this message finds you well since the last time we connected.

It’s hard to believe we are already into September — the start of a fall term and the busiest time of year for TRU. And it will be a September unlike any other. While our campuses and regional centres will remain unusually quiet, missing the excitement and buzz of students arriving in anticipation of a successful year, we are continuing to teach and learn virtually and online as we have now for many months. Perhaps as with your own lives, we have accepted the reality of our current time and are settling, adjusting, and even embracing new opportunities in the midst of a global pandemic.

I’m heartened that so many students are continuing to choose a university education, including international students. Many will be joining us for the first time virtually, from their home countries, and will continue to receive credit for their studies thanks to the efforts of Canadian universities and the flexibility granted by the federal government. We look forward to a time when these students can arrive to our region and be on campus along with their Canadian counterparts, when it is safe to do so.

For those students that are already here in Canada, whether domestic or international, we are supporting them in numerous ways, and most of all, reminding them that in spite of our need to be physically apart, TRU is here for them and committed to their success.

If you are interested in learning more about TRU’s plans for the fall semester, you can visit the dedicated page on our website. If you know of a student who has questions, encourage them also to check the information.

Be well and be safe.

 A Message of Reflection

From Dr. Brett Fairbairn, TRU President and Vice-Chancellor
July 2020

Dear Alumni and Friends,

First of all, I would like to offer a warm welcome to our new alumni. While this stage of your journey of study with Thompson Rivers University is now over, you will always be part our university family. And like any family, we will continue to be behind you, cheering you on as you pursue your dreams and contribute to the world.

This world has changed more than we could have imagined just a few short months ago. Physical distancing, travel bans, immense job loss and a decline in mental health—just a few of the effects of a global pandemic. In the midst of this, it has underscored for me why universities exist and the special role we have in society. We provide students with hope and futures; we provide communities with knowledge and inspiration; and through our presence, we sustain and even grow our region. We have always had a place, and this will be needed more than ever as we consider the recovery from COVID-19.

We’ve witnessed some sectors of our economy shaken—perhaps permanently—while for others, the pandemic has accelerated their growth. People have lost jobs and when employment resumes, the jobs they had before may no longer exist. And based on evidence so far, those most affected by layoffs and unemployment will have been women, minorities and people in lower-skilled positions. It is universities like ours that provide life chances. Universities change lives. The need has never been greater.

I’ve shared this perspective with others as well as in my recent blog post, and I welcome your thoughts. What will the world look like after COVID-19? What lessons are we learning and how can we live differently as a result? These are perhaps heavy and difficult questions to ask. Yet it’s the kind of questioning, thinking and dialogue we encourage in universities, and which we hope graduates will take with them when they leave TRU and help shape a better world.

Be well and be safe.

 A Message of Celebration

From Dr. Brett Fairbairn, TRU President and Vice-Chancellor
June 2020

Dear Alumni and Friends,

This message comes at a time when students prepare for the culmination of their hard work – graduation. While the pandemic has affected how we celebrate this year, we will celebrate nonetheless ensuring that our 2,500-plus graduates are recognized for their tremendous achievement. On June 22, TRU will host a virtual Convocation for our Kamloops, Williams Lake and Open Learning graduates, complete with messages of congratulation and words of wisdom from many – valedictorians, faculty members, and honorary doctorates among others.

These students are graduating during a time of significant disruption. Their plans for after graduation may not be what they anticipated; perhaps jobs they thought would materialize haven’t. Our message to them during Convocation, and for the rest of their lives, is to stand firm and know that their education will serve them in years to come. And, along with their credential, are the characteristics they strengthened through their achievement and during their time at TRU – of perseverance, of inquisitiveness, of caring and being open to others. These will be important for them during their journey ahead. These graduates will become part of our great alumni community and you’ll have an opportunity to welcome them. Read further in the newsletter to find out how!

As we say farewell to one group of students, we are busy preparing for others who will either return to TRU or begin their post-secondary studies for the first time this fall. School will be different this September as we continue in a virtual learning environment for the majority of our courses. But for our students, they can rest assured of a quality education. Through our Open Learning division, TRU has been a global leader in online and distance learning for more than 40 years and we are drawing on this experience as we prepare for the fall and adjust courses that normally would have been offered on campus. So while this pandemic has created challenges for us, it has also created opportunities for doing things differently, and in so, giving us hope for the future, the kind of hope that we instill in our graduates.

 A Message of Resilience

From Dr. Brett Fairbairn, TRU President and Vice-Chancellor
May 2020

Dear Alumni and Friends,

Since I last connected with you in early April, it seems as if much has changed, and yet remained the same in what has now become a new normal.

Students enrolled in winter studies at TRU finished the last part of their coursework through virtual delivery, and now another cohort of students is just beginning spring term. The numbers of students taking courses this spring and summer is strong and shows that in spite of the disruption caused by COVID-19, we are adjusting and finding ways to move forward.

It speaks to something special about the human spirit – our ability to endure. And not just as individuals, but together. It’s something my parents taught me, and that I wish most for students during this time. That in spite of the uncertainty around them, and the new challenges in learning and “attending” university in a different way, that TRU is here for them, and that they can still succeed. It’s a message I shared with students by video last month and one I hope they take to heart.

We help our students in different ways during these difficult times because as a university, we are a community. A most pressing need many students face is financial, particularly among those who left their home country to study in Canada. At TRU, these international students are an important part of our university life. They are attracted to TRU for our education, our affordability, and our location within a mid-sized, safe city. Representing more than 100 countries, they have hopes for their future, are eager to learn, and we learn from and are enriched by them. Many of them have lost jobs, are not able to return home, and due to their citizenship, unable to access the many provincial and federal supports available in response to COVID-19. TRU is doing what we can. Along with the student union, we have established emergency funds, but the need is great. You’ll read about this need and the Student Support Fund in this newsletter, along with ways in which you can help.

One of the messages I shared with students, which I believe applies to all of us, is that we don’t get to choose the times we live in, but what we can choose is how we respond. When COVID-19 is over, I’m hopeful that we will look back and be proud of how we responded as a community.

 A Message of Gratitude

From Dr. Brett Fairbairn, TRU President and Vice-Chancellor
April 2020

Dear Alumni and Friends,

Wherever you may be, I hope this connection finds you well and safe in what are truly unprecedented times.

The last few weeks have seen our university, like a great many others, send most students away from classrooms, and most faculty and staff away from their offices, to study and work remotely as we do our part in response to COVID-19. This is an astonishing amount of change in how we do education, in a very short period of time. Understandably, there is uncertainty and anxiety, particularly among students for whom each term, each year, is a key year for their futures. Our faculty and staff have been learning different ways to do their jobs and their efforts and successes are inspiring.

Along the way, it is comforting to know that you, our alumni and friends, are here with us.

As our world grapples with the far-reaching effects of COVID-19, I think about our university’s student recruitment campaign, which began before the pandemic. Its theme, “The World Needs You,” is so relevant today.

The world needs TRU graduates more than ever, such as our graduating nurses, health-care assistants and respiratory therapists who are the face of the pandemic frontlines. And the world also needs each of us to be involved. We do our part through social distancing, what I prefer to call an act of social solidarity as we protect the most vulnerable in our society and preserve the integrity of our health-care system. We do our part by continuing with the promise of an education, supporting students, faculty, and staff to transition classroom learning to virtual settings. We do our part by offering equipment to hospitals or giving financial aid to students in crisis who may have experienced job loss. And we do our part by intentionally connecting with one another to maintain our sense of community, a sense of stability. Stability, and hope: that's what universities are about.

By doing what we do — providing learners with hope and futures; providing communities with knowledge and inspiration — we are sustaining our region and more. Wherever in the world a graduate, a student, or an employee lives, TRU is present, keeping communities active and vibrant.

As alumni and friends, you are part of our university community as well as part of the communities in which you reside. In the coming weeks, I will share more with you about what is happening at TRU and what we have to offer to our communities in these times. I also hope to hear from you about your suggestions and ideas. I am confident that together, we will rise to the challenges of this pandemic, and we will comfort and be kind to one another.

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