The University of Saskatchewan’s post-pandemic recovery plan is making progress despite the uncertainty surrounding a campus reopening date.
Debra Pozega Osburn, vice-president university relations, is responsible for the University of Saskatchewan’s post-pandemic shift project’s external discussions phase, while the internal discussions fall to those in the university community, such as students, staff and faculty.
“There are many things, I think, from a sociological and cultural standpoint that we need to understand [about] how our communities are thinking, and use that to inform our decision-making processes,” Osburn said.
In an email to the Sheaf, Osburn indicated that she has so far spoken with members of the Senate, the Saskatoon School Board and with the university’s Alumni Advisory Board.
Kiefer Roberts, the U of S Students’ Union vice-president academic affairs, is part of the project’s commission, which is responsible for internal discussions. Other members of the commission include professors, directors and deans from various colleges. The group is led by Edwards School of Business’ department head Vince Bruni-Bossio, and senior director of the office of the vice-provost Indigenous engagement Candace Wasacase-Lafferty.
The internal discussions led by the commission will involve bringing in diverse viewpoints to better respond to the university’s post-pandemic needs. The engagement groups involved include Elders, deans, students, staff, researchers and faculty.
The goal of the project is to have a final report resulting from the discussions ready by June, with around six weeks scheduled for the external discussions. The report will serve as a resource and guideline for those making decisions regarding campus.
Osburn is hopeful about the potential of the project to inform a “cultural shift” in how the university community communicates and structures its future services.
“We can’t change the fact that there is now a virus that causes us to live our lives differently,” Osburn said. “The pandemic shapes us, but we also get to shape our own future to a certain extent.”
Roberts says his own concerns “haven’t changed too much,” but that one of the main concerns voiced by many students is their different views on online learning.
“I think we’re definitely going to have to be looking into … asking students whether or not they would feel comfortable if they were given the option to either take a specific class online or in class,” Roberts said.
Roberts says there are a variety of different ways that the internal commission is contacting students for the project. He mentioned remote focus groups, surveys and interviews as examples of how to gain input.
“We haven’t done anything officially but we will be reaching out to students, Elders, faculty [and] staff … within the coming months,” Roberts said.
He also spoke about how the university may pursue potential partnerships with other groups in Saskatoon.
“If the post-pandemic shift commission feels the need to reach out to a broader community, we will,” Roberts said.
As an example, he mentions the City of Saskatoon and the university’s own partnerships as well.
Roberts says he feels “very honoured” to be a part of the project.
“I know for a fact that the university does want to get back to in-person teaching, and I know the students want that very much,” Roberts said.
“We are eventually going to go back in-person teaching, but I think that will definitely have to be left up to the university to decide that, and the instructors and students as well.”
Fiza Baloch | Staff Writer
Graphic: Akshara Dash