It’s only 11 days to first day of classes!!! We’re hanging out waiting for you all to arrive on campus!

Faculty Orientation this week kicked off our pre-term prep as we get ready for your return and a new academic year. Faculty were delighted to see each other after meeting remotely for so many months – maybe even approaching giddy! The Deans shared their inspiring visions for the upcoming year, including new program initiatives, ways to explore our identity as a Liberal Arts University in the Catholic intellectual tradition, and how to connect what you learn in the classroom to a sense of vocation and a life journey.

And, of course, we spent time socializing over great food. We taste-tested Vietnamese subs from our new food services and sampled the coffee. It was excellent – we think you’re going to love it.

So now we just need you on campus. The bookstore’s open, in-person advising is available, and we can’t wait to see you at New Student Orientation and in classes.

It was quiet at first when faculty gathered for orientation, as we all sorted out our comfort level being back in person.

Do we shake hands? High Five? What about hugging? (Are your hands freshly cleaned/sanitized – if you are both comfortable, you can. Keep it short and keep your masks on). Do I declare I’m double-vaxxed to put people at ease? (Sure, if you want to. It will make others feel safer). Do I ask them if they are vaxxed? (Nope. You can offer that information but you can’t ask others. They can share if they want to).

We’re here to answer all your questions as together we find ways to continue the learning journey while keeping us all safe.

There’s lots of important information here so please read it and go easy on the critique. Have you ever tried to write COVID protocols and make them humourous and cool to read?

Have you Submitted your Proof of Vaccination to Enter Draw for Tuition and StMU Bookstore Gift Cards???

To enter the draw, email a copy of your proof of 2 vaccinations to by noon on September 14, 2021. The information will be kept confidential. The draw will be held on Sept. 15, 2021.

COVID Protocols

St. Mary’s University COVID Protocol Update – August 27, 2021

The best prevention against spreading COVID-19 is to get doubly vaccinated, wear a mask in public, frequently sanitize hands through washing with warm soap and water and using hand sanitizer, and staying home if you have any COVID symptoms.

St. Mary’s University implemented mandatory mask usage for all Students, Faculty, Staff and Visitors effective Monday August 23rd, 2021 in all indoor public spaces.

These enforced restrictions will be in place at St. Mary’s until October 1st 2021, at which point the situation will be re-evaluated based on current restrictions and guidelines as per Alberta Health Services.

Vaccines protect us all. They are highly effective against all known variants, especially for severe disease. If you have not already done so, we strongly encourage you to get vaccinated.

Before Coming to Campus

  • Every day, before you come to campus, check to make sure you do not have COVID-19 symptoms. Before leaving your home to come to campus, do a self-assessment to ensure that you are feeling well!
    • If you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms this must be reported to your Leader and via the St. Mary’s Safe App then proceed to be tested. If you have a positive test, you will be required to remain off campus.
  • When you are on-campus for work:
    • Disinfect your hands with sanitizer when entering campus buildings.
    • Wear a mask at all times in any indoor public space. Masks are to be worn in meeting rooms and office spaces when others are present, however, can be removed when working in these spaces alone.
    • If upon asking, an individual refusing to don a mask they will be asked to leave St. Mary’s University property and may be subject to disciplinary action.
    • Practise proper hand hygiene and wash your hands frequently.
    • Be sure to comply with all occupancy and directional signage.

All members of the StMU community and visitors to campus are required to adhere to the following protocols. Updates will be provided with any changes.


Before coming to campus, self-assess daily. If you have any of the following symptoms, do not come onto campus and book a COVID test immediately:
Core symptoms from AHS website

If you have any of these core symptoms, you need to isolate for at least 10 days from the start of your symptoms or until they are gone, whichever is longer, or until you test negative.

Core and other symptoms apply to all COVID-19 strains, including variants.

Anyone who has symptoms is legally required to isolate and should be tested for COVID-19. (

Adults over 18

  • cough
  • fever
  • shortness of breath
  • runny nose
  • sore throat
  • loss of taste or smell

Under 18

  • cough
  • fever
  • shortness of breath
  • loss of sense of taste or smell

Other symptoms

Adults over 18
Any symptom: Stay home and limit contact with others until symptoms are gone. Testing is recommended.

  • Stuffy nose
  • Painful swallowing
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Feeling unwell or fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or unexplained loss of appetite
  • Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye

Monitor your health and call Health Link 811 or your health care provider if you have questions or concerns. Call 911 immediately if experiencing severe symptoms of COVID-19, including difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, feelings of confusion or loss of consciousness.

As of July 29, asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended, including for close contacts of COVID-19 cases. Testing continues to be available for Albertans with symptoms at assessment centres.


Non-medical masks must be worn in all indoor areas on campus, unless you are alone in your office. Faculty are permitted to remove their mask while teaching and put it on when leaving the podium, entering and exiting the classroom, and consulting with students.

Masks not recommended

  • Face shields do not replace masks or face coverings
  • Plastic masks do not meet the requirement as they allow aerosol droplets to escape
  • Avoid masks with ventilators

Students and Lab instructors and Coordinators are required to follow the PPE instructions are appropriate in each lab for the activity. One layer of non-medical mask is required for COVID protocols. Lab instructors and coordinators will review the sanitizing protocols with students.

COVID Testing and Isolation Requirements

Students, staff or faculty showing symptoms of COVID must stay away from campus or leave immediately if symptoms develop while on campus, book a COVID test, and self-isolate while test results come back. Positive test results must be reported through the St. Mary’s Safe App and to the staff/faculty member’s supervisor. People with positive COVID tests must quarantine for 10 days before returning to campus.

OHS will inform faculty if a student in their class tests positive.

What to Expect on Campus

  • All students, faculty, staff and visitors are required to wear masks in indoor public spaces
  • We are cleaning more often and signs will be in place to remind you to physically distance, and practise healthy hand hygiene.
  • Bottle-refill stations remain available, but the drinking portion of water fountains will be out of service.
  • Food service from the Bistro at St. Mary’s will remain open at this time.


I am highly anxious and have trouble wearing a mask. Are there any exceptions to wearing masks on campus?
The evidence has proven that masks are a critical means of preventing the spread of COVID-19. The mask mandate has been put in place to safeguard our entire community. So for your safety, and that of your community, I would encourage you to try to find ways of managing your distress. Our counsellor can help you with strategies and approaches to coping with mask related anxiety.

Mask exemptions are a possibility but that will leave you less protected from contracting or spreading the virus, and any exemption would have to be approved with medical documentation as outlined below.

Please first consider trying different mask types. Have you tried paper disposable masks? They are lighter in weight and feel less confining when compared to some of the cloth masks. Perhaps, try wearing the masks for increasing intervals of time while doing something that would distract you from any distress they cause (like organizing your cool new school stuff).

Contact our counselling office and ask if they have any strategies or recommendations to reduce your distress while wearing a mask.

In special circumstances, students may be considered for a mask exemption while attending in-person activities.

To be considered for a mask exemption, the student’s disability or medical condition must be clearly connected to the requirement for a mask exemption.

A mask exemption may not be possible in all situations, and it may depend on public health guidelines and/or specific agency or StMU requirements.

All relevant sections of the StMU Academic Accommodations Services Mask Exemption Request Form must be completed by the appropriate certifying professional – physician, nurse practitioner or psychologist).

Until the request has been processed by Academic Accommodations staff, individuals MUST wear a mask when on campus per StMU mandate.

To access the StMU Academic Accommodations Services Mask Exemption Request Form, contact Heather McFayden, Academic Access Coordinator, at:

Are plastic face masks acceptable?
No, unfortunately they aren’t.

  • Face shields do not replace masks or face coverings.
  • A face shield is used to protect the eyes of the person wearing it.
  • Using a face shield without a mask won’t protect:
    • you from potentially inhaling infectious respiratory droplets exhaled by others
    • others from your infectious respiratory droplets, as they can escape around the face shield

What about gaiter, neck warmers, and masks with vents?

Neck gaiters (also known as neck warmers) aren’t recommended because they:

  • aren’t well secured to the head or ears, and are likely to move or slip out of place
  • are difficult to remove without contaminating yourself

Masks with exhalation valves or vents are not recommended. These masks do not protect others from COVID-19 or limit the spread of the virus. This is because they allow infectious respiratory droplets to spread outside the mask.

StMU Closed Sept 30 in recognition of National Day for Truth & Reconciliation

St. Mary's University FNMI Logo
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – Sept. 30th 2021

In June, the federal government declared September 30th a federal statutory holiday that is meant to give public servants an opportunity to recognize the legacy of residential schools. The designated paid holiday for federal employees also addresses one of the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: “We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”

September 30th concurs with Orange Shirt Day, set in 2013 to honour Indigenous children who involuntary were forced into attending residential schools while removed from their families. The orange shirt is a strong symbol now of the abuse and suffering endured by those children in residential schools especially after Phyllis Webstad, from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, shared the story of her first day at school on the Dog Creek reserve in British Columbia.

St. Mary’s University recognises its particular responsibility as a post-secondary institution founded on the Catholic intellectual tradition to address the impact of both education and religion in contributing to the colonisation of First Peoples that includes oppressive and genocidal practices.

The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, points to education as the key to reconciliation, stating, “Education got us into this mess and education will get us out of it.” As educators, in particular, according to Sinclair, we have a sacred responsibility to ensure that all children, regardless of their heritage, are able to think about four key questions throughout their education: where do I come from, where am I going, why am I here, and most importantly, who am I? Education systems matter to us as equally as humans, and should be designed to give us all answers to these very basic, yet profound, questions.

As part of our collective journey toward reconciliation and our commitment to work actively to educate ourselves and others about the true history of colonisation in Canada, including the painful reality of residential schools, we are closing campus on Sept. 30th so that we may all – students, faculty, and staff –take the time and space to work deliberately toward reconciliation.

There has been much talk about reconciliation and questions about how and where to begin and what to do. While some of these questions have been directed to our Indigenous knowledge keepers in a one-way inquiry, it is time to leave our fear and “settler/white guilt” behind and lean into the work we need to do ourselves, rather than asking our Indigenous relatives to do the work for us. As leaders of StMU, we are humbly committing ourselves on September 30th to the latter and ask you to walk with us as we commit, through education, to healing from the deep wound of colonisation.

Our Commitment and Invitation

Mourning – We will bear witness to all the children who died from removal of their kin and community; separation from language, land, and culture; neglect, inadequate food, and medicine; neglect, mistreatment, and deprivation. Honouring the deep grief and trauma that our Indigenous brothers and sisters are living through as a result of the recent recovery of more than 1,600 children’s remains in Canada, including 215 at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. As Ojibwe/Odawa scholar Dr. Pamela Toulouse has pointed out, 100% of First Nations people suffer from intergenerational trauma. It is our responsibility to humbly acknowledge and respect that pain and grievance.

Reflection – Following Former Chief Justice Murray Sinclair’s teaching, we will reflect on the four critical questions for educators and learners:

  • where do I come from?
  • where am I going?
  • why am I here? And, most importantly,
  • who am I?

Accountability – We will reflect on how we will respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls for Action and specifically what we will commit to do over the next month as an act of reconciliation

We commit ourselves to these 3 acts toward reconciliation on September 30th and invite you to join others at StMU in this vital and sacred journey of reconciliation.

Gary Strother
Chair, Board of Governors

Gerry Turcotte

Tara Hyland-Russell
Vice-President Academic & Provost

John Deausy
Vice-President Finance & CFO

Thérèse Takacs
Vice-President Advancement & Campus Services

Pablo Ortiz
Director Student Affairs

Michelle Scott
Director Indigenous Initiatives

Karim Dharamsi
Dean, Arts & Sciences

Sarah Twomey
Dean, Education

Resources for our journey

Find out more here, including a weeklong educational online event for Truth and Reconciliation Week Sept 27-Oct 1 at the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation:


On Residential Schools
CBC The National: Stolen Children:

Centering a local context

Káhsinnóoniksi: Learning from Place

Elder in the Making:
Access the film (which the Indigenous Initiatives office has rights to show in class) and is divided into 6 parts on YOUTUBE

  • Part 1:
  • Part 2:
  • Part 3:
  • Part 4:
  • Part 5:
  • Part 6:

Within a broader Canadian context
CBC 8th Fire
(StMU Indigenous Office also has the 4 set of DVDs in this series)

CBC Indigenous Podcasts:

TRC. (2015). Introduction. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Executive Summary, (pp. 1-25).

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

City of Calgary. (2017). Indigenous policy framework for the City of Calgary.

Rogers, S. (2014). Reflections on being an honorary witness for the TRC.

Black, D. (2016). How Residential School has affected me: a reflection by Sui-Taa-Kii.

Chung, S. (2016). The morning after Canada’s truth and reconciliation commission report: Decolonization through hybridity, ambivalence and alliance. Intercultural Education, 27(5), 399-408.

St. Mary’s University is located on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, the Métis Nation (Region 3), and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.

Get Ready – 11 Days & Counting!

You’ve got the scoop now on protocols on campus, what steps we’re taking to keep you safe, and some important plans for this fall. Now it’s time to get excited: organise your back-to-school wardrobe, sharpen those pencils, and find the perfect pen. It may feel a bit strange at first, but it’s exhilarating being back on campus with friend and colleagues. It’s going to be a wonderful year!

Until next Friday,
Tara Hyland-Russell