Message from the Vice-President Academic

Friday Message – One Skein of Geese

One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring. — Aldo Leopold

What a potent, lyrical, and hopeful image. Spring will come. We will hear the honking of Canadian Geese as they fly overhead in skeins, cleaving the sky, and heralding a new season.

This evocative quotation was offered as the reflection to open our Faculty of Arts & Sciences Council this week by Dr. Scott Lovell, Chair of the Mathematical and Social Sciences Area.

Dr. Lovell spends a lot of time looking upward into the sky.

Every spring and summer doing field work, Dr. Lovell observes and records songbirds, sampling their DNA, and noting their migratory patterns. Dr. Lovell tracks the patterns of their movements, seeking understanding about their changing habits and possible relationships to climate change.

migratory birds

In addition to capturing the flight of wild geese or swans, “skein” also describes “a tangle, a confusion” (The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary), as in a tangle of hair. It seems to me that “skein” can be used to capture the tangled situation of COVID – the uncertainty, the thicket of decisions about how and when to isolate and wear masks, who will be able to get vaccinated and when. The tangle of emotions, too, as we struggle with isolation, missing friends and family we are unable to visit, regretting the milestone events we aren’t able to celebrate as we wish – high school graduation, convocation from university, weddings, birthdays, Reading Week parties.

“Skein” also means an orderly arrangement meant to prevent tangles, as in a skein of yarn, loosely coiled and knotted. Just as geese form themselves into a formation – a skein – to capture the most efficient use of wind draft while preventing collisions in flight, can we use the notion of skein to create orderly arrangements to prevent tangles and to support each other?

For you as students, I offer a few thoughts. You will have more – feel free to email them and I can add them to the list:

  • structure your week through a schedule with regular waking and sleeping times, attending class, listening to recorded lectures, and studying;
  • engage in class discussions – through video, chat, or message board. Take turns leading and following in other’s draft;
  • exercise and get out into the fresh air every day – 10 minutes is doable and makes a huge difference;
  • foster meaningful connections with others – our relationships of care create strong patterns of hope and meaning (see later in this message for an update on StMU students caring for seniors through Valentine’s Day messages;
  • if you relaxed your COVID protocols during Reading Week, keep your mask on and away from others for the next 14 days – now is not the time to gather in groups; and
  • keep looking upward – keep your eyes on your future goals. COVID has presented a huge obstacle, for sure. And you are learning critical life skills of resiliency, problem-solving, patience and fortitude. With your degree in hand you will be able to pursue your life and career goals.

The intensity of isolation due to COVID will gradually subside. And we will be able to gather more freely. Spring will come. Keep looking up for the geese!

SLC and Psychology Association Partner to bring Valentines to Older Adults at UAL
The StMU Psychology Association and SLC partnered for the United Active Living (UAL) Valentine’s Day initiative. Our closest neighbours across the south parking lot, the residents at Untied Active Living have suffered through many isolations during COVID, often separated from loved ones.

StMU student Stephanie Bauer says: “I am proud to report to you that we had an overwhelming amount of support. In speaking with Dr. Alisa McArthur (my honours program Supervisor) and Dr. Ron Porter (the Psych. Association Faculty Liaison), we were able to increase the amount of cards we received by three-fold. With the generous efforts of a few of the PSYC 500 students and two of the SLC Vice-Presidents (Joshua Sheppard and Julianna Driscoll), we were able to get the number of cards we collected well over 200. A variety of people participated in this initiative, ranging anywhere from 2-years-old to 50-years-old (i.e., My Mother!!)! So many people outside of the Psychology Association participated in this initiative it was incredibly heartwarming. I know that the residents of UAL greatly appreciated these efforts as I was personally in contact with a variety of their program coordinators as well as two of their wonderful Creative Facilitators (Amy Bouchard and Chantel Traub) who both said how excited the residents were and that they were touched to be thought of during a time like this as they thought the cards “were just the sweetest!”. The best feedback was that this initiative brought a smile to many of the residents’ faces, especially during these extraordinary times.

And finally, to top it all off, we were included in United Active Living’s Blog Post (see the link here: )!”

Valentines Day Special image 1
Valentines Day Special image 2

Thank you to all the StMU students who created this skein of caring and joy!! And to the faculty and community participants who joined our community of caring.

Valentines Day Special StMU Student 1
Valentines Day Special StMU Student 2

Fall/Winter 2021-22 Timetables
Look for the new timetables on March 1st. They will be available for viewing only while you plan the next year of your program and consult with advisors. Registration opens March 31st. Stay tuned for email updates from the Registrar’s Office.

Would you like to be a part of a research study?
This is an invitation to participate in research regarding adolescent social anxiety disorder.

My name is Shelley Skelton and I am a PhD candidate at Walden University. Additionally, I am a registered psychologist and I teach in the Psychology Department at St Mary’s University. This study is not associated with my teaching role. I am conducting a research study for my doctoral dissertation and I am looking for young adults (ages 18-25) who have been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder either during childhood or adolescence. For ethical reasons, I am unable to interview any students whom I have taught or who are majoring in Psychology, because I may teach you in the future. The purpose of this study is to explore the successes and challenges of adolescents while experiencing social anxiety disorder so that helping professionals can provide more effective support for youth who continue to experience social anxiety disorder.

Participation would include:

  • meeting with me virtually through Zoom, for a 60-90 minute interview
  • receiving a $10 gift card for any store with a $10 option listed with

Please let me know if you would like to participate. You can contact me by phone [403-701-8837] or e-mail [] or [] if you have any questions. IRB Ethics Approval # 11-12-20-0670293


Until next Friday, be well.

Tara Hyland-Russell
Vice-President Academic