What a glorious week this has been! Not just the weather, though that has been splendidly warm, with just a touch of fresh cool in the mornings. But the joy was in seeing each other on campus again, feeling the energy return, and anticipating the start of classes next week.
We hosted two NSOs this week – one for the first year Education students yesterday and first year Arts & Sciences students today. The mood was uplifting, the questions were thoughtful, and there was fun!
People respected the mask protocols and were feeling safe with the measures we have in place. I did receive a few emails after Jason Kenney’s announcement of some shifting provincial COVID protocols (check out the FAQs below). And I am sure I am not the only one who feels we are doing a bit of surfing – riding the waves of COVID the best we can – and doing our best to keep our composure and good humour.
Summer and music go other – almost like milk and cookies or PB & J. Maybe it’s because music helps us achieve self-awareness, social relatedness, and mood regulation https://www.resiliencecheckin.com/resources/what-is-the-connection-between-music-and-resilience/
In the spirit of the long weekend and enjoying every moment of this golden weather, I am offering some musical links in today’s message, interspersed with practical information. Feel free to follow the links or find your own tunes! After all, as someone said, “The tunes of summer remind you of your greatest moments chasing waves and inspire you to dream about what is yet to come.” https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/the-best-surf-songs-of-all-time
A great all round mix with a little of something for everyone: Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix – Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 (Galaxy Soundtrack)
Vaccinated? Did you Enter the Draw for Free Tuition?
To enter the draw, email a copy of your proof of 2 vaccinations to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on Sept. 14, 2021. The information will be kept confidential. The draw will be held on Sept. 15, 2021.
Are you anxious about returning to in-person classes? Wonder what the term will be like? Check out our Counselling Services.
St. Mary’s counsellors would like to welcome new and returning students for a successful school year. Counselling is available free-of-charge to all students and offers a supportive, inclusive environment. Exploring mental health concerns early in the semester can contribute to a successful semester. To make an appointment with an StMU Counsellor, text 403-333-4292
Other mental health resources available to students is Togetherall, a safe, online community where people support each other anonymously to improve mental health and wellbeing. Millions of people across Canada have free access through organizations, colleges and universities. Togetherall is free to all residents aged 16+ in Alberta: https://togetherall.com.
Learning Centre is Open
The Learning Centre is ready to welcome students back to campus with study spaces with computer access and programs to help you to build effective academic skills. Peer mentors will be available to meet with students beginning the week of September 13; they are able to support you to explore course content and study skills from a student perspective. Peer mentors are not a substitute for class attendance or instructor office hours. One to one appointments with a peer mentor can be booked by accessing WCOnline: log in to mystmu, select the CLASSES tab, then choose LCBookings to open the Peer mentor calendar. Appointments can be booked either in person in Room C114 or online through the WCOnline platform or Teams.
Success seminars are coordinated through the WCOnline platform as a series of one-hour workshop styled presentations by StMU Faculty and staff on topics that are essential to postsecondary success. The series includes sessions hosted by our Librarians on essential Library and research skills, Academic Writing Skills, Academic Strategies, and Well-being. Register for sessions by booking on the WCOnline platform: MyStMU>CLASSES>LCBookings to open the Success Seminar
Meet Heather McFadyen – Academic Access Coordinator
Heather McFadyen is our new Academic Access Coordinator and supports students with disabilities by putting in place academic accommodations that address disability-related barriers to education. Disabilities may be permanent or temporary in nature, and impact how a student is able to access their learning environment. Students requesting accommodations must provide documentation from a registered health provider that clearly explains the impacts of their disability and provides recommendations on how to address those impacts. Accommodations are determined by the Access Coordinator after discussing your learning history and needs, considering the professional recommendations in your documentation, and consulting with faculty to fully understand the classroom environment and course requirements. Contact Heather McFadyen at Heather.McFadyen@stmu.ca if you wish to learn more about academic accommodations.
Students with permanent disabilities in post-secondary who qualify for federal student aid through the Canada Student Loan program may be eligible for a Disability Grant. Through the grant program, there is also funding available for equipment and services that you might require. Information on this program is available on the Alberta Student Aid Students with Permanent Disabilities’ webpage.
COVID Updates – Keeping StMU Safe
- Masks are mandated in all indoor spaces at StMU as of Aug 23
- Everyone is encouraged to get vaccinated unless there are medical reasons not to do so
- Frequent handwashing, sanitizing, deep cleaning
New public health actions
Temporary measures to reduce transmission and protect our health care system come into effect September 4 at 8 a.m. These public health actions are required due to rising cases and hospitalizations, largely in unvaccinated Albertans.
- Masks are mandatory in all indoor public spaces and workplaces.
- Restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, nightclubs and other licensed establishments must stop serving alcohol by 10 p.m.
- Employers are recommended to continue work-from-home measures where possible, and to pause or revert plans to have staff return to work.
- Unvaccinated Albertans are strongly recommended to limit indoor social gatherings to close contacts of only 2 cohort families, up to a maximum of 10 people.
Getting vaccinated is our best defence to beat COVID-19. A one-time incentive of $100 is now available for all Albertans 18+ who receive a first or second dose between September 3 and October 14. Albertans who already have their first and second doses can still enter for a chance to win $1 million and outdoor adventure prizes.
Additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are now available to:
- immunocompromised Albertans ages 12 and older
- residents of seniors’ supportive living facilities
- travellers to jurisdictions that don’t recognize Covishield/AstraZeneca or mixed series doses
Policies and Processes at StMU
We care about the health of our whole community! That means we will enforce our COVID policies and protocols for mandatory face coverings, non-academic misconduct, and code of conduct during COVID:
Another musical interlude – this time of a more classical nature:
Laudate Dominum (Mozart) | boy soprano Aksel Rykkvin, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9rvyvssvuI
In your initial email sent stating that a mask mandate is in place, you also addressed students who may have anxieties regarding wearing masks on campus and potential ‘mask exemptions’ for them on a case by case basis. While the discretion of all students is highly valued by us, especially being attendees of StMU for several years now, we are curious as to what is being done for the students who may have anxieties regarding the return to campus?
Masking is mandatory in all indoor spaces on campus since August 23rd, with the exception of when people are eating or drinking while seated in the Bistro and Atrium spaces. Eating and drinking has been discontinued in the Library until further notice. These measures will allow anyone with medical challenges or anxiety about being around unmasked people to avoid the eating areas while increasing their safety and decreasing anxiety.
People with extenuating medical circumstances may apply for a medical mask exemption through academic accommodations in the Learning Centre. The process is rigourous and requires appropriate documentation from approved medical providers.
Anyone with an approved medical exemption will carry a letter which can be shown to faculty or staff upon request. We expect that the rest of the community will be respectful of anyone with such a medical exemption.
I am in Education. Will there be options in place to attend class in an online basis should we feel highly anxious regarding our return?
There is understandably some anxiety about returning to in-person classes after such an interruption. We also understand the on-going anxiety caused by the pandemic and the many changes it has wrought. There are a number of resources that students can access to address their anxiety and build resiliency – resources that will benefit not only you as pre-service teachers, but also the students you will meet in your practica. Please check out the links to resources that we are regularly sending out that include Togetherall, StMU Counselling Services, and other on-line and in-person resources.
During the acute phase of the global pandemic, the university moved all of our courses remotely, delivered through the D2L learning management system. For fall 2021, the majority of our courses are being delivered in person, aligned with our focus on teaching excellence, dialogic inquiry, and group work. It is not possible for our faculty to deliver courses simultaneously in two formats: both remotely and in-person.
The mask mandate will ensure minimal exposure to the COVID virus, which is particularly effective for people who are doubly vaccinated. Many people have had zero colds over the past two years due to increased attention to hand sanitising and mask-wearing. We anticipate this will continue and will do all we can to ensure compliance.
If students need to self-isolate due to illness and COVID protocols, we ask for them to communicate clearly with their faculty, who will do what they can. At last week’s faculty orientation, we discussed how faculty can best support students and they all remain committed to your success. We suggest you proactively set up study groups in your classes. Not only is this a really effective way to consolidate your knowledge and be successful on texts and exams, but you can support each other with notes from class if any time during the term you get sick and miss a class.
Since Education students will be in schools during your practica, the protocols established at StMU align with those at the K-12 schools and may help students get more comfortable and dispel some anxiety before you are faced with teaching younger students.
Student Services, Facilities, Health Safety, and University Executive know how challenging this is for students – each of you with unique situations and concerns. We have spent hours evaluating how best to support your academic journeys and, in your cases, your career goal of becoming teachers. We are wholly focused on your safety while ensuring you meet the necessary requirements to graduate and gain your teacher certification.
Your best protection is to ensure you have both vaccines, sanitize hands regularly, and follow all the masking protocols – not just at StMU but everywhere. The newly announced mask mandate for all indoor public spaces will help with that. If you are struggling with anxiety, reach out. We all hope the situation will not deteriorate. We will continue to follow provincial guidelines.
Since it seems will COVID be with us into the future, our best course of action is to do all we can to minimise the risk of spreading any germs while returning to activities with care and prudence.
I hope this brings you some solace and confidence that we are considering every aspect of your education and health at StMU and will continue to do so.
Until next week,