Are you excited? I am. I can’t wait to be back on campus! I have really missed the energy of the place: randomly bumping into people I’ve known for years while I grab a coffee in York Lanes or while I walk across campus to a meeting; the students – oh, the students, and the energy they bring to campus. But I’m trepidatious, too, like you might be. Perhaps none of us have ever gone through something like this extended period away from campus and then a return. We’re all going to do our best, but even a “normal” September can be stressful; this one is different.
I’m reminded this morning that many of our students and new faculty and staff colleagues have never been to our campus before. I’m reminded that it is so important that we are collectively kind and welcoming to everyone. “Kindness is the new normal,” and you can read more about that here. What small act of kindness can you extend to someone on campus, someone in your lecture hall, someone on your screen?
Clearly, a safe and successful return to campus is paramount. But we’re also thinking about the future and working to make sure that we can provide our students with the world-class experience for which we are recognized. The Office of the AVP Teaching and Learning, in partnership with colleagues across the University and in every Faculty, will be focused on a number of initiatives this year. In no particular order, one initiative is focused on micro-credentials and digital badges. No doubt you’ve heard something about micro-credentials. People are talking about these across the province and all around the world. I will be talking more about micro-credentials this year as we work hard to figure out how these small sets of courses and experiences can augment our degree programs and, critically, how micro-credentials can be used as a mechanism to increase accessibility to higher education for those who might not otherwise engage.
We continue to see experiential education grow and grow in every corner of the University, at Keele and at Glendon, thanks to the work of our colleagues in the YU Experience Hub, the Teaching Commons, and each and every Faculty. I’m very excited, too, to be working with the teams who are creating the new programs for Markham Campus. Experiential education is a central feature of every new program. And I’m very excited to have the opportunity to work with Lucy Fromowitz and the Division of Students as we seek to create a seamless experience for students in Markham. Integration between curricular and programmatic experiential education, essential skills development and career preparedness can be a feature of the degree programs, laddered into the students’ experience progressively across their four years of study.
Of course, the Academic Innovation Fund will be announced soon and, as was the case last year, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will feature prominently. This year, alignment with the SDGs in some way will be a requirement for every Academic Innovation Fund proposal. In this way, York University can help to make meaningful change affecting some of the world’s most challenging issues. Stay tuned, as there will be more to follow on this.
There is so much more we could talk about right now, but the last item I want to mention and leave you with is that we are in the process of searching for and hiring a new educational developer to work in the Teaching Commons to support our instructors across the University with Indigenization and decolonization of curriculum. This is a critical new hire in supporting all of our colleagues in creating more inclusive education and a more equitable community.
This is an exciting year. Without a doubt there are going to be challenges. There are going to be massive successes, too. Welcome back to campus. I can’t wait to see you!