Monday, March 29, 2021 | Category: Eduvation Insider
Good morning, and… happy Monday?
I’m afraid that after 3 more days, there’s disappointing news on the pandemic front, another 54 cases on Ontario campuses, and more denial from politicians. (Grr) In many ways, the battle between vaccines and ever-evolving variants feels like the futility of Cuchulain battling the “invulnerable tide” with his sword.
But today I also want to share my summaries of 5 more CdnPSE strategic plans released since the pandemic began. These are institutions that recognize the volatile, unpredictable turbulence of these stormy seas, but nonetheless believe in the importance of charting a course forward. The pandemic storm will pass, eventually, and no institution can afford to emerge from it rudderless. (So hopefully that is a bit more optimistic content, as antidote to the rest of the news…)
Since Friday, there’s been enough disappointing COVID19 news to blunt our optimism (except for lucky Newfoundland)…
Rising Tide of Variants
Daily COVID19 case counts across Canada have risen >30% in the past 2 weeks, thanks to rapidly spreading VOCs. Long-range PHAC modelling warns that Canada will soon see cases spike to all-time-high levels. In Ontario, epidemiologists now calculate that the B.1.1.7 variant has increased the risk of death +60%, and the Ontario Hospital Association warns that ICUs are about to surpass their previous record for COVID19 patients. A UBC mathematical biologist warns that the VOCs will drive BC’s ICU patient numbers to record highs by early April. In Vancouver, St Paul’s Hospital reports 215 cases of the P.1 (Brazil) variant, which is “associated with immune evasion” and is thought to be the most dangerous of all. Infectious disease experts are urging us to practice “much, much more” caution than last summer, even outdoors, against a much more aggressive virus. (Variants have already been proven to be transmitted at family gatherings outdoors and on restaurant patios.) And CBSA has intercepted 30 travellers trying to enter Canada with fake COVID19 test results.
“The point is the new variants are roughly 40% more transmissible. If we let down our guard, we will be punished more strongly than before and we absolutely can’t afford that right now. We are on the completely wrong trajectory and we now really need to do the right thing.” – Peter Jüni, prof of Medicine & Epidemiology, uToronto
Politicians Aren’t Helping
I don’t just mean the EU, which has told AstraZeneca they cannot export any more vaccines until they make good on their European contracts – plenty of our own politicians are making things worse, too. Alberta premier Jason Kenney dismisses PHAC’s projections as “spectacularly inaccurate” and wants to open up the economy. (Insert analogy to Alberta’s resistance to carbon pricing here, if you are so inclined.) Despite exponential growth and 4 consecutive days with >2,000 new cases, Ontario plans to reopen hair salons and outdoor fitness classes, even in regions under the strictest lockdown, as of Apr 12. Quebec is back to reporting >1,000 new cases a day, and physicians are urging the Legault government to reconsider the widespread lifting of PHO restrictions – gyms, theatres, cinemas, schools and churches are being allowed to reopen, even in red zones! (The premier has indicated they will re-evaluate the situation tomorrow.) Thankfully there’s still nothing in Canada to compare to the appalling negligence and willful blindness of the Bolsonaro government in Brazil, or Nicolas Maduro in Venzuela.
An Endless Battle vs the Tide
Even though the world has administered ~490M doses of COVID19 vaccine now, the VOCs pose a real challenge. Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are all working on new formulations for vaccine boosters to be more effective against the B.1.351 and P.1 (South African and Brazil) variants. A new study out of Berlin has found a consistent “asymmetrical tree” in which circulating viral variants are steadily replaced by others with a “fitness advantage.” Such “antigenic drift” allows viruses to evolve and evade human immunity or vaccines, much like the common cold coronaviruses do. The researchers expect that COVID19 vaccines will need to be updated regularly. CTV
Since Friday, there have been 54 more cases of COVID19 reported by CdnPSEs – again, entirely in Ontario! (See my master spreadsheet for a running tally of ~1900 cases in CdnPSE since Sept 2020.)
Brock U’s outbreak in student residence has risen to 22 cases (12 more than Friday). Those 22 students are in isolation in dedicated quarantine residence units, while “additional students are also in self-isolation” pending contact tracing. Brock News
Cambrian College reported a case at the Barrydowne campus on Friday. Cambrian
Niagara College reported Saturday a positive case at the Welland campus. NC
St Clair College reported Friday that 12 administrative staff are now self-isolating and WFH after 1 employee at the main campus tested positive. CBC
uWaterloo reported Friday an on-campus case. UW
Waterloo outbreaks linked to social gatherings at private residences Mar 4-7 have now reached 56 confirmed and 2 probable cases, plus 52 high-risk close contacts. (The original gatherings included unspecified numbers of students from Laurier and uWaterloo. My previous count was 29 cases at the 2 institutions linked to the parties, so I suppose that means we have at least 27 new ones, doubling and potentially quadrupling the number.) CBC
Western U has 2 more outbreaks in residence, reported Friday, with 11 more students testing positive in Saugeen-Maitland Hall and Ontario Hall. (An outbreak in Essex Hall is still active too, with at least 7 cases.) The students and some close contacts have been relocated to a quarantine location outside of residence, and floor lounges and study rooms have been closed. London Free Press | Western News
uWindsor placed students living in Alumni Hall under “modified quarantine” yesterday after wastewater sampling tested positive for COVID19. Precautions include avoiding close contact with others and following PHO measures (which sounds like normal life this year). Windsor Star
(If this were a competition, the latest outbreaks push Western into 2nd place with 162 cases since Sept – not counting 166 related to UH – just behind Queen’s with 173, and ahead of uToronto with 150. Other than Ontario Police College with 112 and uLaval with 106, I haven’t seen any other CdnPSEs report more than 100 cases in this academic year.)
My day job is environmental scanning to contribute context and perspective to higher ed strategic planning – and that context includes the plans of other institutions. Since my last batch of post-covid strat plans almost 4 months ago, 5 others have crossed my desk. Pretty common themes include an emphasis on accessibility, equity diversity and inclusion (EDI), Indigenous truth and reconciliation (TRC), staff and student well-being, community engagement and experiential learning. What follows is my somewhat subjective summary of what seem like notable features in each…
Exceeding Expectations (Mar 2021)
Northern College (ON) unveiled its mission, vision and 2020-25 strategic plan in January, seeking to provide “empowerment through learning to build a better world,” and emphasizing “building community across the North.” The plan focuses on 3 strategic directions: “Indigenous Education and Empowerment, Innovative Access, and Invigorating Northern Experiences.” It emphasizes applied experiences, transferable skills, lifelong learning and overall wellbeing, building on “an authentic and deep culture of caring and excellence,” to become “the college of choice for Indigenous learners.” Northern will sunset the phrase “signature programs,” instead recognizing “areas of strength.” Northern will leverage the proximity of its 4 waterfront campuses to the natural elements to deliver “uniquely northern experiences.” Northern
Stronger Together (Mar 2021)
The Parkland College – Cumberland College Coalition (SK) is a collaboration unique in CdnPSE, formed in 2019, that sees 2 distinct colleges adopt a shared board of governors and CEO, and shared vision, mission, values and strategies. (Aside from adult basic ed, essential workplace skills, ESL and contract training, regional colleges in SK broker college-level programming from other PSEs.) In the 2020-25 coalition strategic plan, Stronger Together, they emphasize regional labour market needs, sustainability, and “a blended learning and working environment.” Alongside 6 pretty common values (relevant, responsive, accountable, innovative, sustainable, and inclusive) the colleges also commit to be “catalytic,” leading change and driving rapid social, economic and environmental advances. They emphasize efforts to address rural depopulation and internet connectivity, and to support provincial economic and workforce development goals. The colleges aim to develop “E-shaped” learners and employees, supplementing technical skills with entrepreneurial, electronic literacy, and employability skills. The plan includes efforts to grow alternative revenue and applied research, enhance student recruitment and retention, market the coalition’s brand, and position the colleges as “destination colleges.” Parkland
“Where some would see budget constraints, falling student numbers, and health-induced social restrictions as a problem, we see them as the catalyst for a leap into a sleek, modern, streamlined approach to education that will actually result in growth for colleges and success for students.” – Parkland–Cumberland Coalition Strategic Plan
Strength through Community (Jan 2021)
Mount St Vincent U (NS) launched its 2021-28 strategic plan, Strength Through Community, in Jan 2021 as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2023. The 7-year plan has 7 key themes, including some shared by most plans this year: EDI, TRC, community engagement, well-being, and operational sustainability (through data-driven decision-making, SEM planning, attracting investment, and enhancing collaboration). MSVU will also promote “an inclusive, dynamic, current and personalized teaching and learning environment focusing on nurturing informed, critical, socially responsible and socially just global citizens.” And it will enhance and expand research, scholarship and professional activity among faculty, staff and students, “especially as it relates to the advancement of women, girls and other marginalized and underrepresented groups,” and specifically through community-based research and undergraduate research opportunities. MSVU aims to be “the study and work destination of choice for marginalized and underrepresented groups and their allies,” including African Nova Scotian, Indigenous, disability and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, and building on its historical foundation advancing higher ed for women and girls. (MSVU’s plan is one of the few dedicating a full page to acknowledging its own historical connections to the Indian Residential School system, and explicitly mentioning missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.) MSVU
Together, Leading the Way (May 2020)
Durham College (ON) launched its 2020-23 strategic plan along with a refreshed vision and brand, Together, We’re Leading the Way, near the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic in May 2020. “We’re not just putting the student experience first, we’re reinventing it,” and DC’s new vision is “inspiring learners to create success for themselves and their communities through the best in innovative and transformative education.” The plan’s 4 pillars are timeless (students, people, work and community). DC will “provide exceptional learning experiences that create opportunities for students to build resilience, competence, personal capacity and life-enhancing skills,” through experiential learning, applied research, transferable and durable skills, and lifelong learning. DC will invest in employees and “empower them to be entrepreneurial, innovative and strategic,” along with the usual commitments to diversity, wellbeing and respect. DC will foster an environment of “idea generation, bold leadership and purposeful innovation” in teaching, learning and applied research; enhance the student experience through “transformational programs, services and systems”; and “reimagine and grow our facilities to be more flexible, accessible and progressive.” And DC will partner with industry, government, community and alumni, expand volunteer opportunities, strengthen relationships with Indigenous communities, and “drive the economic, social and environmental success of our community, locally and globally.” Durham
House of Transformation (Feb 2021)
U Fraser Valley (BC) launched its 2021-26 strategic plan, IYAQAWTWX (House of Transformation) in Feb 2021, building on its Vision, Mission, and Values established in 2019, and particularly its three-fold mission: “Engaging Learners, Transforming Lives, and Building Community.” UFV will engage learners by “thinking outside the usual boxes,” through indigenization and inclusion, interdisciplinarity, and active/experiential learning and research opportunities. UFV will transform lives by providing opportunities for everyone “to discover, develop, and share their gifts,” prioritizing “the health and well-being of our community members and our ecosystems,” “centering Stó:lo ways of knowing and being,” and expanding student pathways. And UFV will actively build community through its academic programs and scholarly activity, meaningful partnerships, and by preparing “ethical and engaged global citizens who redress historical injustices.” UFV is committed to achieving the TRC and UNDRIP calls to action, and will “create opportunities for the world to positively interact with the Fraser Valley” and vice-versa. UFV
You can find my summaries of these and 10 other recent CdnPSE plans on the Eduvation website. (If you think I’ve overlooked one, please let me know!)
This week, of course, we’re heading into the Easter weekend. (I’ll be taking both Friday and Monday off publishing this newsletter, btw.) We’re all struggling to figure out how to celebrate in a pandemic, and I’m probably not the only one who had Amazon drop-ship chocolate to his kids on behalf of the Easter Bunny! But in the UK, Cadbury has come up with a novel approach that higher ed could potentially emulate, for egg hunts or orientation scavenger hunts…
Worldwide Virtual Egg Hunt
This 1-min video teases the concept: take your Easter egg hunt out of your backyard and hide giant purple eggs, virtually, anywhere Google Street View covers. Then send a clue to your intended recipient. (And of course, you have the option to pay to send them real chocolate too.) Check out the actual WorldwideHide app if you want to send someone on a wild goose chase! YouTube
As always, thanks for reading. I hope your week is off to a smooth start!
Please drop me a line if you spot something interesting, thought-provoking or cool happening on your campus, or elsewhere in the world.
Stay safe and be well,
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