President's Corner ‑ November 12, 2020

- November 12, 2020

President Deep Saini. (Danny Abriel photo)
President Deep Saini. (Danny Abriel photo)

President's Corner is a new regular column from President Deep Saini.

Dear Dal Community,

Life under the pandemic has brought two paradoxical realizations to the fore: how immense the capabilities of online technologies are to bring vast numbers of us into a single virtual room; and yet, despite this global connectivity, how strong our innate hunger is to assemble in the same real room! Then there’s the simple fact that certain things just can’t be done in the virtual world even as we discover others that are actually better done online.

I had two opportunities last week to experience first-hand the ingenuity of our people in managing Dalhousie’s activities at these extreme ends. While these are but two of numerous such examples across the wide spectrum of our activities, they amply illustrate the remarkable dedication and resilience of our faculty, staff and students in dealing with the challenges of this pandemic.

Open House. It goes without saying that the kind of open houses we are familiar with would be unimaginable under the present circumstances. Undaunted, a team from across the university staged an impressive Virtual Open House on Saturday that attracted 1,813 people — or rather that many devices logged in. With multiple people surely present at many of the devices, the actual number of attendees would almost certainly be higher (3,400 had pre-registered – the highest number the event has ever attracted). The event featured 23 information sessions, 20 on-demand videos and 22 virtual fair booths. It resulted in nearly 2,000 applications for admission, up from 808 in 2019, including close to 300 that came in after the event. Those who couldn’t attend are able to access recorded and on-demand content for the next 30 days. This is all pretty impressive, but the real story of the day was the amazing geographic reach of the event. While 85% of the registrants were from Canada and the US, the remainder hailed from 66 countries from around the globe!
Health visit. Then there are things, as I wrote above, that simply can’t be done online. For example, some courses in our professional programs in the Faculties of Dentistry, Health and Medicine. I had an eye-opening learning experience when our Acting Provost Dr. Frank Harvey and I visited three such programs in the Faculty of Health on Wednesday last week. Guided by Dean Brenda Merritt and a number of faculty and staff, we witnessed live experiential learning in Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy and Nursing. Knowing the complexities of delivering this education in a pandemic is one thing, but experiencing it firsthand is quite another – by a whole order of magnitude! I came away from the visit with an immense amount of respect for all involved and pride in the outstanding work they are doing. And I know that this is just one example of the story that is playing out across our campuses.

So, my shout-out this week is to the 185 or so Dalhousie faculty, staff and students who helped organize and support the amazing Virtual Open House and to those many who are investing an inordinate amount of effort and thought in managing our educational programs that must be delivered in-person.



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