Top Ten

May 4, 2020

McMaster launches online program to train staff, faculty in supporting student mental health

McMaster University has launched a program designed to help faculty and staff feel better prepared to address student mental health issues. The program – Professor Hippo-on-Campus Student Mental Health Education Program for Educators and Navigators – includes eight three-hour modules covering topics like stress, resilience and coping, as well as communicating with stressed and distressed learners. “This program will help us meet the needs of students who are experiencing stress and distress in a more informed and coordinated way,” said McMaster President David Farrar. “It also encourages us to consider ways that we can continue to create more inclusive and mental health positive learning environments at McMaster.” McMaster (ON)

Colleges, universities raise financial supports for students

Institutions have continued to raise financial supports for students. Queen’s University has provided at least $2.18M in bursaries to students in need. George Brown College’s COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund topped $1M and will benefit 3,665 students who are experiencing financial difficulties. Confederation College has raised $427K to date for the COVID-19 Student emergency fund. Humber College’s student government IGNITE contributed an additional $250K to Humber’s SOS Fund, building on the $100K they provided earlier this month. Camosun College Foundation injected an additional $200K into the emergency bursary fund for students in need. “As the world continues to grapple with the effects of COVID-19, we recognize that many students have short-term, unexpected financial needs,” stated Queen’s Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney, “and through this effort we hope to help ease some of their financial pressures.” Queen’s | Camosun | George Brown | Humber | Confederation (ON, BC)

MacEwan delivers services addressing students’ basic, learning, mental health needs

MacEwan University is offering a variety of remote supports to students to help students adjust to the many changes that have occurred over the past month. In terms of basic needs, MacEwan invited students experiencing financial hardships to apply to their COVID-19 Student Relief Bursary or request a food hamper from Students’ Association of MacEwan University’s Pantry program. For mental health and wellness, MacEwan’s Wellness and Psychological services announced that they would offer appointments online and by phone. MacEwan Librarians also made themselves available for students who are encountering difficulties with online learning. MacEwan (AB)

UAlberta Prof designs text message service to support mental wellbeing during pandemic

A version of a daily text message service developed by University of Alberta researchers that aims to help persons with mental health challenges during the pandemic has been launched province-wide by Alberta Health Services. Subscribers of Text4Hope will be able to receive daily messages such as: “Try to do something manageable today that gives you a sense of accomplishment (e.g., shower, exercise, do some laundry).” Many messages also include links to online mental health resources. “The daily inspirational messages are meant to play a role similar to cognitive behavioural therapy, where a therapist helps a patient evaluate and challenge their negative thoughts,” explains Vincent Agyapong, UAlberta professor and project lead. Folio (AB)

Queen’s offers student support remotely, in-person

Queen’s University has maintained access to the school’s Student Wellness Services for students seeking health and wellness supports. “Keeping SWS functioning was extremely important to us,” says Queen’s Executive Director of SWS Cynthia Gibney. “We want to reassure students that they can rely on the clinic, and other services, during these uncertain times.” Although most students are meeting with physicians, counsellors, and accessibility advisors via phone or secured video conference, the school will occasionally ask students to come to the clinic in person. “We will continue to be flexible and creative in meeting the needs of our population as circumstances require,” says Queen’s Director of Counselling Services Rina Gupta. Queen’s (ON)

Fine arts students, alumni hold performances over livestream

In the face of the pandemic, fine arts students and alumni have gotten creative with their activities across the country. At Sheridan College, faculty and students produced a new musical called In Real Life, which is set in a world where isolated students communicate and interact entirely via technology. The students recently produced a walk-through of the entire musical on Zoom for family and friends. At Algonquin College, graduates recently came together to organize the first ever virtual international music conference, which will be held on Facebook Live. The University of Victoria will be holding a livestream performance of alumnus Charles Ross’s “May the Fourth be with you,” which condenses 12 hours of Star Wars cinema into a 75-minute reenactment to raise money for the UVic COVID-19 Emergency Bursary. UVic | Sheridan | Algonquin (BC, ON)

MSVU delivers academic resources, supports for current, incoming students

During this time of great uncertainty, many students—both current and incoming—need increased academic support to ensure a positive educational experience and manage their concerns about the upcoming year. To meet this need, Mount St Vincent University’s Centre for Academic Advising and Student Success decided to continue offering one-on-one distance support for all current and incoming MSVU students throughout the summer. Services provided by the centre include access to a learning strategist and a student’s survival guide for their first year. “Although we may not be able to meet in person right now, we are committed to supporting students in any way that we can,” said MSVU CAASS Manager Erin Tomlinson. MSVU (NS)

RDC’s change in status delayed until system-review conducted in fall

Red Deer College has announced that it is continuing on its path to become a university, despite a delay and partial suspension of some programs. Chair of RDC’s board of governors Guy Pelletier stated that RDC’s change in status will be delayed until after a “systems-wide review” of postsecondary institutions in Alberta is completed this fall. However, Pelletier believes that the college’s university transition will not be at an additional cost to the government, but will improve learning opportunities in central Alberta. The Government of Alberta stated that the delay in the review was announced prior to the measures instituted to curb the spread of COVID-19. Red Deer Advocate (AB)

Keyano announces delays in launch of spring semester, fall registration due to flooding

Keyano College has announced that it is still functioning as it responds to a flooding situation in the region. Keyano’s main college campuses were evacuated on April 28th following orders from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Although no physical assessment of the downtown College property is possible at this time, drone footage of the area shows flood waters have likely impacted several buildings. Due to these events, the college is delaying the launch of its spring semester for a week and will also delay the opening of registration for its fall semester for a short time. Keyano | My McMurray (1) | My McMurray (2) (AB)

Higher ed needs to prepare, support grad students for an academic exodus: Opinion

“The COVID-19 crisis stands to drive more Ph.D.s from academia than any event in living memory,” writes Christopher L Caterine. Professional societies and financially secure institutions must do their part to provide graduate students with resources to identify their strengths, build new knowledge sets, and prepare them for an unfamiliar economic situation. Until these resources can be put into place, Caterine recommends that graduate students and their supervisors seek assistance through books and articles, online communities, and career coaches. The author notes that while these resources alone will not be sufficient, “many former academics have found satisfying work in new careers and most of us remain eager to help others who are facing that combined crisis of identity and employment.” Inside Higher Ed (International)