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Message from the President

Ryerson University's President Mohamed Lachemi

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenge to modern society that spans communities and borders across the globe. It has tested us all, from our resilience and patience to our creativity and ability to adapt. But as is often the case in the face of immense adversity, it has also served as the occasion for defining acts of fortitude and ingenuity. 

Over the last few months, I’ve been witness to inspiring demonstrations of leadership and collaboration on the part of the Ryerson community in stepping up to battle COVID-19 in Toronto and beyond.

From new research projects designed to mitigate the effects of the virus to donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) to local hospitals to the efforts undertaken by faculty and staff to transition our courses online, the response across the university has made me incredibly proud. 

The resourcefulness that’s been displayed speaks to one of Ryerson’s defining characteristics: our nimbleness. From the start, our institution has been devoted to exploring new ways of thinking, learning and creating. Now, as the stakes are raised, we continue to draw on our tradition of responsiveness as we work together to meet the COVID-19 challenge. 

Surveying our response thus far, three key themes have emerged: innovation, collaboration, and adaptation. There remains uncertainty around the pandemic and its course, but these pillars will continue to inform our diligent efforts to support and protect our community and all those affected by COVID-19. 

Innovation

Innovation is in our DNA at Ryerson. For over 70 years, we have embraced the new and the need for constant evolution and ongoing improvement. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed us all to broaden our perspectives and to use what we know in new ways to best help others. 

When the first impacts of COVID-19 arrived in our city, Jonathon Anderson, director of our Creative Technology Lab, used the lab’s 3D printers and laser cutter to design and produce 10,000 reusable face-shields for Toronto healthcare workers in just seven days. His unique origami design and printing process cut production time from four hours to 35 seconds per mask, reducing cost by 60% and waste by 91%.

Ryerson health geographer and professor Lu Wang received funding from the Government of Canada to map where people go and how they behave before and after an outbreak, to help prevent the spread of disease. The funding was awarded in record time because of the potential for its real-world, real-time impact. 

These types of technological innovations and platforms have shown us the power of inspiration and determination and will stay with us long after the pandemic has ceased.

Collaboration

At Ryerson, we are adapting to the short-term while planning for a time when we are thriving again. 

Ryerson is working on several rapid response research projects with a range of community partners. Jason Nolan, professor at the School of Early Childhood Studies and director of the Responsive Ecologies Lab, external link, together with colleagues across faculties, is working with the Aamjiwnaang First Nation to build capacity to develop its own personal protective equipment. 

Sepali Guruge, professor at the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing and Research Chair in Urban Health, and her team are collaborating with South Riverdale Community Health Centre to develop  effective strategies to help Torontonians living in high-density buildings maintain social distancing and mitigate the spread of the virus.

Through collaboration and partnerships, we are confident that we can meet the challenges of our fast-changing environment so that our students and graduates, faculty and staff, and the communities that surround us will continue to thrive.

Adaptation

Ryerson’s rapid response to COVID-19 has been exceptional but one of the most remarkable aspects has been the flexibility of faculty, students, and staff. The widespread transition to remote work and learning, both at Ryerson University and across Canada has been so effective, it just might be the catalyst that changes the future of work and education for all of us.

According to a recent survey from research and advisory firm Gartner, external link, one in five CFOs say they plan to keep at least 20% of their workforce working remotely post-pandemic. Public policy non-profit The Brookings Institution, external link suggests teleworking is poised to become the new norm as organizations beef up their investment in the technologies and processes necessary to equip and manage a remote workforce and realize the bump in resulting productivity and cost savings. 

When the Province of Ontario pressed pause on the economy, only allowing essential services to keep their doors open, the Digital Education Strategies team at The Chang School and Ryerson’s Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching acted quickly to guide a university-wide move to virtual learning. This has included virtual drop-in and one-on-one sessions to help instructors with everything from understanding the foundations of effective remote teaching and online course design to how best to use Zoom for lectures. 

The Ryerson Career & Co-op Centre and the Ted Rogers School of Management Business Career Hub have shifted existing programs online. They’ve also added webinars, virtual bootcamps and career counselling so students have access to the resources they need to job-hunt during the pandemic.

Ryerson has also partnered with keep.meSAFE, external link to provide virtual counselling, mental health and crisis management services to students during the pandemic. 

Opportunity to make lasting change

The pandemic has created an important opportunity for a reset, if we choose to take it. Rather than instinctively returning to ‘the way things were’, universities should take this opportunity to revisit the way we educate with the goal of making learning a more accessible, collaborative experience in the future. 

Mohamed Lachemi
President and Vice-Chancellor