April 22, 2020
Dear Members of the McMaster community,
It is amazing how quickly we can adapt in extraordinary times. Staying at home, meeting with colleagues by video and lining up at the grocery store – a hockey stick apart – have all become part of our new routine. And as anxious as everyone is to resume life the way it used to be, we know that returning to packed commuter trains, major sporting events, and large family gatherings will take time and require a lot of careful thought and planning.
That same apprehension can be found at universities, including McMaster. Students are now completing their final exams of the winter term, and the spring and summer term classes will all take place online and in virtual classrooms. But what about the fall? On the calendar, it is still months away but we understand that students, parents, faculty and staff are all wondering what the fall term will look like.
I wish we had all of the answers. What we do know is that there will be a fall term. But whether that term is held in person, or in a virtual classroom, or a mixture of both, is not something the University can control. Physical distancing requirements, even as society begins to move out of the worst of the pandemic, will still need to be met and the health and safety of every member of the McMaster community will continue to be our top priority.
Although we need to be fully prepared for the possibility of a virtual environment for the fall term, our hope is that we will be able to welcome students back to campus for classes in September. Given the current uncertainty, we need to be ready to deliver high quality programs and classes for either scenario.
Fortunately, we have time to prepare. McMaster has innovation in its DNA and an incredible history of developing new approaches to teaching and learning that have reshaped higher education in countries around the world. Continuing that legacy is a mission accelerated by COVID-19, and departments and programs are already planning and developing new ways to create virtual classrooms that will teach and inspire students. The MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching is creating resources and training faculty and instructors so they are prepared to engage effectively with students should we not be able to be on campus in the fall.
One thing we are sure of at McMaster: we will be ready to support our students in continuing to learn and be successful in working towards their degrees, whether that is in person or at a distance.
We don’t want finances to stand in the way of our students continuing their education. We have already helped hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students with emergency financial aid and we have launched a fundraising campaign to provide even more assistance. We have been fortunate that the McCall MacBain Foundation – an organization founded by McMaster alumna Marcy McCall MacBain and her husband John McCall MacBain – has pledged up to $100,000 to match donations to the Student Relief Fund. McMaster is providing an additional match of up to $100,000, so a gift will generate three times its original value to support McMaster students in need.
Thank you to everyone who is supporting this vital campaign.
In our fast-changing world it is more important than ever that we communicate and share as much information as we can. I will continue to keep the McMaster community updated and welcome your ideas as together we make our way along this uncharted course.