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LETTER: University students rising to the challenge

Memorial University's St. John’s campus. University president Vianne Timmons has been criticized in an open letter signed by hundreds of faculty, staff, alumni and students, but defended herself in a reply letter. — TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO
Memorial University’s St. John’s campus. — Telegram file photo

It is the second week of classes at Memorial. It has been an interesting couple of weeks with few faculty, staff or students on campus. The parking lots might not be full, but the university has been very busy. Currently, we have a record number of students, with almost 700 more registered compared to last fall.

I met two first-year Sea-Hawks women basketball players in the parking lot this morning. They had just finished practice. I asked how things were going and they replied, “Challenging.” Not only had they missed their Grade 12 graduation, they said, they also missed that wonderful rush when you first step onto a vibrant, energetic university campus.

For many students this is a frustrating time, with spotty internet and lack of peer interaction. It is a different world for our young adults and we need to listen and support them.

I also spoke to a bright young man last week who was enrolled in first-year courses. He told me he wanted to quit because he was overwhelmed. His mother fortunately heard his concerns and worked with him on his course selection. He dropped a couple and picked up others that were more aligned with his interests.

It brought home to me the importance of parenting, even when our children are young adults. For many students this is a frustrating time, with spotty internet and lack of peer interaction. It is a different world for our young adults and we need to listen and support them. There are many student supports online and I encourage all Memorial students to check them out. Professors are also offering online office hours and are there to help you. We are invested in your success.

We held a virtual student town hall this week and one student asked about how to make meaningful connections, grow friendships and get involved while studying remotely, because we all know university is more than academics. This is always on our minds and we are trying our best to help students in all facets of their lives, not just the school work.

I did get a wonderful text from a student who I met when I was on the road this summer. She wrote:

“Hi Dr. Timmons! It’s Lauren Carter. First impressions of the fully remote platforms for this semester are great! (Bongo is excellent, very easily accessible and all the information I need is available! It will be an adjustment but things are looking positive.)”

This text made my day and reminded me how amazing our professors are and how adaptable our students are. I want our province to know that your university is teaching more than 19,000 students online and remotely. These students need our support and, at times, someone to lift them up. You can be that person. Please take the time to ask students how things are going and to congratulate them on their choice to attend university during a global pandemic. These are challenging times, but together we will get through it.

Vianne Timmons, OC

President and vice-chancellor

Memorial University

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