In my previous message to the readers of this magazine, I expressed my hope that things would be returning to some semblance of normalcy as we began the 2020-21 academic year. Despite some encouraging progress, it appears the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects will be with us for some time to come. But as we have always done in uncertain times, the York community continues to respond with compassion, resilience and innovation.
The health and well-being of our community remains paramount. Most courses for the 2020-21 fall and winter terms will be delivered through online and remote formats. However, we are working closely with public health authorities and government to assess opportunities for on-campus activities and the gradual reopening of our campuses.
We have also not lost sight of the University’s larger role as a driver of positive change. We have continued advancing important initiatives that benefit students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the local and global communities we serve.
In July, we announced that we will be moving ahead with the construction of the new Markham Centre Campus (MCC). We have a bold vision for this new campus in York Region: an opportunity to keep our brightest and best in Ontario by offering academic programs in high-demand areas while partnering with the community to address pressing societal challenges.
The number of 18- to 22-year-olds in York Region is projected to grow by 34 per cent by 2041, the highest growth rate in Ontario. As we spoke to employers, we heard their desire for graduates skilled in digital media, engineering and technology, entrepreneurship, new media and communications. When the doors to the MCC open in 2023, thousands of students will study closer to home and fulfill the talent needs of the region’s burgeoning high-tech sector.
Today, lifelong learning is more important than ever. Careers have been disrupted by technological change and the pandemic. We recently (and virtually) celebrated the groundbreaking of a state-of-the-art building that will house our School of Continuing Studies’ innovative programs – in people analytics, blockchain development and cybersecurity, among many others – that keep professionals competitive in a global knowledge economy.
We have also continued important discussions and actions around our commitment to fighting anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. Professor Carl E. James was appointed the inaugural senior advisor on equity and representation to the University. Professor James will advance equity, diversity and inclusion by providing strategic advice and supporting the development of a University Equity Plan led by Vice-President, Equity, People and Culture Sheila Cote-Meek.
In true York fashion, our community has navigated the challenges created by COVID-19 with courage, adapting to create meaningful opportunities for new programs and modes of learning, and research that advances shared priorities. We are also learning important lessons that will inform how York can better serve our students and our society in the months, years and decades to come.
Thank you for your continued support of York and our mission to drive positive change through higher education. I hope you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe during these challenging times. ■