December 2020 | President's Newsletter | UNB

President's newsletter

Issue #5: December 2020

Dear Colleagues:

It has been a very challenging term for everyone. Whatever your area of responsibility, none of us has escaped the effects of COVID. I want to stress again how much I appreciate and value the exceptional dedication of faculty and staff in delivering on UNB’s mission in spite of the difficulties we’ve faced.

The pandemic notwithstanding, we have accomplished a great deal over the past few months.

Celebrating the Class of 2020

On Nov. 7 we celebrated the accomplishments of our graduates, professors emeriti, and the recipients of our Dr. Allan P. Stuart Excellence in Teaching Awards and the UNB Excellence in Research Award. These Fall Convocation ceremonies were history-making to say the least—all five were virtual, as so many of our activities have been this year; we adapted the content for a remote audience; we included many student voices and scenes of our campuses; and our valedictorians, Kathryn Magee (BBA ’20) in Saint John and Mallory Parsons (BScKin ’20) in Fredericton, spoke with passion and optimism of the future. Each livestreamed event drew hundreds of viewers as families and members of the university community gathered around their screens to applaud their graduates and colleagues. These inspiring ceremonies may still be viewed online. 

Service to the community one of UNB's hallmarks

A stellar example is the Promise Partnership, poverty reduction program whose goal is to close the educational attainment gaps for children in two of Saint John’s priority neighbourhoods. Over the past 10 years, hundreds of student volunteers from our Saint John campus have mentored youngsters from the Hazen White-St. Francis School, while a cadre of tutors has worked with high school students from Crescent Valley and the Old North End. The program has had a very positive impact on academic performance and persistence, but its most important outcome is in raising aspirations, with a number of Promise Partnership graduates continuing on into post-secondary education.

As a former hockey goalie and a dyed-in-the-wool hockey fan, it was with great interest and pride that I saw the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup with Ryan Hamilton in the coaches’ corner. Dr. Hamilton is a UNB psychology professor and the sports psychologist for the “Bolts,” who last won the Cup in 2004. His responsibility was keeping players and staff focused, relaxed and confident in their abilities. He is now playing a similar role with Team Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships. 

Two members of the Faculty of Education were honoured recently. Joseph Dicks, director of the Second Language Research Institute of Canada, received the prestigious André Obadia Award of Excellence from the Association Canadienne des Professionells de l’Immersion in recognition of his demonstrated passion for immersion education and his lasting impact on the field. UNB literacy expert and early childhood educator Kim Stewart was recognized along with UNB alumna Jill Davidson, literacy coordinator for Anglophone School District West, with the NB Literacy Coalition’s 2020 Dr. Marilyn Trenholm Counsell Award for Individual Outstanding Contribution to Literacy. They have developed an active following of more than 6,000 readers with their innovative @ShelfieTalk on Twitter

Economics professor Constantine Passaris has been recognized for his service to his home country by inclusion in the inaugural edition of Who is Who in Greece 2020. He has been an advisor to several Greek governments, chaired quality reviews and accreditation assessments for a large number of universities, spoken at international conferences, written for a number of Greek media outlets and served as a visiting professor at the International Writer’s Centre in Rhodes. He has also twice held the Onassis Foundation Fellowship.

Our research has impact

Research also provides an important service to society, as evidenced in the work of Kimberley Davies, professor of biological sciences at UNB Saint John. In collaboration with Transport Canada, Dr. Davies used an autonomous underwater glider equipped with a digital acoustic monitoring device to track whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Over the course of the summer, endangered right whales were detected nine times, with ship slowdowns triggered each time. 

Sandra Magalhaes, a sociologist and research associate with the NB Institute of Research, Data and Training, led a team looking into community resiliency in COVID-19 recovery. Their recently released preliminary findings revealed that communities in northern New Brunswick may be at greater risk of negative outcomes due to health and demographic factors. The study will help to inform the government’s pandemic planning and recovery. A second report will be published in early 2021. 

New appointments strengthen our faculties

One of the newest researchers to join UNB this year is Ziba Vaghri, a senior research associate in psychology and an internationally recognized expert in child rights. Her work at the intersection of child development and child rights will contribute significantly to the interdisciplinary Integrated Health Initiative on the Saint John campus. She also brings with her GlobalChild, a comprehensive child rights monitoring platform she developed under the auspices of the UN to support implementation of its Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

In partnership with Parks Canada, we have established a Research Chair in Aquatic Restoration, which will be held by Kurt Samways, a research associate in biological sciences at UNB Saint John and member of the Canadian Rivers Institute. His work focuses on regional Atlantic salmon recovery in five national parks: Fundy, Cape Breton Highlands, Gros Morne, Terra Nova and Kouchibouguac. 

Michael Marin, who joined our Faculty of Law in 2016, has been appointed dean following a national search. He has served as associate dean of the faculty and, since July, as its acting dean. He led the faculty through the development of an ambitious academic vision and will be focusing his work as dean on its implementation. His teaching and research interests include corporate governance, administrative law and torts. 

Advancing our strategic vision

The five pillars of our Strategic Vision were developed after extensive consultation with the university community in which a great many of you participated beginning in 2018. After I arrived in July 2019, I was pleased to play a role in finalizing the plan, UNB Toward 2030, which was approved by the Board of Governors in February 2020. While we have periodically shared the Strategic Vision over the past 10 months and are already working on achieving its goals, on Dec. 1 we launched an intensified campaign to inspire and inform everyone about UNB’s ambitions for this decade. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to visit the Toward 2030 website, watch the video that illustrates some of the incredible work propelling UNB toward the future and stay tuned in early 2021 for the series that will further spotlight our strengths and our aspirations.

Reflections on the year

It’s likely no one is sorry to see 2020 draw to a close. Twelve months ago, the hopeful start to a new decade was soon shattered by the effects of the worldwide pandemic: illness, isolation, uncertainty, restricted activity and seemingly endless change. We in New Brunswick and at UNB adapted more quickly and resourcefully than seemed possible at first. We were immensely successful at staying safe, developing effective alternative delivery methods, making our students’ educational experience as rich and meaningful as we could, maintaining our academic standards and, as demonstrated above, continuing to excel as researchers and scholars.

While prospects for the second half of 2021 look promising, we know we’ll have to persevere in these challenging circumstances for at least another term. So please take time during the holiday break to restore your energy and your spirit. Know that in true UNB fashion you have shown great resilience and commitment to our cause: to change New Brunswick and the world for the better, for which I wholeheartedly thank you.

With kindest regards,

Paul J. Mazerolle
President & Vice-Chancellor