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View From TRU: Our role in the post-pandemic recovery

Post-secondary institutions are essential social and cultural centres for communities, bringing together many people from diverse backgrounds
Colukn head Brett Fairbairn TRU

It was my hope, as I’m sure it was for most of us, that optimism and talk of pandemic recovery would mark the start of 2022 — not continuing discussions about lockdowns, closed schools, hospital overload and threats to our collective health.

Yet here we are again, enduring another wave of this virus and suffering its effects on our society.

Despite that, we know this pandemic will end. While we are in the throes of what will be the farthest-reaching wave of this pandemic, the signs of the end are there.

These dark weeks of winter will pass and, as they do, longer, warmer and more hopeful days will follow.

The world will enter a new phase — finally. As we do so, many will begin to ask what is needed to help our communities gain back measures of what was lost through the last two years.

We know that many of us have suffered financially, emotionally and physically through 2020 and 2021.

Recovery is needed and, while portions of our society will bounce back quickly, others might need help to get on the right track.

We need recovery to be inclusive to ensure our “new normal” — whatever that will look like — brings everyone along.

Institutions like Thompson Rivers University will be instrumental in ensuring that what follows serves the broad needs of all in our communities.

We will support the recovery in four ways.

First is people and skills. Education is about people transforming hope into real-world potential. Students envision themselves and their future and choose education as a transformative process. People will drive the recovery. And, as an open, accessible and inclusive university, TRU will help them prepare for that.

Second is programs of study. TRU’s new and expanding courses, from health to engineering to business entrepreneurship, from sustainability to Indigenous knowledge, will support communities to shape the post-pandemic world.

Third, TRU is a centre of research and innovation, two attributes that will accelerate recovery. Partnerships with governments and businesses will fuel economic growth and provide the skilled labour and expertise many of our services and industries will desperately need.

Lastly, post-secondary institutions are essential social and cultural centres for communities, bringing together many people from diverse backgrounds and experiences with unique perspectives and interests. At TRU, we have students, staff and faculty from across B.C. and worldwide. The intercultural and interpersonal understanding we build on campus is the foundation for society’s future strength.

Universities are a vital societal resource with the ability and capacity to provide leadership and support across many areas.

Thompson Rivers University looks forward to being a crucial part of our collective effort to put this virus behind us.

Dr. Brett Fairbairn is the president and vice-chancellor of Thompson Rivers University. He can be reached by e-mail at president@tru.ca. Columns from TRU appear monthly in KTW and online at kamloopsthisweek.com. To comment on this column, email editor@kamloopsthisweek.com.