Message from the Vice-President Academic


Hello all!

I hope you are keeping warm with this snowfall. The good news is: the ski hills will be opening next weekend!

Today’s message has important information about December exams, a glimpse ahead to winter term, and some tools to help you build your resilience toolkit. When you look back at COVID-19 and remember what you did, I want you to be able to say you not only survived but you thrived. There are lots of great resources through StMU and beyond. Check out the links at the bottom of the message.

I am also going to be asking for your feedback in the next few weeks through a survey about what the Spring/Summer/next fall might look like. We care about providing you the best education possible and seek your input about programming options.

December Final Examinations

The December final exam schedule will come out next week. There will be 3 formats:

  • Online through D2L
  • Take home
  • In-person (about 15 exams)

Joan McNeil at the Learning Centre will work with students needing accommodations for final exams.
Graduation Teddy Bear 2020
The format depends on the course content. Some courses simply cannot be tested remotely. The in-person exams will be held across campus in rooms with plexiglass “sugarcubes” like the one pictured below. COVID safety protocols are in place to keep everyone safe. I will be emailing all students with in-person exams the details by the 2nd week of November. Won’t it be great to see some of your fellow students as you sweat through your exams together!

Winter Term January 2021

We are planning for January term and will have some remote courses and some in-person courses. That schedule will be updated by mid-November so you can plan ahead. We will continue to follow AHS guidelines and to ensure that we offer safe learning spaces with effective content.

Spring/Summer planning

Most courses will be held in person for Spring and Summer terms though we will plan some remote courses for those of you who are really liking this format and who may not be able to be present face to face. We are looking at offering 2 terms in the Spring/Summer:

  • 6 week term between May and June
  • 4 month term from May-August

These options will help you catch up or keep up with your graduation plans despite COVID. It will also give you ways to qualify for Student Finance throughout the Spring/Summer in case jobs are not available.

Social Events

We hear that some of you are longing for more social connectivity with each other. No doubt you are tired of staying home in your own small bubble. We are working with student clubs about arranging some COVID-safe events. As well, once the new SLC is elected, we will be working closely with them to see what you want and to create some opportunities to connect with each other. Stay tuned and watch our Instagram for more details.

Survey to students

In the next two weeks, I will send out an email with a link to a survey. I am really hoping you will take a few minutes to answer it. We will be asking how many courses you intend to take in Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, what kind of supports you are wanting right now, and some other questions that will help us plan for the upcoming year.

Mindful Mondays and Mental Health Cafe Conversations

The StMU Counsellors are happy to announce the launch of two new online video-chat programs:

Mindful Mondays – start your week with intention and join us to learn about mindfulness, how to make mindful living a part of your daily life and how it can help you improve focus, emotional regulation and gain a sense of calm. You will learn about a different mindfulness topic each week, and will have the opportunity to practice a guided meditation and participate in a discussion. Mondays 9:30-10:00am, and 3:30-4:00 pm.

Mental Health Cafe Conversations – Join the conversation on current mental health topics. Led by your StMU Counsellors, students will gain information, tools and strategies and will have the opportunity to talk with other students. Next week the conversation is: Studying at Home. Tuesdays 9:30-10:00am, Wednesdays 12:30-1:00pm.

To sign up for these programs, go to:

https://ss.stmu.ca/SelfService/Login.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fSelfService%2fRecords%2fLearningCentreAppointments.aspx

You will be sent a link via email to participate through Microsoft Teams prior to the event.

If you have questions about any of the above, or just want to talk, please reach out… we are here to help. Counselling is available to all STMU students and is free, confidential, and inclusive.

You can make an appointment with one of the STMU Counsellors, Lesley and Brynn, by sending a TEXT to: 403-333-4292 or, by making an appointment online at: https://oab.owlpractice.ca/stmucounselling/booking

Building Your Resilience Toolkit – 5 Strategies

How to Strengthen Your Personal Resilience

Given all the benefits of resilience, the big question is how you can increase it. Here are just a few of the many ways.

Andrea J. Miller

ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK CONTRIBUTOR

CEO of Andrea J Miller Wellbeing and the Digital Patient

When faced with a difficult situation how well do you cope or adapt? COVID has tested us all. Its global impact is undeniable and seemingly without an end. For some, the uncertainty has been the most traumatizing part of the whole thing.

As entrepreneurs [students], you’re used to uncertainty. You’re used to handling whatever comes your way. In fact, you pride yourself on it. But lately, it’s been harder to keep showing up and keep working towards the dreams and goals you’ve been fighting for, for years. While it may not feel like it, this is a normal reaction.

Studies show that uncertainty can often be harder to deal with than the negative consequences that follow. It is part of one of our many evolutionary “bugs” that haven’t kept up with changing times. While we no longer need to predict the saber tooth tiger waiting to turn us into dinner, our striatum (also known as the reward center) has evolved to anticipate good and bad consequences, trying to calculate the odds of those consequences and then immediately reacting when it hits at around 50 percent. Given our human tendency toward a negativity bias our tendency is to focus on the bad even when these experiences are seemingly insignificant or inconsequential.

So how do we cope in a world that is now filled with potentially dangerous decisions all day long? Our brain goes on high alert. Is that person 6 feet away? Is it safe to go to the office? Should I really try and cut my own hair (talk about consequential decisions)? Enter resilience.

This now somewhat over-used word references our ability to adapt well in the face of threats, trauma, or significant sources of stress or your ability to “bounce back” after difficult experiences. A very useful skill given the current situation.

While we all know people who seem to be handling things amazingly well (or are in massive denial) and see the pandemic as an opportunity for growth, the majority of us are just doing our best to get by, with good days and some bad, and seemingly little control over which one it will be.

Working to increase resilience can help. The great news is that resilience is a buildable skill that can vary from situation to situation. Because no matter how un-resilient you’re feeling today, there’s always the possibility or hope that you can do a little bit better tomorrow.

Given all the benefits of resilience, the big question is how you can increase it. Here are just a few of the many ways:

Realistic optimism

Studies show that optimism is only about 25 percent inheritable, with other factors that you can influence affecting overall positivity. There are many simple ways you can improve it, from keeping a gratitude journal to consciously reframing scenarios in a positive light to not watching or reading the news (no more doomscrolling through the latest tweets).

Optimism while at times challenges has been shown to improve resilience to stressful life events, reducing levels of depression and anxiety.

Emotion awareness and control

Resilient people are comfortable with and express their feelings. Whether it be happiness, joy, fear, or sadness, understanding your emotions and feeling comfortable talking about them with the people you trust will make you more resilient and better able to handle things when you’re going through a difficult time. The ability to share what’s going on makes it less likely you’ll get “stuck” in a negative emotion when it happens.

Self-efficacy: move toward your goals

An important part of resilience is self-efficacy, your belief in your ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task. When people believe that they are effective in the world and are able to move toward their goals they become more resilient. Like other aspects of resilience, your self-efficacy can be increased. In fact, Jane McGonigal PhD, a world-renowned designer of alternate reality games, created a game called Super Better for just that purpose. She created the game to increase optimism, self-efficacy, and social support in order to improve overall resilience after suffering from a serious concussion that didn’t heal properly and took away many of the things she loved most.

Connection

Resilient people connect with others. Studies show that good social relationships help protect against stress reactions. In fact, they found that even people just thought about those relationships it had a beneficial impact. According to the American Psychological Association, “the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust, provide role models, and offer encouragement and reassurance, help bolster a person’s resilience.”

While it’s more difficult to connect in person these days and the last thing most of us want is another Zoom call, there are more opportunities than ever to connect virtually. In 2019, even before COVID, 61% of Americans said they were lonely. So, if you’re feeling a bit lonely, chances are your friends and family are too – connect with them, you’ll both be glad you did.

Take care of your wellbeing

A critical part of resilience is how you feel both physically and emotionally. What you eat, how often you move, and perhaps most importantly, how much you sleep matters. It’s important you find time to engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. And, if you can get outside and get some vitamin D. Low vitamin D was found to put you at greater risk of depression.

While it’s easy to work longer days now that you’re working from home, it’s even more important that you take the time to manage your wellbeing and energy so you’re able to fully engage. Investing in your wellbeing will help bolster your resilience and ensure that you’re ready to deal with whatever situation comes your way.

The importance of a resilience toolkit

In these challenging times, we all need a toolkit, resources we know we can rely on to get us through the difficult moments. Sometimes, that’s all it takes, just some small thing to get through a particularly difficult moment. Then, often without reason, something shifts and you’re ready to take on the next challenge. Increasing your resilience isn’t that different from creating a business. If your foundation isn’t strong inevitably things start to go wrong and your clients (in this case, your body) become dissatisfied and then, they may start making even bigger demands. It’s time to start making your most important investment, in yourself. (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/354779. Accessed 23 October 2020)

I hope you find some helpful tools in this post. Keep focused on your courses, keeping balance, and continuing to develop the disciplined habits of study and preparation that will give you academic success.

Stay warm and safe this weekend,

Tara Hyland-Russell
Vice-President Academic