Dr. Peter Ricketts , President and Vice-Chancellor


Vaccination education, cooperative effort has allowed us to meet the challenge of the pandemic head-on

Acadia is now in ‘full swing’ after we welcomed students and employees back to campus in September. Starting the term off on the right foot, we enjoyed a successful Welcome Week, a seamless resumption of classes and were finally able to see the Axewomen and Axemen on our new artificial turf at Raymond Field. While closely monitoring it, I look forward to moving into what we hope is the end game of this pandemic. Acadia took a strong leadership role throughout the pandemic, implementing comprehensive COVID-19 safety protocols that successfully allowed us to operate in-person classes and residences throughout the 2020-21 academic year and into the new term in September. Our extensive planning was built on a precautionary approach, relying on a variety of measures to provide the safest possible community in which to learn, work, and live together. Over the summer, we promoted our expectation that everyone should get vaccinated, unless unable to do so, with a particular focus on residence students. We also launched a number of surveys to provide indications of whether or not we were on target to meet our goals of a fully vaccinated campus. From the beginning, our surveys indicated that over 95 per cent intended to be fully vaccinated by early September or get their shots upon arrival. This was the case for employees, residence students and non-residence students alike. This information and valuable survey data for out-of-province students returning to Nova Scotia provided us with strong evidence that our approach was working; that a mandatory approach was not required; and Acadia was consistently on course to deliver the desired outcomes of a fully vaccinated campus. We also supported Nova Scotia Public Health in their efforts to develop a digital proof-of-vaccination system that could provide us with the ability to verify the vaccination status of our campus community without the complications of requiring students or employees to provide private and personal health information to the University. I hope that by the time you read this, that digital system will be in place. Vaccination education and awareness was a central part of our approach, and we strongly encouraged faculty, students and staff to participate in the vaccination program and provided public health education and on-campus vaccination clinics to enable participation. We also arranged for twice-weekly voluntary rapid test clinics on campus to identify positive cases quickly along with quarantine protocols, the use of face masks, physical distancing, daily self-assessments, increased cleaning in high touch spaces, hand-washing and proper sneeze and cough etiquette, and optimal outside airflow into each building on campus. We also included the expectation of full vaccination in the student pledge, which all students were required to sign. All of this helped to reinforce our message that the best way to combat COVID-19 is to get fully vaccinated, and that the best way to provide a safe and healthy campus was to reach the highest level of fully vaccinated members of our community as possible. As has been our practice through history, your alma mater met the challenge of the pandemic head-on with confidence and by drawing on the strength and support from one another as a community. While the pandemic continued, some other important business of our University also moved forward. I am grateful to those who served on the President’s Anti-Racism Task Force from fall 2020 through to the end of July 2021. Fed by input from students, staff, faculty, community members and stakeholders, the Task Force heard first-person accounts of racism and micro-aggressions in the Acadia community and took a hard look at these through the lens of the values of equality that Acadia that holds dear.

The Task Force made over 80 recommendations for consideration. My colleagues and I, along with members of Acadia’s Board of Governors, are analyzing these and will work actively to incorporate them into our planning as much as possible. One of our first and most significant actions was to redefine the job description for the Black Student Success Navigator. This dedicated position, enabled through Acadia’s partnership with alumnus Robert Ffrench (’04), who leads the Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association, has allowed Acadia to hire recent grad Janique Ellis Panza ('21) to help improve the Acadia experience for students who celebrate African heritage. You can learn more about Janique in our Eye on Acadia section on Page 6.

Likewise, I encourage you to read this edition’s Feature Story profiling alumna Christine Luckasavitch, (’11), an Omàmìwininì Madaoueskarini Anishinaabekwe (woman of the Madawaska River Algonquin people) with mixed settler ancestry and belongs to the Crane Clan. She grew up on her Ancestral territory at the headwaters of the Madawaska River in Whitney, Ontario, and still lives there today. Her strong attachment to the land spans generations, giving her strength and informing her vocation. It amplifies her voice in describing lived and historical experiences that enhance awareness of Algonquin peoples and their rich culture and heritage through dialogue, storytelling and education, and she offers excellent insight into the value and importance of Indigenous presence and spaces on campus.

Also of importance as Acadia continues to take action on our path to reconciliation, we decided to observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday to acknowledge the horrific legacy of residential schools in Canada, giving time and space to our community to reflect on the tragedies experienced by Indigenous people through the country's former residential school system. September 30 will now be an annual holiday for Acadia, but we also recognized the day with events and activities that led up to Treaty Day on October 1, marking the beginning of Mi’kmaq History Month in Nova Scotia.

As always, the views and values of Acadia’s alumni are incorporated into our thinking and decision-making. I am grateful for the ongoing support, engagement and encouragement Acadia receives from alumni, not the least of which from Association President Donalda MacBeath (’75) and those who serve on the Alumni Association Board. We will use the strength of our shared community to greet both Acadia’s challenges and opportunities.

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