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OPINION – UFV 2021 Year in Review. Returning to campus in challenging times

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Fraser Valley (UFV) – It was a year of being apart, and then together, with care, at the University of the Fraser Valley as the university community navigated the second year of post-secondary education during a pandemic. To cap off the year, UFV again faced challenges as the November floods and highway closures disrupted in-class learning once again.

Classes in January began as they had in the previous semester: mostly remotely, unless the learning required a physical presence in the classroom, lab, studio, or shop.

End-of-year shows, Convocation, and other special events were mostly held online or postponed for another year.

But the work of the university continued; almost 3,000 students graduated in June, and thousands of new students began their first classes in September. Zoom events and special lectures were well attended as people continued to adjust to new ways of interacting with their university.

For the fall semester, UFV returned to in-class, face-to-face learning, while continuing to offer up to 30% of its programming in a remote format.

UFV recognized numerous award winners through special remote ceremonies, including student medalists and honorary degree recipients.

The Governor General’s Gold Medal for top student in a master’s degree program went to Ryan Buhrig of Surrey, who earned a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice. The Governor General’s Silver Medal for top bachelor’s degree student went to Tanner Boos of Chilliwack, who completed a Bachelor of Science. The Governor General’s Bronze Medal for top student from a two-year program went to Alona Gurieva of Langley, who earned an Early Childhood Education diploma. The Lieutenant Governor’s Medal went to Faria Firoz of Chilliwack, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Dean’s Medalists were Anmol Sharma (Science), Samantha Stables (Health Sciences), Yuki Yamazaki (Professional Studies), Sharon Timmermans (Integrated Studies), Isabelle St-Martin (Applied and Technical Studies), Gurgina Dinsa (Social Sciences), and Arsalan Sadiq (Humanities).

Student speakers were Monik Jaura (Health Sciences), Veronica Kobes (Science), Pip Robertshaw (Professional Studies), Terisha Mitchell (Applied and Technical Studies), Belle Hernberg-Johnson (Humanities), and Paul Jaku (Social Sciences).

UFV presented honorary doctorates to four Canadians who have made a significant contribution to their field and Canadian society.

Retired general and humanitarian Roméo Dallaire, filmmaker Andrée Cazabon, teacher and LGBTQ activist James Chamberlain, and helicopter pilot and aviation entrepreneur Cathy Press were honored by UFV in a private ceremony on June 4. 

UFV also honoured its alumni this year. Jason Beck was selected as the winner of the Distinguished Alumni award, and Sheetal Deo (BA ’12) won the Young Distinguished Alumni award.

UFV also honoured several faculty and staff members with excellence awards. Teaching Excellence went to Awneet Sivia, Research Excellence to Scott Sheffield, Faculty Service Excellence to Satwinder Bains, Staff Excellence to Shelley Hayes, Leadership to Nicole Adams, and Teamwork to the IT Service Desk.

Several students won prestigious awards, including Shannon Pahladsingh, who won the BC region award for the BMO 1st Art competition, and Michaela Sapielak, whose submitted research paper that she had previously written for a UFV History course won an international student essay competition held by the Society for the History of Discoveries (SHD).

Andy Sidhu was reappointed for a second term as UFV Chancellor.

The  UFV Board of Governors and Senate officially approved a new Integrated Strategic Plan entitled IYAQÁWTXW: House of Transformation. The framework (i.e., mission, vision, values, goals, and strategic imperatives) provided by the integrated strategic plan will serve as the foundation for all areas across the university.

UFV celebrated the opening of a Shakespeare Reconciliation Garden on the Chilliwack campus and an Indigenous Garden on the Abbotsford campus, which features several carvings by Indigenous artist Rocky LaRock.

There was a UFV connection to the discovery of more than 200 ‘targets of interest’ that are likely unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Dr. Sarah Beaulieu, an archeologist and faculty associate of the CHASI Hub at UFV, worked in collaboration with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, using ground-penetrating radar to locate and identify the sites.

UFV was named one of BC’s Top Employers for the seventh year in a row, and UFV’s South Asian Studies Institute received a Heritage Defender award at the Darpan Extraordinary Achievement Awards, presented by Darpan magazine.

Although it was difficult to hold in-person events for much of the year, UFV offered numerous successful online events and programs, including the Fraser Valley Literary Festival, two theatre productions, an extensive career month with dozens of workshops, professional development days for employees, and the opening of the Black Lives Matters Social Justice Art Project. UFV marked Canada’s first Truth and Reconciliation Day by encouraging students and employees to attend community events.

UFV cooperated with its communities during times of crisis, hosting a COVID-19 testing site for several months and serving as a staging ground for search and rescue crews during the flooding crisis.

On the programming side, UFV introduced new international business minors, an online career mapping tool, and several micro-credentials. The College of Arts announced plans to provide 1,000 work-integrated learning opportunities for students by June of 2022.

Students were involved in many activities, including the Hubbub celebration of CityStudio experiential learning projects, the Enactus club for business students, Student Research Day, and end-of-year art exhibits

UFV’s Cascade athletic teams were sidelined from competition for the first half of the year due to COVID-19 restrictions but were able to relaunch in the fall of 2021. The men’s and women’s soccer teams made the playoffs, and the men’s squad advanced to the Canada West Final Four. The men’s golf team were silver medalists at the Canada West championships, while the women placed fourth. The men’s and women’s basketball teams got off to strong starts in conference play, while the volleyball teams made their debut in Canada West. Schedules for the basketball and volleyball teams were disrupted when the Cascades were unable to travel due to highway closures.

In November 2021, UFV was again faced with challenges as the disastrous storms and flooding closed transportation routes, including Highway One between Abbotsford and Chilliwack, and impacted many in the university community. UFV suspended classes for a week and then moved to remote learning for the remainder of November.

UFV cooperated with the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and the Abbotsford Community Foundation to launch the Abbotsford Disaster Relief fund, which to date has raised more than $2 million to aid in recovery efforts. 

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