I hope that this finds you all safe and well and enjoying the final throes of summer. I would just like to take this opportunity to welcome you back and wish you the best for the upcoming year. As you know, next week this place will be abuzz with activities and energy as we usher in the new academic year. Moreover, it is a chance for us to continue rebuilding our Forestry community and reconnecting with our students after, uhm, a couple of interesting years…
Speaking of which, let me start with the pandemic, and once again THANK YOU ALL for your patience, hard work, and empathy as we pivoted and muddled our way through changing safety protocols, remote work arrangements, and online teaching. COVID is not quite in the rear view mirror yet (or if it is, we may want to heed the poetic advice etched on the surface that “objects are closer than they appear”). I don’t say this to be gloomy, but rather to highlight the need to continue being as flexible and compassionate as possible – both with our students and with each other.
While there is no longer a mask mandate in place, the University recommends that “masks be worn in indoor public spaces”. With that dictum and the safety of our community in mind, I will continue wearing a mask indoors for the foreseeable future. I would encourage you to do the same, especially on the first floor which can sometimes feel like a mosh pit between classes. We still have a cornucopian bounty of some 30,000 masks of all stripes, which can be accessed through Student Services or your respective Departments (more on this coming soon). And we will also continue to promote the very clear and empirically proven benefits of wearing a mask at this point in time. You know, science…
Our number one priority is the health and safety of our students, staff, and faculty. We will try our best to be nimble, and keep the Forestry community apprised of any new developments and/or changes in protocols. In addition, we are looking into other potential solutions for keeping the Faculty of Forestry as safe as possible, like HEPA filtration in classrooms and increased air refresh rates. Please make sure to do your part by washing your hands frequently, staying home if you are feeling unwell, and getting your vaccination booster* when you can. And last but not least, please, if you feel uncomfortable working and teaching in this environment, let me know immediately so that we can explore various options together.
OK, enough pandemic talk. After a year learning the ropes of this job and demonstrating our softball supremacy, I think that we are ready for some higher-level strategery [sic]. To that end, we will soon be undergoing a number of important strategic exercises that will require your participation and input over the next year, including the development of our Indigenous Strategic Plan and a 5-Year Vision for the Faculty of Forestry. We continue to work on creating a Faculty-specific Climate Action Plan and have struck a Wellness Committee to come up with recommendations and an action plan for promoting health and wellbeing in our community. And we continue to build our Faculty in a number of ways, too many to mention here. But, by way of some (literal) examples, check out our new TA Pod in the atrium and the Trimble Technology Lab on the first floor (more information on these spaces will be sent soon).
Once again, welcome back everyone and thank you for all that you do! I look forward to interacting with all of you in the coming weeks and months. Have a wonderful year, and please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
All the best,
* If it has been more than 6 months since you’ve had your booster, you should be eligible for a second one. However, the current vaccinations being administered may not be the bivalent variety (ie, providing protection against both Omicron and the O.G.). These are meant to be rolled out starting next week. Talk to the good folks at Service BC – they’ll know way more than me: 1-833-838-2323.
Dr. Robert Kozak
Professor and Dean