Graduate Student Town Hall
On February 24, 2021, the College of Graduate Studies hosted a Graduate Student Townhall. The purpose of the town hall was to hear from students about how the term has been going so that we could learn more about what was working, and what students were struggling with.
A panel of campus services including International Programs and Services, Health and Wellness, and Research and Innovation opened the event with brief updates. An open Q&A for students followed.
Below is a summary of the updates and Q&A.
Phil Barker (Vice-Principal Research)
- UBC Okanagan is on a strong growth trajectory in part because of graduate students choosing to be at UBC Okanagan. Graduate students are a critical element in what we are trying to achieve, and are important for translating research into results and outcomes. We are grateful for you choosing to come to UBCO and apply your expertise.
- We are still in Phase 2 of research activity since research curtailment started last March, and we anticipate being in Phase 2 for several months. We acknowledgement that there is a significant area of decreased activity in face-to-face participant research, which is still on hold for the safety of the community.
Peter Simpson (Dean, College of Graduate Studies)
- Despite challenges due to COVID, in the last nine months, we had had over 400 students successfully graduate from UBC Okanagan.
- In recognition of these challenges, the criteria for eligibility for some awards have been expanded to accommodate those who have gone over time due to COVID [website link here]. We are aware that social isolation has been a source of difficulty and want to let students know that the Graduate Community Facilitators are available and have been organizing social events.
- Graduate Community Facilitators are also an available resource for students seeking community.
Philip Reichert (Manager, International Programs and Services)
- All students are encouraged to check with the IPS before making any decisions, as information is changing frequently. All students received an email on February 19 with the most recent information and links so that students can navigate information for travelling to Canada.
- As of February 22, all travellers to Canada require an additional COVID-19 test on arrival at the airport and are required to quarantine for three days in a government-approved hotel in the first city of arrival in Canada. Upon receiving a negative test result, after those three days, students can continue with their travel plans and finish the 14-day mandatory quarantine. There have been some delays inability to book government-approved hotels and IPS is waiting for a further update on this from the government.
- Regarding PGWP eligibility, December 31, 2021, is the new end date for the ability to study overseas and have that time count towards PGWP eligibility.
- IPS is meeting with the IIRC every two weeks and will continue to advocate for international students.
- IPS is operating fully online, from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm with drop-in time available on Tuesdays and Thursdays. One on one appointments with advisors is available.
Sophie Vinette (Counsellor, Health and Wellness)
- Health and Wellness is open 9 am – 4 pm year-round, including the summer, and all services are currently available, with many running virtually or by phone. In-person services including counselling for those in the Kelowna area, and access to physicians and nurses, are available by request.
- For students abroad, in their home country or outside of BC, the Student Assistance Program is available to any UBC student regardless of location and is a 24/7 free, confidential service. The student healthcare plan also provides coverage for dental, vision care, physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage and private therapy.
- If there are concerns about the well-being of a peer or colleague, Early Alert is available for any staff or faculty to fill out a form and prompt a check-in on that individual.
- Health and Wellness will be creating a graduate student focus group in March to provide input on services.
Answer (Phil Barker): There is still a hold on face-to-face meetings on campus until further guidance is provided by public health officials.
Answer (Phil Barker): Graduate students are encouraged to work with their supervisor and department chair in their specific Faculty to determine if individual office access can be arranged.
Answer (Peter Simpson): No, students would not be asked to come to campus to defend.
Answer (Peter Simpson): It is safe to assume that the summer term will be online for most; however, the needs of each program are different and these decisions are being made at the program and faculty level rather than campus-wide.
(Dale Mullings) Students are also encouraged to answer the fall restart survey (closing end of day February 24th) to provide feedback on their preferences for campus restart in the fall.
Answer (Dale Mullings): At this time, directions from Interior Health are that we remain as an online forum. We may be looking at a hybrid return in the fall. The release of registration has been deferred while we wait for directions from Interior Health.
Answer (Peter Simpson): This is part of the current discussion with the Deans and administration.
Answer (Peter Simpson): The College of Graduate Studies has committed additional funds to programs for the upcoming academic year. However, this does not include TA-ships or RA-ships, which are not funded by CoGS.
(Dale Mullings) A small emergency fund (up to $500 or $750 for Indigenous students) is available through Enrolment Services. A survey regarding tuition consultation is currently out and accepting student feedback until Friday. Information from students is critical for how these funds will be allocated locally.
Answer (Philip Reichert): Once students have lived in BC for three months and are covered by MSP, there are interprovincial agreements that should cover care while out of province. Students are encouraged to reach out to an IPS advisor and connect with Health and Wellness for assistance.
Answer (Philip Reichert): IPS is hiring a graduate student specialist starting this spring, who will be working closely with all campus partners and community groups to connect students, staff and families to available resources. There are several groups that also host events throughout the year.
Answer (Dale Mullings): Should the Board of Governors pass the tuition increase, the tuition surplus would be a one-time allocation to support students under four proposed areas. They are seeking feedback on what the priorities are for students and how to allocate those funds, such as emergency funds, one-time bursaries, resource investment, etc.
Answer (Peter Simpson): Many examples of conflict stem from conflicts in expectations. It is important for faculty to discuss with students beforehand what the expectations will be, and COVID has made this more challenging because communication is all the more difficult. We encourage students and faculty to refer to the Student-Supervisor Expectations Checklist as a guide for conversations.
Answer (Peter Simpson and Paul Shipley): This is managed at a department level as the needs vary from program to program. We are restricted by Canadian labour laws in our ability to employ students who do not have a Canadian bank account and do not reside in Canada.
Answer (Peter Simpson): We are planning to revisit the process around scholarships next summer, with the intention to help students build better applications. Merit is important but the committee only sees what the students include on paper, and we need to do more work to guide that process.
Answer (Peter Simpson): This is another area where discussions are underway.
(Dale Mullings) In February we have merged two operations, our International Programs & Services and our Go Global teams. Go Global supports the work of students having international experiences embedded in their programs through exchange opportunities. What we see is an opportunity or reinvention in how they work together, with intercultural fluency being a core center of the work, including anti-oppression work across campus.
As early as this summer, a new Intercultural Excellence Fund of $5000 will be established to support projects across campus to create anti-oppression and anti-racism initiatives by student groups, faculty and staff. It is a multi-year fund and so there will be an opportunity to apply for three years to help shape the campus experience. A call for applications for the Intercultural Excellence Fund will be available in May 2021 with rolling application opportunities throughout the year.
(Philip Reichert) The Intercultural Development Program is available online in Canvas for different cohorts to complete. New options and expanded programming is coming forward with new funding.
(Paul Shipley) CoGS is also offering a non-credit credential, Cultural and Social Awareness, with partners across campus and offering several workshops.
(Haley Allen, Manager, Communications and Engagement) Students with feedback for graduate studies can contact us with the workshops or particular topics that they want to see. You can connect with us about ideas or suggestions for future workshops or graduate student programming at email@example.com.
Answer (Sophie Vinette): Early Alert can be used for that purpose as long as you have a CWL login. You can also connect directly with Health and Wellness who have staff on-site and online and will be able to get back to you within the same day or the next. Early intervention does pay off so please reach out to us and we are happy to follow up with a student.
Answer (Haley Allen): For general questions about graduate-specific services, the firstname.lastname@example.org email is a good starting point. You can also contact the email@example.com email for general requests for direction. Supervisors can be a good starting point to connect with, as well as the Graduate Community Facilitators who are peers that are able to connect you to other resources.
(Philip Reichert) IPS is also able to connect you where needed.
(Sophie Vinette) The Health administrators are well-versed as the first point of contact and do have an international counsellor as well as an Aboriginal counsellor available to help.
(Cindy Pearson-Leonard, Ombuds Officer) The Ombuds Office is also available to help provide referrals for various issues.
Answer (Philip Reichert): The actual cost is much lower depending on the stay. We have seen around $300 – $400 totals including hotel and food. We will look at potential funding as this is a recent government development that was rolled out quite quickly.
Answer (Deanna Roberts, Director, College of Graduate Studies): The graduate student bursary is arranged through Enrolment Services. We have not seen any information on their website relating to January. We will get in touch with Enrolment Services for clarification.