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COLUMN: World has changed, but Selkirk College’s mission still the same

President Angus Graeme writes about the college in 2020
Like so many in the last few weeks, Selkirk College president Angus Graeme has been taking care of the business of post-secondary in the region via videoconferencing. Photo submitted

By Angus Graeme

“I am Malala. The world has changed, but I have not.”

In the conclusion of her beautiful 2013 book I am Malala, Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai describes how important it was for her to stay committed to her dreams of peace, equity and education, even when her world changed so violently. For Yousafzai, remaining true to her vision of educational rights for girls gave her the inspiration to survive unspeakable harm and emerge as a remarkable world leader.

The global pandemic has shaken our society and changed our world. The impacts both now and expected into the future are causing tremendous pain, anxiety and hardship for many. Certainly disruption and uncertainty for us all. Every evening at 7 p.m., we make noise to honour the courage of those in our community who are on the frontlines.

What we are doing together — for each other — is saving countless lives. The compassionate response from so many is something that makes me proud to be a citizen. Malala reminds me that crises are the best times to affirm who we are in our humanity and values — whether as individuals or as a community.

Last year, Selkirk College released Building Remarkable Futures: Strategic Plan 2019-20 which called on us to build something remarkable for every student, to enhance their lives through education, and to make a leading contribution to the socio-economic development of communities in the region.

What we did not expect was just how much our world was to change and how quickly! In these truly extraordinary times, the word “remarkable” has taken on a deeper meaning. Our renewed commitment is to meet this new challenge without forgetting who we are. Selkirk College is now more aware than ever how we need to support successful recovery of the region and the immense responsibility that holds.

As we adjusted our winter semester to deal with the adjournment of in-person delivery of classes in early March, faculty and staff exhibited incredible resilience and energy as they continued to provide learners with the knowledge, skills and training required to move forward in their educational journey. Students responded with such poise and purpose, and as exams were completed and final papers submitted, there has been a tremendous sense of accomplishment felt throughout the institution.

The last week of April was to be our annual convocation ceremony, but like other large public gatherings, it too was cancelled. Though the class of 2020 did not get a chance to walk across the stage, more than 800 graduates of certificate, diploma and degree programs are heading into a new future equipped with a remarkable education. In almost every corner of our region, these new alumni are already making contributions to solutions in our communities. Now that is remarkable!

Selkirk College will begin our 54th year of serving learners this September with the same energy as always. How we execute our pledge to provide excellent post-secondary education will look different. The same amazing faculty and staff who made such a stunning pivot in mid-March are working on a plan that will keep learners safe and healthy while delivering the education and training needed to help our province emerge from this crisis. Our region needs our graduates: from nurses to welders, entrepreneurs to environmental planners, chefs to scientists, artists to social workers, and everything in-between.

Selkirk College has grown from one campus with 400 primarily local students in 1966 to campuses and learning centres in six communities with more than 2,900 full time learners who arrive from across the street and from all across the world. We are in this for the long haul and we will help the region recover and become stronger. Our world has changed, but we have not.

Angus Graeme started as an instructor in Selkirk College’s school of environment and geomatics in 1992. He has been the president of Selkirk College since 2011.