This column was published in Kamloops This Week January 19, 2022.
By Brett Fairbairn
It was my hope, as I’m sure it was for most of us, that optimism and talk of pandemic recovery would mark the start of 2022 — not continuing discussions about lockdowns, closed schools, hospital overload, and threats to our collective health.
Yet here we are again, enduring another wave of this virus and suffering its effects on our society. Despite that, we know this pandemic will end. While we are in the throes of what will be the farthest-reaching wave of this pandemic, the signs of the end are there. These dark weeks of winter will pass, and, as they do, longer, warmer, and more hopeful days will follow.
The world will enter a new phase, finally. As we do so, many will begin to ask what is needed to help our communities gain back measures of what was lost through the last two years. We know that many of us have suffered financially, emotionally, and physically through 2020 and 2021. Recovery is needed, and while portions of our society will bounce back quickly, others might need help to get on the right track.
We need recovery to be inclusive to ensure that our “new normal” — whatever that will look like — brings everyone along. Institutions like TRU will be instrumental in ensuring that what follows serves the broad needs of all in our communities. We will support the recovery in four ways.
First is people and skills. Education is about people transforming hope into real-world potential. Students envision themselves and their future and choose education as a transformative process. People will drive the recovery. And as an open, accessible and inclusive university, TRU will help them prepare for that.
Second is programs of study. TRU’s new and expanding courses, from health to engineering to business entrepreneurship, from sustainability to Indigenous knowledge, will support communities to shape the post-pandemic world.
Third, TRU is a centre of research and innovation, two attributes that will accelerate recovery. Partnerships with governments and businesses will fuel economic growth and provide the skilled labour and expertise that many of our services and industries will desperately need.
Lastly, post-secondary institutions are essential social and cultural centres for communities, bringing together many people from diverse backgrounds and experiences with unique perspectives and interests. At TRU, we have students, staff, and faculty from across B.C. and worldwide. The intercultural and interpersonal understanding we build on campus is the foundation for society’s future strength.
Universities are a vital societal resource with the ability and capacity to provide leadership and support across many areas. TRU looks forward to being a crucial part of our collective effort to put this virus behind us.