‘Resilient and inspiring’: U of T faculty members celebrate students in video message

Nearly two dozen faculty members from across the University of Toronto’s three campuses delivered messages of hope and support for students in a video released on Jan. 18 – a day dubbed “Blue Monday” for its reputation as a time of post-holiday blahs. 

“U of T sees how hard the student body is working through this crazy time,” says Fiona Rawle, associate dean, undergraduate, at U of T Mississauga, in the short video.

“I want my students to know that they are what motivates me and what inspires me.”

Other U of T faculty members in the video share similar messages of understanding and praise.

“Navigating life in a pandemic has been challenging for everyone and I cannot imagine how hard it has been for you,” says Professor Alissa Trotz of the Faculty of Arts & Science.

“Thank you for being so resilient and inspiring this past year,” says Professor Martin Pickavé, who is also in the Faculty of Arts & Science.

The video was conceived as a way to welcome students back to U of T after the holiday closure, which was extended to help them rest and recharge. Faculty members recorded their greetings via their phones and Zoom, with Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education Professor Catherine Sabiston and U of T Mississauga Associate Professor Marc Johnson taking to city streets and parks to underscore the importance of getting outdoors.

David Samson, an assistant professor of anthropology at U of T Mississauga, even donned a Metallica t-shirt and delivered his message before a background of stars.

“You are the descendants of 500 million years of complex life on this planet – you’re here because your ancestors were strong,” Samson reminds students. “Stay strong and do honour to our ancestors.”

Some professors noted challenges students are facing beyond the global COVID-19 pandemic as the world grapples with violence, white supremacy and anti-Black racism.

“We all are attempting to survive multiple pandemics,” says Associate Professor Tanya Sharpe of the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

Others urged students to pay close attention to their mental health, as well as that of friends and family.

“Please take good care of yourself,” urges Ahmed Allahwala, associate professor, teaching stream, at U of T Scarborough. “Look out for your loved ones, your family, your friends, your neighbours, reach out to your class, be there for one another.”

And remember, says Professor Randy Boyagoda of the Faculty of Arts & Science: “This won’t last forever.”