This month marks a full year since arriving on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River. After growing up in the Red River Valley area of Manitoba and spending over a decade in Ontario, I was back to the Prairies. In arriving here, I came to a land familiar in landscape but distinct in the people and places. What was different and why does it matter to a University? The land around us shapes who we are if we stay still long enough to listen to what the seasons can teach us. This is what I have noticed.
Inspired by the winters, our buildings are connected. Even if we do not walk the full route everyday, each person walking by our office door comes from somewhere along the shared corridor. Disciplinary lines may be marked in department titles, but on route to meetings I see the research, teaching and celebrations marking each departments walls and spaces.
Recognizing this land as shared land shapes ceremonies and opens doors to learning that I have not seen at my previous three institutions. Posters announce “I declared…” and documents note potential futures and deep interconnections that can make this university a leader.
Although a new office and plans seek to create greater university-community partnerships and outreach, the U of S already has a foundational wealth of community connections through its alumni and employees who dot the city, province and wider. The moment I mention that I work here, a connection through family or friends is identified; other cities have a dotted line of us-versus-them.
We still have a ways to go in building connections across offices, peoples, and neighbourhoods, but we already started the journey, and I look forward to travelling with you.