Message from the president: the role of art in a time of resilience and transformation

Transformation is a constant element of most aspects of life. The past month has shown that no matter how much we accommodate change, the only change we can truly influence is that which is yet to happen. That’s when transformation truly begins, and we are quickly entering that heady space.

A tumultuous Winter 2020 Semester is past, and with it the successes and frustrations of the unprecedented roller coaster of teaching and learning (and making art, design and craft) in the middle of a pandemic. To the graduating students who have completed their education unlike any other class in NSCAD’s history, I speak on behalf of all faculty and staff to congratulate you on your accomplishments and this important milestone. I also share everyone’s disappointment that we can’t have our traditional celebrations as a community, especially given that this would have been my first convocation at NSCAD. I sincerely look forward to that special celebration later this fall.

Dr. Aoife Mac Namara, President of NSCAD University.

While it looks a lot different than any of us would have imagined, let this be a time of joy and gratitude no matter where you may be. In these sobering times, as people cope with isolation by engaging culture, it’s clear that more than ever that the world needs art, and it needs you to keep shining a light on its contributions to our collective wellness.

To all the students, faculty and staff who showed incredible resilience in the direst circumstances to successfully reach the end of the semester, your commitment and adaptability are part of the legacy we leave for future students to learn during their own trials.

This legacy will also be shaped by launching our Summer 2020 registration, which is set to open within the coming weeks. The summer courses will be a subset of the offerings that would have occurred under normal circumstances. These offerings will feature well-planned, online learning experiences that are meaningfully different from the more than 200 ‘emergency remote teaching’ courses that instructors turned around in 48 hours so they could keep us going through the pandemic’s sudden and total disruption.

I am very proud of the hard work everyone is now putting into developing a slate of summer offerings, that are being professionally designed by a team of instructional designers and digital learning specialists, that will provide students with a dynamic and highly interactive learning experience.

At this time, it’s uncertain when we’ll know what potential impacts the pandemic and ongoing social distancing may present to our fall course schedule. It’s hard to imagine that public health directives will allow a full return to large gatherings in confined spaces, and most opinions among key influencers agree that post-secondary education will be among the last sectors to return to anything that resembles the normal we knew when this year started.

The senior leadership team will be working on planning scenarios for the Fall 2020 semester and will engage key stakeholders on campus, throughout our university community across Canada, and within federal and provincial agencies to inform and shape future decisions. These plans are the first steps towards the transformational change necessary for a post-COVID-19 world of smaller and less frequent gatherings, and adjustments to studio, workshop, and office operations. NSCAD has been shaping art, design and the creative economy for over 130 years, and now is the time to let that storied culture help shape our future success through creative adaptation.

Whether we realize it or not, what we are doing together now is creating a new NSCAD. Together we are building a NSCAD that is stronger, more dynamic, more inclusive, and more responsive to the world we live in.

Protecting your health and safety is our priority at all times, and will remain so as we gradually return to campus throughout the year. Please continue to check your email and NSCAD’s COVID-19 web page for the latest information on how NSCAD is responding to the current and evolving implications from the pandemic.

Thank you, please stay home, stay safe and look after each other.


Dr. Aoife Mac Namara

President, NSCAD University