Finding connection in times of adversity

December 03, 2020

In mid-November, I had the honour of hosting a panel on mental health in times of adversity.

I was joined at the SFU Alumni event by social scientist Dr. Yabome Gilpin-Jackson, Coast Mental Health CEO Darrell Burnham and psychologist Dr. Joti Samra (all brilliant SFU alumni). The conversation drew more than 400 people – alumni, staff, faculty and community members.

What this tells me is that we’re all struggling and looking for support. This concerns me. I care deeply about this community, and I worry about the impact of the pandemic on all of us. But it also gives me hope. In times of adversity our community looks to one another for support and connection. That’s who we are, and that’s how we’ll get through this.

In November, many of us recognized Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas, celebrating community connection, and the triumph of light over darkness.

That spirit of community and belief in the transformative power of education was also reflected in former SFU soccer star Frode Strand-Nielsen’s generous donation. His recent $1-million gift to the women’s soccer program will help SFU athletes succeed on and off the field.

I spent most of my time this month in conversations with our community. I enjoy connecting in small group settings – even over Zoom. I love seeing your faces, listening to your priorities and concerns, and answering your questions.

Many of you have taken time to share feedback on my commitments to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Thank you for reaching out. Your notes and comments have meant so much to me and I’m honoured to see this show of support as we take this journey together.

I was particularly moved to hear from several graduate students who reached out via their professor to let me know that as queer scholars in academia, they felt supported by hearing my story. This means so much to me, and it’s a big part of why I share it. I encourage you to tell your own story if you can, in places where you feel comfortable. You never know who you will inspire and encourage.

I look forward to connecting with many of you in the days ahead. Please take care of yourselves and support each other. Reach out and stay connected with friends, family and loved ones.

SFU is a remarkable, caring community and together we’ll get through this.