Crafting Connections in a Landscape of Uncertainty
As our world continues to respond to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, our campus communities are continually adapting and transforming to stay connected. These are unprecedented times that have emphasized the nuanced mental health needs of our diverse populations. Despite these challenges, the continual creativity and dedication of our campus communities demonstrate that times of uncertainty can lead to the most innovative solutions to complex issues. This year’s theme, Crafting Connections in a Landscape of Uncertainty, challenges all of us to reflect on and potentially redefine our relationship with our current environment. More specifically, this theme encourages us to embrace feelings of uncertainty through connection, openness and shared accountability. Through this lens, we will be exploring topics that embrace a whole campus approach – bringing together student service professionals, teaching staff, students, campus mental health champions, and community mental health organizations.
To facilitate this discussion, we will be exploring the following five themes:
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
There is a growing movement for institutional leadership and campus frameworks to implement equity, diversity and inclusion-related policy to ensure equitable access to services and programming on campus. Province-wide, there has been a focus on understanding the unique needs of students based on the various intersections of their identity such as culture, race, religion, sexual orientation, and physical or mental health disability, which have resulted in experiences of marginalization. Presentations in this stream will address: equity-driven programming, the social determinants of health and student-driven programming.
Navigating the Virtual World
Presentations in this stream will focus on successes, challenges and lessons learned from the rapid shift of campus mental health services to the virtual world. As we continue to craft more proactive virtual environments as part of the campus experience, the following areas have come into focus: efficiently navigating the virtual campus experience (both for students, faculty and staff), promoting health and wellness virtually, special considerations for our international student population, creating and engaging students in a safe virtual classroom.
Indigenous Student Engagement and Wellness
Presentations in this stream will centre around Indigenous world views grounded in holistic understandings and the value of interrelatedness as a model for wellness and engagement of Indigenous student populations. Areas of focus may include: embracing Indigenous worldviews in campus and learning environments, Indigenous pedagogy and educational interconnections.
Facilitating connection and belonging among students is vital to counter the increasing experiences of isolation and loneliness in the virtual world. The recent shift away from being physically on campus has highlighted a need to devise innovative strategies to allow students to engage with their institution and their peers in a meaningful way. Presentations in this stream will centre around innovative initiatives that: create meaningful programming outside of the classroom environment for students; utilize peer-to-peer models to create meaningful relationships among students, emphasize communal spaces for students to address mental health and wellness topics.
Substance Use and Harm Reduction
There has been an increase in substance-related harms throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Presentations in this stream will focus on the use and misuse of drugs, alcohol and other substances by our student populations. Topics will include: trends and patterns in student substance use during the pandemic, harm reduction programming on campus and strategies for reducing substance-related harms.