Adapting to a new normal with creativity and innovation

Dandelion seeds

Message sent to all students, faculty and staff on May 28, 2020.

Members of the OCAD University community – students, alumni, faculty and staff – have shown tremendous resilience, responsiveness and imagination amid the ongoing change and uncertainty created by COVID-19.

This week, OCAD University launched a summer seminar series that is available for free to students, faculty, staff and the general public. Inside Art and Design: Summer Seminar Series explores how art and design impacts our lives by showcasing the research and creativity of many of our professors.

Recent graduates of OCAD U’s Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation are collaborating on a mail-art project called Pandemic Post: Retrofuturist Mail Art. They are creating and mailing small works of art to family members, friends and others who may be vulnerable during their self-isolation; a welcome reprieve from the daily virtual reality.

Our faculty members are being called upon to be flexible and innovative in designing and developing their courses to adapt to the new normal of remote delivery – not only for the spring and summer but for the fall semester. I encourage you to read how two professors have used creativity in making this transition: Jessica Mace and Julius Manapul.

As OCAD University develops its plans for re-opening, we will need to remain collaborative and responsive while ensuring that the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff remain a top priority. This work is being led by the Re-opening Working Group and is chaired by Alan Simms, VP, Finance and Administration. This is an advisory group to the Management of COVID-19 Response Team, which includes members of the Executive Team (Tanya Bowes, Carole Beaulieu, Deanne Fisher, Caroline Langill, Robert Luke, Alan Simms and myself).

Members of the Re-opening Working Group include: Connie Arezes-Reis (HR), Maya Desai (Faculty of Design), Joanne Frisch (Campus Planning and Projects), Nick Hooper (Facilities and Studios), Karen McCarthy (Communications), Yinnie Ng-Klee (Office of the VP, Finance and Administration), Jennifer Robinson (Student Wellness), and Louis Toromoreno (Safety and Security Services).

Supporting our students during these extraordinary times is important to OCAD University. That is why we are creating a Mental Health Working Group to develop initiatives that will raise awareness, address needs for outreach, and improve access to programs and services for students who may be affected by the pandemic.

Working group members will include students, staff and faculty who have an interest in contributing ideas and time to this important issue. If you are interested in participating in this initiative, please email Jennifer Robinson at before Wednesday, June 3 at noon.

Faculty and staff can access support and counselling from OCAD U’s Employee Assistance Program offered through LifeWorks. This is a free, confidential assessment and referral service available to all employees (24 hours a day, seven days a week). Additional resources and support are available from BounceBackWellness Together Canada and on the HR Info page.

As you go about your day and take advantage of this wonderful weather, I encourage you to continue to practice social distancing and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and others. We are in this together and we all play a part in reducing the spread of COVID-19 within our communities.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Warm regards,

Dr. Sara Diamond, C.M., O.ON., R.C.A., ICD.D
President and Vice-Chancellor
OCAD University


Photo by Aleksandr Ledogorov.