The social impact of Arts

Message from the Dean

Sheila AgerMarch is the beginning of spring, but last year it was also the beginning of a whole new way of life for us all.

There has been a lot of water under the virtual bridge these past 12 months, even though in some respects many of us are exactly where we were all those months ago. I know I feel as though I have experienced the last year as if it was a video outside my study window. But I also know that for many people this year has brought about profound changes and challenges: economic, health, personal relationships, social interactions, and the order of our lives in general have all felt the effects of the pandemic.

This issue of Arts & Letters addresses some of the changes wrought by the pandemic, but it also speaks more broadly to personal and social issues that are ever-present.

We feature Q&A sessions with our 2020 alumni award recipients: Tara Hebblethwaite (BA ’13), our Young Alumni Award winner, and Paul Born (BA ’87), this year’s winner of the Alumni Achievement Award. Paul’s career has been dedicated to fighting poverty, supporting community, and establishing mechanisms to provide assistance and support to the less privileged members of our society, while Tara has built on her personal struggles with mental illness to become a mental health advocate and a consultant working to help barriered youth become skilled and employable. I don’t think it’s in any way an exaggeration to say that both of them are shining examples of the contributions our Arts alumni have made to the betterment of life for all.

I’m also very pleased to share recent stories and initiatives that speak to the social impact of Arts researchers and students. This includes a new postdoctoral program made possible by a generous gift from the Lupina Foundation that will advance research into the social determinants of health. We announce our Co-op for Social Good program along with co-op stories that are a testimony to how Arts students contribute to any organization from tech to not-for-profit. All in all, this is an issue about the impact of Arts people, and I think that shows just how significant this Faculty is in the mission of the University of Waterloo.

Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I left off without a bit of a frivolous tagline. So for those of you who’ve been thinking about what to do to liven up the home life – yes, alas, I suspect we still have a bit of time left in this mode – here are some suggestions.