VIU Campus

February Blog Post

Dr. Deb Saucier, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor, at Convocation
Author: Dr. Deb. Saucier

We are about halfway through winter, and so far this month we have experienced snow, fog, rain and blinding sun. And yet signs of spring are everywhere. I see crocuses popping up, Canada geese flying overhead and there are buds on the trees. The air is softer, the sun is coming up a bit earlier every day and if March is the month that roars in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, I can hardly imagine what lies ahead.

 

Three things

Thing 1

January ended with three convocation ceremonies. These were my first at VIU, and they were absolutely lovely. I enjoyed getting to see how excited our students were and how wonderful everyone was with them. It really is a special event, even though the Registrar wouldn’t let me touch the inside of the bentcorner box (I guess I’ll have to get a degree from VIU!). I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who took part in them, and to those who worked hard to make them seamless. You really are the best folks to work with.

Thing 2

Birds. I am absolutely fascinated by birds and their behaviour. We recently installed a bird feeder at our house, and I could spend hours watching the birds and how they interact. I also love the different species of birds that we have on the island compared to what we had in Alberta. My feeder is visited by five or six different species all winter, including a small gang of chickadees that kind of act like the bird mafia, policing who gets the best seeds and who gets to access which parts of the feeder. We also have a group of stellar jays (what headgear!) that enjoy taunting our cats, and a few cautious hummingbirds. 

Birds are capable of complex cognition, rapidly adapting to situations and environments. Many corvid species are adept at using tools to solve problems. Hummingbirds are able to predict where food will appear following either an arithmetic or geometric progression. Many avian species shrink and regrow parts of their brains, related to mating season and the need to sing.  And others learn to follow the stars, magnetic fields or odour gradients to wayfind. Not bad for a group that has been traditionally thought of as less complex than mammals. And those chickadees at your feeder? They are likely taking sunflower seeds and hiding them all over your yard to retrieve later, evidence of very complex spatial memory processes.

Thing 3

I am taking time this month to practice gratitude. Sometimes I get into a funk where I spend too much time thinking about what I/we don’t have or what problems need solving that are beyond my ability to solve. I confess to spending too much time watching the news. So, this month I am going to take a news diet, focus on the positive, read books that make me happy and watch shows that make me laugh. We live in a spectacularly beautiful place and I am so fortunate to have such meaningful work. I am so very lucky to have such a loving and supportive family and such great colleagues. Thank you, world! 

 

In my briefcase

This is what I am reading this month. Given that February is a month where we move into finalizing the university budget and that I will be meeting with the Board, perhaps it is no surprise that much of my reading this month deals with these topics.

  1. Margaret Barr: Budgets and Financial Management in Higher Education: Call me weird for a neuroscientist, but I like to read books on budgeting, and this one is a good resource for me. It uses plain language, and the case studies in it are useful in illustrating common budgeting issues in higher education. It also took me down a rabbit hole of comparing Baumol and Bowen’s theories about the cost of higher education. I started to write an explanation of these two theories, but I am not anywhere close to being an expert in economic theory. Regardless, this is a good read for those interested in how universities budget and for pointing out what the consequences can be for those who put off hard decisions.
  2. Terrence McTaggart: Leading Change. How Boards and Presidents Build Exceptional Academic Institutions: I am always reading books that speak to transformational change, whether personal or institutional. This book examines 18 case studies that illustrate how boards and presidents can work together to make their institutions more resilient and sustainable in changing times. I really liked the topics for discussion and learned from how others have engaged in self-evaluation to become a better leader.
  3. Andre Alexis: Fifteen Dogs: This is the second time I’ve read this book, and it is even better the second time.  The book looks at the consequence of a bet between Hermes and Apollo that results in 15 dogs in Toronto being given human consciousness.  If you want to ugly cry about love and dogs, this is your book.

 

Podcasts that keep me company

This is what I’m listening to this month:

  1. The Current. Matt Galloway is the new host of The Current, a weekday morning show on CBC Radio 1. The podcast is a replay of the day’s segments that discuss current events, culture and other items of interest to Canadians. 
  2. Someone Knows Something (season 1). What an interesting podcast! Another CBC production, David Ridgen investigates the disappearance of five-year-old Adrian McNaughton, who went missing while on a fishing trip with his father and siblings in 1972. I’m only halfway through the podcast, but the podcast is both a retrospective into a cold case and a view into how unresolved trauma affects families years into the future. I hope that this podcast ends with resolution for the McNaughtons.
  3. The Economist. I often feel guilty about how far behind I am in my reading, which is why I was delighted to find out that many articles in the Economist have an audio format (when you subscribe to digital content). Although this might not technically qualify as a podcast, it occupies the same place on my phone and in my ears.

 

February’s playlist

The OMG! Weather! mix. Here are some songs that reflect our weather this month.

*Note: I bet you thought I was going to go with a Valentine’s Day theme.

  1. Raindrops keep falling on my head: B.J. Thomas
  2. It’s raining men: The Weather Girls
  3. A hard rain’s gonna fall: Bob Dylan
  4. Ain’t no sunshine: Bill Withers
  5. Blame it on the rain: Milli Vanilli
  6. Snowbird: Anne Murray
  7. Cold: Maroon 5
  8. Early morning rain: Gordon Lightfoot
  9. Here comes the rain again: Eurythmics
  10. Here comes the sun: The Beatles

Bonus track: Sweater Weather: The Neighbourhood

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