Supporting students in a time of uncertainty

Covid-19 has presented a unique set of challenges to graduate students in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies.

“This is a difficult time for all of us, and we need to pay special attention to our graduate students,” says Greg Garrard, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies. ”We are working to ensure they feel supported both mentally and financially.”

FCCS has been working to ensure the graduate students in their programs have the necessary supports they need during this time, and has provided funding in the form of research assistantships.  The RA student assistance is going to students across the IGS, MFA and MA programs, with particular emphasis on supporting international students.

“We see it as a win-win: we’re helping faculty colleagues complete writing projects while they’re house-bound, and helping tide students over during the summer months,” notes Garrard.

FCCS is also providing three international students experiencing severe financial challenges with subsidized summer accommodation at the Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre, a heritage home managed by the Faculty.

Each year the Faculty also funds three research awards for undergraduate students to conduct research over the summer month, two for domestic students, and one for an international student. This funding will allow these students to keep working on their projects over the summer. Find out more about this year’s recipients and their projects.

Many of our graduate students are still able to work on their research and are finding ways to stay connected with the supervisors and fellow students. To that end, Digital Arts & Humanities Theme coordinator Karis Shearer says: “I’m hearing from our grad students that it’s important to sustain community with their cohort and faculty mentors not just via online classes but also socially even if it’s virtual. This makes a lot of sense. The Digital Arts & Humanities Theme students and I meet online weekly; we share news and resources, do a check-in to see how everyone’s doing, and our meetings let me know if there are any concerns I can help with.”

However, this time is particularly a challenge for our MFA students who do not have access to their studio spaces, which has limits on the work that they can continue related to their studies.

A first year MFA student, Sam Neal explains that he is worried about the progress of work now that studios are no longer accessible.

“Being an artist working out in the land is going to be tough to navigate but I will plan accordingly and make the best possible work out of a bad situation,” says Neal. “Although I have an RA position I am still figuring out how student fees are going to be affordable as an international student during this situation.”

Rina Garcia Chua, a current PhD student in FCCS explains that many of our students have families to care for, and may be sole breadwinners or primary caretakers, and that many of her fellow students are thankful for the financial support they will received for the first few months of the summer.

“I think one of the key things I’ve always maintained as I was thrust into the advocacy was that FCCS has been extremely supportive all throughout and have been leading the way to advocate for graduate students,” says Garcia Chua.

Garcia Chua also notes her concerns about the financial implications that students are facing having to continue to pay tuition.

“If we have to pay summer tuition, I think that will still be a significant financial dent during a time when that should be the least of our worries,” she notes.

FCCS was able to pledge funds to support graduate students who could not find work on or off campus over the first two months of summer to help alleviate some of their financial strain.

“To date, there have been 26 research assistant positions to our students, and as there is need, the Faculty will work to accommodate more students,” says Garrard.

UBC Okanagan is working towards having support for students with an emergency bursary fund to provides temporary financial relief to students experiencing financial distress during this time. Find out more about the A.W. Hunt, QC Student Emergency Assistance Fund.

The federal government also just announced their $9 billion student aid package to assist people who are unable to find work throughout the summer months.