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Top 10 OCAD U events in 2020

OCAD U supported a local hospital by printing face shields

Photo above: OCAD U printed and delivered more than 1,500 face shields to the Michael Garron Hospital.

Looking back at 2020, it’s a year that’s been surreal, unprecedented and disruptive. In March, with the global pandemic in full swing in Toronto, OCAD U closed its physical facilities while faculty and staff pivoted to deliver curriculum and services remotely while working from home. This transition represented a tremendous amount of collaborative effort and commitment by faculty and staff throughout 2020.

As you will see from the list of the top 10 events we have compiled, there was cause for celebration in 2020 despite COVID-19. We’ve presented these major events in chronological order, and read our more in-depth story, OCAD U looks back at 2020. 

Celebrating the transformation of the Fabrication Centre

OCAD U celebrated the official opening of the newly renovated Fabrication Centre in late February – one of the last in-person events to be held on campus. The transformation of this centre has expanded and enhanced the University’s studio-based learning environments. There are four main studios: wood, metal, plastics and rapid prototyping with students having access to cutting-edge technology such as a new water-jet cutter that allows for computer-controlled cutting of metals, ceramics, stone and silicones.

OCAD U responds to COVID-19

When news of COVID-19 first emerged, OCAD U began to monitor the situation, maintaining close communication with public health authorities. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a global health crisis. Then on March 13, the University announced it was suspending all face-to-face academic and research activities, as well as physical access to studios, laboratories and libraries – a decision made to protect the health and safety of all students, faculty and staff.

As 2020 unfolded, the University put in place mechanisms to monitor, and respond to, the evolving situation and as a result, has continued to extend the closure of its physical facilities and the work-from-home program. A Gradual Opening Strategy was developed and released in the summer, which outlined health and safety protocols that are currently in place as well as a process to respond to one-time and special access requests to access campus facilities.

The pandemic also meant that faculty had to reimagine their courses for remote delivery, first so students could complete the winter term, and then for the spring/summer and fall terms. The Academic Emergency Response Committee of Senate worked in close collaboration with academic leaders and support teams on plans for the fall term to provide students with an exceptional experience and high-quality education while ensuring the safety and health of all the members of the community.

A wide range of workshops, guidelines, supports and resources were also developed and offered by the Faculty & Curriculum Development Centre (FCDC) and IT Services, in collaboration with Student Accessibility Services, the Library, and the Writing & Learning Centre to support faculty members in reimagining their fall courses for remote delivery.

To help strengthen the local response to COVID-19, OCAD U contributed its expertise to a number of important initiatives, including boosting the local supply of protective face shields and responded to the need among medical centres for clear, concise and accurate public information about COVID-19 through the COVID-19 Printable Project.

Five new permanent faculty hired under Black Cluster Hire initiative

On June 2, 2020, OCAD U announced that the Faculty of Design hired five new tenure-track faculty members who self-identify as Black peoples of African Descent (including Africans and African heritage people from the Caribbean, North America and Latin America). This hiring is part of the University’s commitment to implementing the Academic Plan, which articulates a commitment to decolonization, diversity, and equity. On August 1, Angela Bains, Kestin Cornwall, Kathy Moscou and Michael Lee Poy joined OCAD U while Marton Robinson is slated to join in July 2021.

The University’s announcement came at the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement as people across Canada, the United States, and around the world participated in protests over the death of African-American George Floyd while being arrested by police. OCAD U issued a statement about anti-Black racism, reaffirming the University’s commitment to addressing all forms of racism.

In celebration of the Black Cluster hire, the theme of this year’s academic year welcome keynote address was Black Futures, featuring new faculty members Angela Bains, Kestin Cornwall, Kathy Moscou, and Michael Lee Poy. They spoke about Black futures at OCAD U and beyond, each sharing what it means to orient oneself to Place, bringing their perspectives to the University community and our work as educators. The keynote presentation was complemented with an I-BPOC panel discussion Future Ancestors and Future Learning  the following day.

 Virtual convocation – a first!

OCAD University’s held its first virtualconvocation on June 12, which included honouring four honorary doctorate recipients: The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Métis visual artist and curator Jim Logan, award-winning video director Julien Christian Lutz (known as Director X) and internationally recognized surgeon and OCAD U alumnus, Dr. John Semple.

The ceremony also honoured graduating students with the university’s top accolade ̶ the OCAD U medal. The ceremony also included the presentation of the Governor General Silver Academic Medal to Rebecca Wilkinson, Bachelor of Design, Graphic Design and the Governor General Gold Academic Medal to Craig Rodmore, Master of Design, Interdisciplinary Art, Media & Design.

OCAD U officially granted full degree-granting authority

One of OCAD U’s most important milestones in 2020 occurred in June, when the University officially gained full degree-granting authority. This landmark achievement allows OCAD U to confer degrees, including honorary degrees (in addition to certificates and diplomas) in any and all branches of learning in the fields of art and design. Now a university in the full sense of the term, we can better support Ontario students for the jobs of tomorrow, and compete as an academic institution on the world stage.

Changes in senior leadership as OCAD U moves forward

Dr. Sara Diamond led the institution through remarkable change and transformation during her 15-year tenure as president and vice-chancellor, which came to an end on June 30 when she stepped down from this role to become President Emerita.

While retaining OCAD U’s traditional strengths in art and design, she guided the University to become a leader in graduate education, research and digital media. She has also led collaborative efforts to strengthen equity and diversity and to support Indigenous cultures, research and decolonization.

On July 1, innovator and global visionary leader in digital media Ana Serrano joined OCAD U to assume her new role as president and vice-chancellor. The recipient of the Digital Media Trailblazing Award at the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards, Serrano has more than 20 years of experience building award-winning digital products, securing public and private sector investment, creating strategic alliances and starting new ventures.

When talking about what led her to her new role, Serrano said: “My entire career has focused on serving creators – from facilitating the development of their creative practice, to building programmatic infrastructure to turning their practice into sustainable careers and businesses. I think the prospect of being able to take my skills, experience and networks to serve OCAD U and a more expansive community of artists, designers, strategists, curators, writers, thinkers and critics really appealed to me.”

OCAD U also welcomed Stephen Foster as Dean of the Faculty of Art in early in 2020 followed by Sarita Srivastava as Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Interdisciplinary Studies and Tony White as the University Librarian in the fall. Ashok Mathur, Dean of Graduate Studies, took on the new role as interim vice-president of Research and Innovation.

Virtual orientation – another first!

The University delivered its first-ever virtual Orientation & Welcome program to the largest incoming first-year undergraduate class. More than 1,100 students participated in workshops on remote learning while 400 students participated in the Student Union Art Workshop series. Other workshops – all delivered online – included academic essentials for first-year students plus a virtual tour of the Indigenous Student Centre. More than 150 students signed up for COMPASS, a workshop designed to help new students navigate through their first year at OCAD U.

To help new students transition to the online learning environment, Admissions & Recruitment developed a new course, Learn and Create: An Introduction to Art & Design. The Office of International Student Support also held its first virtual international student welcome where students were introduced to campus support services and learned about visa requirements, health care in Ontario and much more. 

OCAD U Gala: A Virtual Happening

Initially OCAD U was planning an in-person gala in November but with COVID-19, the University had to reimagine this event. So, on November 22, OCAD U held its very first virtual gala with more than 300 guests. The OCAD U Gala: A Virtual Happening featured fabulous musical performances, a tribute to President Emerita Dr. Sara Diamond with the announcement of the new Dr. Sara Diamond Scholarship Fund, an online auction, and a lot of fun – and raised more than $460,000 to support OCAD U students.

GradEx 105 goes virtual!

GradEx is normally a five-day in-person annual event held in May that attracts more than 45,000 people to the OCAD U campus. It’s the city’s largest free art and design exhibition that showcases the talent and creativity of the University’s graduating class.

But with a global pandemic, the University had to re-think this year’s in-person exhibition and created a task force to explore how best to celebrate the work of the graduating class of 2020. GradEx 105 now offers three new platforms: an online exhibition that went live on December 15; videos on OCAD U LiVE, the University’s 24/7 video channel; and outdoor public activations/projections scheduled for February (these were moved to 2021 because of the current lockdown in Toronto).

Fourth Canada Research Chair for OCAD U

On December 16, the official announcement was issued naming Dr. Andrea Fatona, associate professor in the Faculty of Art as a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Canadian Black Diasporic Cultural Production at OCAD U. She has been working for years to rectify the absence of Black visual art from “official records”— art critics’ reviews, art archives and other avenues of representation. Her research program will make visible and provide access to the works of contemporary Black artists, craftspeople, curators, and critics in Canada who have been historically erased from the imaginary of Canadian visual culture.