Editor’s Note: It’s the start of a new school year and we wanted to share with you Head Craig Davis’ welcome message to students and the entire campus community.

A warm welcome to the start of our 2021-2022 academic year. Welcome to our campus on the unceded territory of the Sc’ianew First Nation. I hope faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of Pearson enjoyed the northern hemisphere summer during July and August and that everyone found time to explore the outdoors.

I want to extend an especially warm welcome to our six new employees who have joined us from May this year. Melody Miu has arrived from Li Po Chun United World College in Hong Kong as our new Director of Admissions. Michelle Moon has travelled from New York via a stopover in South Korea to join our Maths and TOK (Theory of Knowledge) team as a new Faculty member. Claudia Eguiguren is currently working remotely from a base in Mexico supporting the finance team but will join us in person soon. Annice de Champlain will be covering Aziz Faty’s French classes for a year whilst he takes a sabbatical and Dawn Boshcoff is our new Host Family, Volunteer and Student Transportation Coordinator. Finally, we are delighted to have secured the services of Dr. Marisa Collins (MD) to support our Campus Health Centre, a tremendous addition to the team that can provide even more effective support for our community’s physical and mental health needs.

The summer at Pearson has been very busy with our first-ever “Pearson Experiences” Outdoor Leadership Day Camps that welcomed hundreds of 6-to-14-year-olds to campus. Our student camp leaders have been outstanding under the leadership of Anglela Gatari and her team, providing a great experience for the children who attended and helping to increase awareness of Pearson across Greater Victoria and beyond.

We were able to deliver this experience safely alongside the considerable campus facilities upgrading that has been ongoing since late May. Our newly named STOKI House has been fully refurbished, and the replacement roofing work has been completed for the Max Bell Theatre and the Ondaatje Building. Considerable work at Race Rocks has also continued apace as well as on our campus seafront.

We have also been slowly returning soft furniture to spaces and adapting our campus to a likely return to more “normal” operations from September onwards. However, as I am sure everyone can appreciate, the COVID-19 situation remains in flux so we will monitor and adapt according to Provincial Health Officer, Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training and WorkSafeBC guidelines.

As many of you know, we have sent many updates to all students, families and employees on our Covid-19 operating guidelines and we will continue to inform our community as changes occur. In referencing communications and outreach, I also wish to draw your attention to the publication of our informative Impact Report which has been received and can be accessed via our website.

Much has been happening during the months of July and August to help prepare our campus for our 200+ Year 47 and 48 students. I want to thank everyone for their continued work and attention to this during a time when many others were able to enjoy extended periods of leave.

If you remember this time last year when we gathered and connected, we focused on the theme of “community, support and survival.” With the huge challenges that were facing us we emphasised “care and connection,” particularly given the isolation of working from home for many employees, of being disconnected from students and the campus and the amplification of stresses that we have all experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I would like to extend this theme for the 2021-2022 academic year but with a shift in emphasis towards working together, collaboratively and supportively. Hopefully, as we transition into a more normal operational footing and we move into a late October reality of having nearly all of our entire community fully vaccinated, we can focus on rebuilding our “face-to-face” community. Our wish is to recreate the magic of a Pearson College UWC experience founded on really getting to know each other — students with all adults, especially in areas cut off last year (administration, cafeteria, etc.), staff with faculty, residents with non-residents and many other combinations that were denied or extremely circumscribed last year. Rebuilding our community from the foundation up is a process that will require engagement from everyone across the campus.

In a conversation with students earlier in the month, Galy (YR 47) made a wonderful and detailed point about students who arrived at different times last year and were unable to access administrative staff or get to know adults other than their teachers or Houseparents — how for her this was a shock given her sense of a UWC experience being grounded in conversations with all adults and getting to really know each other, fully and deeply. In a sense, this was a fleshing out of Lester B Pearson’s vision of minimising conflict through the simple but often overlooked need to spend quality time, energy and effort ensuring you know everyone so that you can build strong and, in many cases, enduring relationships. As the saying goes, it is harder to hate up close.

To extend this theme, we have focused on one of our College community’s Essential Agreements which encourages individuals to assume positive intent and to ask for trust in each other. This of course is not a request to follow an unquestioning positive mindset in all areas of Pearson life as critical enquiry is a core component of our UWC values. However, what assuming positive intent does signal is a more reflective and supportive mindset as the default position for an organisation. As the linked article suggests the opposite of assuming positive intent is the adrenaline driven ‘deficit model reaction’ that often hijack emotive first responses. A vital part of this is ignoring social media or casual gossip that reacts before facts are established or importantly, before we consult with key individuals who are best placed to know the details and can explain situations more fully.

So what was once considered the “fight and flight” response has now been replaced by the “snipe and type”’ response which, despite the humour, can be equally damaging, energy draining and toxic in terms of individual and organisational culture. Of course, “assuming positive intent’ is just one of our Essential Agreements which must be considered holistically together with the other statements in order to fully appreciate the impact. Communicating clearly, transparently and responsively is crucial in order to create the trusting cultures needed for the assumption of positive intent which is why we are developing our website and other online resources to include new landing pages for parents, families and students to access on-demand information that reflects our renewed focus on mental health, wellbeing, student support, training, counselling resources and diversity, equity and inclusion priorities. This is all occurring within our new College Assembly model of student-adult decision-making partnerships in every area of college life — a structure that will be one of many aspects of the College that will be evaluated this academic year by our quality assurance partner the Council of International Schools. Pearson is a standing member of the CIS, a worldwide community committed to high quality international education. Every five years, CIS representatives conduct a thorough review of our education offerings and operations before our membership can be officially renewed.

So, let’s commit to assuming positive intent, for reaching collective solutions, for sharing responsibility, for communicating more effectively — something should strive to improve — for building healthy relationships, offering support, advice, insights and most importantly, getting to know each other.

I am very optimistic about this year, about the amazing work we have planned for our new five-year strategic aims and the biggest positive, the relatively smooth arrival (compared to last year of course!) of our 200+ students from 83 countries and six continents in the coming days and weeks.

Craig Davis
President and Head of College