VC update to alumni on COVID-19

24 Apr, 2020

Kia ora koutou

I hope this message finds you well and safe, wherever in the world you are reading this.

These are extraordinary times. The past few weeks have been among the most challenging in our nation's – and the world’s – history. We acknowledge our alumni, colleagues, friends and families around the world who have lost loved ones and who are worried about the health of friends and family. We know there are few of us untouched by this pandemic.

Here in New Zealand, as we near the end of our fourth week of lockdown, I wanted to let you – our alumni community – know about how the University is responding to these extraordinary circumstances.

AUT is committed to giving students the opportunity to achieve their educational goals this year; and to looking after our staff in this period of uncertainty.

We also have an important role to play in the wider community, positively contributing to the wider COVID-19 work, locally, nationally and internationally. At AUT, people across the University are doing extraordinary work to make sure we can deliver a quality learning experience to our students, regardless of the COVID-19 alert level.

As part of our response we’ve been focusing on the University’s new approach to learning, while ensuring as little disruption to our students’ learning as possible. We have specific teams looking at all aspects of remote learning, including some of the more challenging components such as support for students who don’t have devices or good internet access during New Zealand’s lockdown, and delivery of the practical components of papers.

As a member of our alumni community, you won’t be surprised to know that the University’s staff have adapted to these extraordinary circumstances to collaborate from their homes, channelling their passion and creativity to help the University adapt quickly.

While a lot of our focus has understandably been on teaching and learning, much else has been happening. The AUT community is actively contributing to the COVID-19 response:

  • We’ve provided District Health Boards with respirators and chemicals required for COVID-19-related activities.
  • A number of students, including paramedics and occupational therapists, have been employed to boost numbers in health services, eg National Telehealth Service and ambulance services.
  • Our radio astronomy centre at Warkworth is still operating at the request of NASA to continue to participate in the regular calibration of worldwide GPS – essential for emergency services during the COVID-19 crisis, as at any other time.
  • A staff member is working with the Australian government on an app-based COVID-19 tracking system, and may also work with our government on the same thing. The effect of the app would be to ultimately speed up emergence from shutdown.
  • The Waitemata District Health Board is using a part of the AUT Integrated Health facility for a COVID-19 testing station.

As we all adapt to this strange new world, I am encouraged that the characteristics we value at AUT – like curiosity, creativity, an openness and enthusiasm to collaborate and co-operate, and to think and behave with a sense of community – and that we nurture in all our students; those are the very characteristics we need now more than ever.

I hope you and your whānau remain well.

Ngā mihi nui

Derek McCormack
AUT Vice-Chancellor

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