“Join us online”

You see those words on the front cover of this issue of Degrees magazine but what do they mean?

After 33 years, we have decided to move away from the printed version of Degrees magazine. We will now tell the remarkable stories of our University of Regina alumni community via the website and social media.

The University’s commitment to sustainability is certainly a key factor in our decision. By eliminating the printed version, we will significantly reduce our carbon footprint.

Printing Degrees magazine required us to use about 6,000 kilograms of paper each year. Each time we published, approximately 40,000 copies had to be shipped from the printer to Canada Post for mailing. Those that were not mailed were transported some 2,700 kilometres by truck to the University. That is not in keeping with our University-wide commitment to sustainability.

The transition allows us to concentrate on our online presence. It means we will be able to bring you all the informative and engaging stories you’ve come to expect from Degrees and we’ll be able to bring them to you more often, and with value-added visual content such as video or photo galleries.

We are excited by the prospect of bringing you enriched content.

While we may no longer be printing the magazine we will continue to bring you stories and shine a brief spotlight on people in our U of R community  who, in their own ways, are making the world a better place every day.

The website, www.degreesmagazine.ca, is now the place to go for the extraordinary stories of the alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends who make up our University community.

You can be sure to be notified of the most recent Degrees website updates if you’ve shared your primary email address with us.

If you haven’t already done so, go to https://alumni.uregina.ca/degrees-subscribe and submit your email address. Or scan the QR Code that appears below. Submitting your email address will ensure you don’t miss any of these great stories.  One submission, selected at random, will win an Apple iPad.


QR code to subscribe


I would like to thank our readers for their loyalty through the years and their understanding as we change with the times. I look forward to sharing more stories through the Degrees website.

So “join us online” is more than just a new way to read these stories, it’s an invitation to be part of our University of Regina community that is now more than 80,000 strong and spans the globe.

Greg Campbell BFA'85, BJ'95

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COVID stalks us still, yet I'm in Belfast, Northern Ireland, getting ready to perform my play Sea Sick in front of a live audience. It's the first time in more than two years. And maybe because that feels so strange now, or maybe because I'm 5,232 kilometres from home during a pandemic, I feel philosophical. I'm asking myself why I keep doing this. Why don't I just stay home?

The play, which is based on 13 journeys I made with scientists over three years for my book Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis, is about how the carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels is changing the chemistry of the ocean. The ocean has become warm, breathless and sour from all that carbon.

That extra warmth is forcing marine creatures to move, breaking up their communities, shredding the ocean's web of life. The breathless zones that lack oxygen are afflicting more and more coastal waters, pushing life away or killing it.

The carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels is changing the chemistry of the ocean. The ocean has become warm, breathless and sour from all that carbon. The carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels is changing the chemistry of the ocean. The ocean has become warm, breathless and sour from all that carbon.

Increasing acidity, or sourness, is making it hard for marine life to use calcium in the water to make shells, bones, teeth, reefs. It makes fish stupid. They swim toward predators instead of away. It's particularly tough on young marine life; baby oysters and scallops are dying by the billions in the acid seas.

Together, these three chemical changes are a toxic cocktail. And they form a parallel to what happened during the biggest mass extinction in the planet's history: the Permian extinction of 252 million years ago when about 95 per cent of species were erased from the book of life.

Except today, we're putting carbon into the atmosphere about 100 times faster than the volcanoes that caused the Permian extinction, faster than at any other time in the planet's history.

It adds up to an assault on the world's life support systems. Even though we think of our planet as Earth, it could more properly be called Water. One scientist put it to me this way: if everything on land were to die tomorrow, everything in the ocean would be fine. But if everything in the ocean were to die, everything on land would die too. The ocean contains the switch of life.

The killing mechanism is carbon. Therefore, the saving grace is cutting carbon. As it turns out, I'm preparing to perform my play in Glasgow at the international climate talks on this tour, too. This is the annual Conference of the Parties (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), during which more than 100 nations haggle over how to cut carbon. They've been haggling for 26 years. Yet carbon concentrations in the atmosphere - and therefore changes to ocean chemistry - continue to rise to ever more dangerous levels. We're already seeing the effects around the world in storms, droughts, hurricanes and floods. During those 26 years of negotiations, carbon has become a mass murderer.

My musings here in this Belfast hotel room are leading me to think about how COVID and carbon connect. First, we learned some valuable lessons from COVID. As citizens, we can collectively suspend our wants and needs if we have a good enough reason. We can work together as a single species against a common foe. Governments can make new rules when the old ones don't work. This is the three-point blueprint for tackling carbon.

But the pandemic also showed us that, even when billions of us stayed home for months on end last year, carbon emissions only fell seven per cent. That means 93 per cent of emissions are tied to large systems our personal daily choices have little control over.

Even if we stripped all carbon out of our personal lives, the effect would only be symbolic, not numeric. The conundrum is that while we're all implicated in the tragedy of carbon, governments alone have the power to fix the systems that control it, such as shifting to non-carbon forms of electric generation and then electrifying more of the economy. How to move forward?

 Mitchell is all smiles in the submersible that took her to the bottom of the sea. Mitchell is all smiles in the submersible that took her to the bottom of the sea.

Which brings me back to the play. In 2013, a few years after the book Sea Sick came out, I gave a talk about it to a group of artists. One of them, Franco Boni, who was then the artistic director of the Theatre Centre in Toronto, called me later and asked me to turn the tales of my adventures into a play and to perform it. I agreed.

I had no idea what I was getting into.

I'm not an actor. I have no aspirations to be one. I'm a journalist. My one condition to Franco was that I wouldn't have to memorize a whole script. Not at all, he said. You'll just be on stage telling your stories.

Franco asked Ravi Jain, artistic director of Why Not Theatre in Toronto, to help. We taped a raft of public talks I gave over the next several months and then parsed them, trying to figure out which of the stories would work best in a play. And we talked. Franco and Ravi asked me questions. Why are you a journalist? What are journalists supposed to do? What's their code of conduct? How do you report on science? How does carbon affect the ocean? How do you know for sure? I consider it some of the finest psychotherapy I've ever had.

As I talked, I would often leap up from the table and draw diagrams or write numbers on a blackboard that happened to be stored in our rehearsal room. You can't understand THIS part until you understand THIS, I would say, clouds of chalk dust covering my fingers and clothes. A chalkboard became the centrepiece of the play's set.


Alanna Mitchell LLD'11(Honorary) took 13 journeys to destinations around the world to learn the truth about our oceans and climate change. Alanna Mitchell LLD'11(Honorary) took 13 journeys to destinations around the world to learn the truth about our oceans and climate change.

Eventually, we realized that the play needed an overture, by which we meant an opening section that would introduce the themes of the play: The history of scientific thought. Darwin's ideas of evolution and extinction. Why I tell stories that few others are telling. Where I come from. What art is for and why we need it.

It's that last part that keeps me going back to the stage to perform. I grew up in Regina. My father, George Mitchell, was a biologist who spent much of his career at the University of Regina. My mother, Constance Mitchell, was a painter who often painted prairie landscapes.

Growing up in that family taught me that science is how we find things out, but that art is how we find meaning. And it's meaning we respond to; science can only take us so far.

I believe that meaning matters. We have all sorts of information now from scientists about how the carbon overload affects the planet. We can see the effects of carbon destabilization with our own eyes, in our own backyards. It's not just the disasters, it's the blooms that come earlier, the birds that leave later for the south, the pronghorn spotted so much further north now than before.

The urgency to cut carbon is clear. The techniques are obvious. Why aren't we making more progress?

I think it's art that will carry the day. Sure, I honour the climate summits and all the policy work that goes into orchestrating systemic change. I know all that has to happen.

At the same time, we need to cling tight to narratives that convince us this is possible. I'm not talking about hope so much as love - love of the planet, but also love of our species and of the messiness we've wrought. We can own that and still focus on what it will feel like when the planet is over its carbon addiction.

That's where performing my play comes in, for me. I'm not going to be the one to write new policies or convert energy systems to renewables or run for a seat in the House of Commons. But what I can do is tell stories about what I've found out in an extremely intimate setting. I can reveal the secrets of the deeps and the mysteries of our tiny part of the universe. I can tell you that means something. I can use art to remind you that I matter and so do you. It's why I keep doing the play. It's why I'll be reading it in March as part of the 29th season of the Playwrights Reading Series, organized by the University's Centre for the Study of Script Development.

Because of the pandemic, I've had to take up my pen again to figure out a new way to finish the play. I'm sitting here, 24 hours away from being on stage for the first time in all these long months, trying to memorize this new writing, along with the script's 10,000 other words, Franco!

Part of it goes like this: The great task of our generation is to be heroes, to find redemption, to bring us back from the brink, to do what we can, whatever it is. You'll know what to do. Adapt and survive. Write a new ending. Live to tell another tale.

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Concentric circles

In my first Degrees message to alumni as President and Vice-Chancellor of your alma mater, I want to speak about how important alumni are to the University of Regina and, at the same time, how important the University should be to you.

Our alumni connect us to the wider world, both in our immediate community and as a platform to pursue partnerships worldwide. When a university's relationship with alumni works properly, meaningful, effective partnerships are established. Connecting with people who believe in and are committed to the institution's success creates a positive impact. As graduates, alumni want to see their university shine; in many ways, the university's success is a positive reflection on them and the education they received. And, of course, alumni successes in different fields of endeavour reflect positively on a university and the education it provides.

With that in mind, I want to make the University of Regina the place where our alumni want to send their children. I want you to be justifiably proud of the University and inspired to contribute to this amazing institution, city, and province. In short, I want to ensure that all our approximately 80,000 alumni feel and project pride in this place and all that we accomplish together.

So how does this focus on alumni connect with my broader philosophy regarding universities?

I believe wholeheartedly that universities are critically important in connecting with and building capacity in the wider community. I'm convinced that helping build that capacity is a fundamental component of a university's success in all its endeavours. Those connections enrich research, enhance teaching and learning, and help build partnerships in many other respects.

And you as our alumni are a key aspect of that. From my experience, reaching out and connecting with others enhances a university - bringing its dynamism and possibilities into a wider realm for the benefit of all. That philosophy underlies my approach to the University of Regina's relationship with alumni. Alumni are critical to the University's success - and given the work that has been taking place in this regard in recent years, we have tremendous possibilities ahead of us.

The University turns 50 in 2024, so we're a relatively young institution. That has many advantages in terms of being a progressive and forward-looking university, but it can also be a bit of a disadvantage in the sense that we don't have the most well-established, multi-generational and engaged base of alumni.

Of our approximately 80,000 alumni, only a small minority are truly and meaningfully involved with the University. This can be a consequence of being a commuter university, one that's comprehensive in nature, because it can be harder to establish a sense of place for students and eventually alumni at such an institution. This isn't unusual and it isn't an insurmountable challenge. We do need to be more active with our alumni, and it can be done.

We need to expand and promote the existing networking possibilities that are important to alumni and can connect them to current students. We need to demonstrate the mutual benefits - and even the fun! - of alumni involvement in University life. We need to better connect our alumni with each other and with the institution as valued parts of the University of Regina family so that you see us as an important part of your social and professional lives.

Expanding this alumni involvement has multiple benefits. It builds recognition, reputation and community awareness of our academic, cultural and social mission. Positive messaging and alumni success stories will bring more students to the University of Regina. This in turn will generate new generations of alumni ambassadors.

In general, the leading universities are the ones that have very active alumni - and that's no coincidence. For our part, we need to enhance the active relationship between alumni and our University. An important means of doing so is engaging meaningfully with students before they graduate.

There are so many great examples of areas where alumni can get involved and help lead. So my challenge to you - and to myself! - is for us to work together to build on the great foundation we already have. I have accepted the Alumni Association's kind invitation to be an ex officio member of its Board. In the spirit of our University motto - As One Who Serves - I look forward to working closely with you and with the staff in our Alumni and Community Engagement area to enhance the University's profile, keep our alumni engaged with the institution and each other, involve our students both before and after graduation, and help find additional ways to closely connect the University with the communities that surround and support us.

Thank you for all you continue to do for your fellow alumni, our current students and the University as a whole. It's an honour to serve this great University with you.

Dr. Jeff Keshen

President and Vice-Chancellor

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