Sept. 10, 2021

Scarves, ice cream and memories made at Schulich Orientation Day

Students from around the world ready for a return to class
Students pose for a group selfie during Orientation Day 2021. Michael Platt

Even with the hot sun blaring down on them and temperatures near 20 degrees Celsius, Schulich School of Engineering students were happily wrapping themselves in scarves.

Orientation Day 2021 saw hundreds of students pick up their red, yellow, black and white scarves – a keepsake to remember their upcoming time at the University of Calgary.

Typically an event for first-year engineering students, those in their second year were also able to collect a memento as it was also their first on-campus event because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They also spent the sunny afternoon with new friends by breaking into groups for a scavenger hunt, before finishing the day with some ice cream.

A new energy

An eerie quiet had taken over the halls around the campus over the past 18 months. That silence was broken on Sept. 3 and it became music to the ears of Schulich School of Engineering Dean Bill Rosehart.

Still abiding by health measures and wearing his mask, Rosehart made a point to walk and talk with students at different points of the day.

“It really is great to have students back on-campus again,” he said. “You can feel the excitement in the air for this semester to get started.”


Schulich School of Engineering Dean Bill Rosehart poses for a photo while chatting with new students during Orientation Day 2021.

Joe McFarland

The students will see a blended learning environment, with some lessons being in-person while others will be online – an opportunity discovered during the pandemic.

“This experience of university is an experience for you as an individual person,” said Dr. Kimberly Johnston, associate dean, Student Professional Development. “You will hear expressions like ‘you get out of it what you put into it’ and things like that. It’s very much true, but also something we know is that your time here will change you.”

Change a-brewin’

Change was a key theme in Friday morning’s virtual welcome keynote address from Phil Robertson.

A graduate of Schulich in 2000, he went on to become co-founder of Phil & Sebastian, one of Calgary’s most prominent coffee roasters.

Robertson focused on some of the lessons he learned during the pandemic, including looking for opportunities in the most difficult of times.

“I felt like this sort of ‘nothing to lose’ scenario created almost a liberating feeling. It was a liberating feeling of being able to make decisions without the same kind of analysis paralysis that we’re sometimes afflicted with.”

Robertson says tough decisions had to be made, but he was also able to adapt and improve some areas of weakness, something he knows students will feel over the next few years.

“I know some of my engineering days felt insurmountable with huge course loads and wanting to do extra-curricular activities,” he concluded. “You can face these challenges, you can overcome them and you can prevail.”

Strength in diversity

With the success of Orientation Day still on his mind, Rosehart is quick to look ahead to the opportunities that await all of the students.

He’s especially excited for the diversity of the students he encountered in the hallways, who will be able to use their backgrounds and experiences to help motivate each other.

“I’ve been lucky enough to chat with students from all around the world,” Rosehart said. “It was inspiring to hear them share stories about their journeys and about how they want to impact the world.”