Hitting the books

Instructor Bev Petruk hands out syllabi to her class of business students during the first day back at Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Prince Albert campus. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Like hundreds of other students in Prince Albert, Shane Phillips got up this morning for his first day back to school.

The big difference is that this might be the last time he has to do it.

As a second year student in the Resource and Environmental Law program at Prince Albert’s Saskatchewan Polytechnic campus, Phillips will graduate this spring. In the mean time, he’s just hoping to enjoy what could be his final first day of school.

“Honestly, it’s pretty exciting,” he says. “We had such a great year last year and this year’s looking to be great as well.”

Phillips hasn’t ruled out taking additional courses in the future, so he might be back in the classroom down the road. However, he’s still trying to soak in the atmosphere as he returns for the last half of his program.

“Everything goes by so quick,” he says. “You’ve got to enjoy it while you can.”

Students like Phillips are eager to jump back into the school year and pick up where they left off, but for first year post-secondary students, the first day can be a big challenge.

Staff and faculty members like Student Employment Coordinator Johanna Bergen say there’s a lot of excitement in the building on day one, but also a lot of nervousness and anxiety. For them, the next week is about making new students feel right at home.”

“They’re going to spend a lot of hours here, so we hope that each student finds a sense of belonging and finds that this is a safe place—a place that they want to be,” she says.

Bergen sympathizes with how new students feel. She remembers being a first year Saskatchewan Polytechnic student in 1998, and says things have changed a lot since then. These days, welcome festivities span the entire week, with barbeques and dessert stations and photo contests.

In fact, the welcome week has become so big that Bergen and her cohorts will begin planning for 2020 … tomorrow. The first batch of first-year students has just arrived, but staff members are already watching out for those following in their footsteps.

“I think staff are just as excited as students are, because all staff who work here love working here. We’re here for the students,” she says.