More than 600 graduates went on to their next step as the Prince Albert Campus of Saskatchewan Polytechnic celebrated their convocation on Wednesday at the EA Rawlinson Centre, but it wasn’t an easy road.
Jesse White, the president of the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Students Association and a board member of the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Board of Directors, was among the speakers. He saluted the resilience of the grads, who had to deal with non-academic challenges, in addition to tests, projects, and class schedules.
“This is a group of people who have had to deal with global pandemics, mask mandates, political and civil unrest, coming back to campus,” White said. “It’s such an amazing group of people who have been through absolutely any obstacle you can put in front of them for a student and say that this is the time that I am going to better myself and better my community and commit to my education is amazing.”
White will graduate in Regina from the Bachelor of Applied Management Degree Program but he began his studies in Prince Albert. He loved the community, and jumped at the opportunity to speak at the Prince Albert campus grad.
“I took it up immediately because I loved the two and a half years I spent here while I was at Sask Polytech,” he explained. “Any excuse I have to come back here and celebrate the people of this awesome community that welcomed me so much, I take immediately.”
Despite going through an unusual two years of school, most 2022 grads chose to focus on the positives.
Skyler Friske from Arborfield completed a two-year Correctional Studies Diploma and said the experience was great, even with the first year of study being online in 2020,
“It was all online through Zoom, so it was definitely a different experience,” Friske said. “Our second year felt like our first year and everything was pretty overwhelming.
Students had to adapt quickly with the move to campus in the second year, but Friske said he did enjoy the whole experience.
“It definitely got me more in tune with the technology behind it all,” he explained. “The teachers had to do a lot more work behind the scenes to make it work.”
To graduate on Wednesday meant a lot to Friske, who said he had great support along the way,
“You go through a lot of ups and downs and you need a lot of help from family and friends along the way. It’s not easy to financially support yourself while you are in school.”
International Student Manmeet Kaur, who is from Punjab, India graduated from the Early Childhood Education Diploma Program. She said also looked back on her experience at the Prince Albert campus with fondness.
“My entire experience with Sask Polytech as an International Student was really good as compared to other provinces and other colleges and universities,” she said.
“I feel like Sask Polytech is really good with the fee structure, the help that they provide to International Students and every kind of help that is available at the campus. I really appreciate the help that I got during my journey with Sask Polytech.”
Kaur has attended Sask Polytech since 2018. She previously received a Business Certificate and Professional Cooking Certificate
Since she began her studies before COVID, she’s seen a little bit of everything on campus: pre-COVID life, COVID restrictions, and the post-COVID return to school.
“It was a difference when it was pre-COVID because everything was normal and then during COVID, I liked how they managed the stuff online and how teachers were always available even online,” she said. “In my experience, I could text my instructor even at 10 at night and she would still answer me, so it was really good and helpful to be at Sask Polytech during COVID times.”
During Wednesday’s ceremony, Sask Polytech awarded an honorary degree in Applied Studies to Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte of the Prince Albert Grand Council. A member of Lac La Ronge Indian Band, Grand Chief Hardlotte was first elected to his position in October 2017 after serving two three-year terms as Vice Chief. Last year he was acclaimed to the Prince Albert Grand Council’s top position for another term.
“Chief Hardlotte he is someone that an inspiration to students who are both Indigenous and not Indigenous,” White said. “But for our Indigenous students especially to see someone who has succeeded in the way that he has, to lay out that pathway for them and say this could be me if I applied myself like he has, is huge,” White said.
The honorary degree was not presented in 2020 or 2021, in 2019 the degree went to Ralph Boychuk.
White said one advantage of the Prince Albert campus is that it is diverse with International and Indigenous students.
“I believe it’s Prince Albert and Regina who have the highest population, so to be able to see, for example, the National Anthems sung in Indigenous language was awesome,” White said. “It’s a great opportunity for Saskatchewan Polytechnic to embrace its Indigenous roots.”
It is a Sask Polytech convocation tradition to recognize extraordinary graduates, faculty and people in each campus community for their distinguished achievements and for modelling the institution’s vision, mission and values.
The Prince Albert campus award recipients included Adrienne Skelly, who was recognized with the Governor General’s Academic Bronze Medal for the highest average in the Prince Albert campus Adult 12 program. As well, Cody Ager, a graduate of the Integrated Resource Management program was recognized with the Governor General’s Academic Collegiate Bronze Medal for the highest average at the Prince Albert campus.
Sask. Polytech president and CEO Larry Rosia congratulated the Prince Albert grads for reaching the finish line, and commended them for their perseverance, resilience, and dedication.
“The education you have received here will serve you in ways you cannot imagine,” Rosia said in a media release. “It is my hope that you continue to maintain your relationship with Sask Polytech far into the future. Finally, thank you for choosing our institution for your education needs. I wish you every success as you embark on all that awaits.”
With over 600 graduates, the program was broken up into both a morning and an afternoon session.
White also congratulated the graduates on their accomplishments.
“I can’t wait to see what all of them do next,” White said.
Speakers at the convocation included Hardlotte who addressed the graduates, Rosia, White and board chair Mitch Holash, and new Minister of Advanced Education Gord Wyant.
Graduates were from the School of Business, School of Construction, School of Health Science, School of Information and Communications Technology, School of Learning and Teaching Division, School of NursingTime, School of Human Services and Community Safety, School of Hospitality and Tourism, School of Literacy and Adult Education, School of Mining, Energy and Manufacturing and School of Natural Resources and Built Environment.
The Prince Albert campus ceremonies were broadcast live so graduates, family, friends and the polytechnic community who were unable to attend in-person could participate. To view the livestream or previously recorded video please visit www.saskpolytech.ca/convocation.