Graduates at the Prince Albert Campus of Saskatchewan Polytechnic crossed the stage at the EA Rawlinson Centre on Tuesday.
The convocation ceremony took place in two parts with a morning and afternoon session. Rajesh Chandran was recognized with the Outstanding Citizenship Award, and Samuel Suchorab was recognized with the Student Innovation Award.
Chandran was grateful to win an award, but wasn’t expecting it.
“I was surprised,” he said. “I was just engaging with the community.”
Phoebe De Ciman, Special Advisor to the Provost presented the awards to Chandran and Suchorab.
Chandran served as the vice president of Sask Polytech’s Students’ Association (SPSA) and as a member of the executive committee of the Federal Student Advocacy Alliance.
Chandran is an international student from India who graduated with a Hospitality and Tourism Management certificate. Being an international student influenced his decision to get involved in the community.
“I was doing it as my duty, (as) a responsibility to be part of the ecosystem,” he said. “To engage with the community is essential. I was just trying to do that as part of my way to connect and engage with the community, (and) understand the social fabric.”
Chandran called the recognition a wonderful item that came from his community involvement. Along with the on campus he also volunteered for Chesterfest and was a volunteer coordinator for last year’s Downtown Street Fair.
Chandran also gave a speech to the graduates on Tuesday as the outgoing vice president before accepting the award from President Larry Rosia.
He also is on casual staff at the Children’s Haven in Prince Albert. He also volunteered with the Future Leaders of Tomorrow that took place at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre.
Chandran also was an advisor for Community Affairs with the City of Prince Albert.
“I was just trying to get involved and engaged with the community in the community,” he said.
The experience as an International Student at Saskatchewan Polytechnic has been excellent according to Chandran. He explained that many of his friends chose to go to larger centres like Toronto and Calgary. He said that he had seen negative stories in the media, but his experience has been the opposite.
“Coming to here was something that I did not anticipate, but it did happen,” he said.
“I’ve had a tremendous, tremendously great experience. The community is so well connected and involved. And to embrace a new newcomer like me and immigrants like me and the kind of opportunities that I have got as a newcomer immigrant, I don’t think I would have got anywhere else.”
Another benefit has been the differences in the cost of living, which has been better in Saskatchewan than other provinces.
“My friends who have gone to other bigger cities that are thinking that my choice was a better choice to come to,” Chandran said.
He is also part of the first Hospitality and Tourism Management Postgraduate Certificate program graduating class on the Prince Albert campus.
“It’s a great program, particularly to do it here in town with the instructors. It is amazing. They come with great industry experience and have good teaching., Prince Albert is very close to some of the best, most scenic lakes that are there in Canada, so I managed to get a decent job at Emma Lake,” he said.
Along with going to school Monday to Friday he has been getting hands on experience at his job.
“It’s a great experience overall. I’m glad that this program has its accessibility to, you know, practical aspects of the program,” he said.
He thanked the staff for making the experience so excellent.
“Staff at Sask Polytechnic is doing a commendable job in towards inclusivity and making the transition for international students to blend with the community and they have a great support system, the staff and everybody. I really appreciate that, and I think the work should go out for sure,” he said.
Suchorab honoured for confronting stigma surrounding mental health addictions
Mental Health and Addictions Counselling program graduate Samuel Suchorab of Prince Albert was looking for ways to confront the stigma and toxic masculinity surrounding mental health and addictions. That’s what lead to his essay, titled The Cowboy Way: Rodeo and Mental Health, which earned him the Student Innovation Award at Tuesday’s ceremony.
“I am honoured to be receiving it,” Suchorab said. “
“I think this is an opportunity where something that doesn’t get noticed in our kind of spotlight is getting noticed.”
Suchorab said he wanted to look more into toxic masculinity because of the way the cowboy culture and the world in general intersects with the topic.
“I’m familiar with the world and I know it’s something that’s out there,” he said. “Mental health and substances and the unfortunate tragedy. We’re finding out that it’s more and more (common)…. I was just so interested in it.”
Suchorab went into mental health and addictions studies for altruistic reasons.
“I wanted to try to be a solution for people,” he said. “I enjoy talking to people, and every person has those hidden gems. It’s just a matter of that person finding them themselves. Through counseling, you can be that person and guide that person. It’s always been a passion of mine. I love it and I’m glad I’m where I’m at right now.”
The award was mostly in recognition of his innovative thinking. Suchorab said it’s an area “that’s barely touched” which is a big reason he wanted to write about it.
“It’s just a way for me to show that there’s no research to where the research should maybe be,” he said.
Suchorab said that he hasn’t figured out his next steps after graduation but he plans to finish the clinical part of his studies first.
“I just want people to be okay,” he said. “I know that it’s okay to ask for help. Whether you’re a cowgirl, cowboy, any human. At the end of the day, it’s okay to reach out.”
Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross brought greetings from the province, Sask Polytechnic Board Chair Mitch Holash brought greetings from the board and Chandran brought greetings from the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Students’ Association. Rosia also gave the President’s Address.
Aaron Tootoosis, Program Head Indigenous Student Advisors from Regina played an honour song.
During the morning session Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne received the 2023 Honorary Degree in Applied Studies and Nat Strom of the Resource and Environmental Law program received the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching.