Dec. 16, 2020

Dean's Holiday Reception, a virtual celebration of accomplishment

Flagship awards highlight the theme of 'together' at Schulich School of Engineering's annual soiree
Dean's Holiday Reception
Dean's Holiday Reception

It came without toasts to the season. It came without hors d’oeuvres. It came without hugs, handshakes or sweet desserts.

But much like Dr. Seuss' Grinch could not steal Christmas, the COVID-19 pandemic couldn't prevent the Schulich School of Engineering Dean’s Holiday Reception from taking place.

Hosted by Dean Bill Rosehart, PhD, the online gathering of nearly 200 included business leaders, donors, alumni, industry partners, students, faculty and staff, and served as an opportunity to look back on what became an unprecedented year at the Schulich School of Engineering and around the world.

Thinking of Something We Hadn’t Before

When 2020 first began, no one could have foreseen what the next twelve months would bring. While it may not go down as a great year, Rosehart told those in attendance that 2020 did bring great solutions and accomplishments in response to its challenges.

“But, to look at this global pandemic as a time during which we have united to overcome enormous and unexpected difficulties, 2020 takes on a very different meaning,” he said. “From that point of view, 2020 was the year when ‘together’ meant joining forces and helping each other through an historic social, physiological and psychological struggle.”

The response to those hurdles is what impressed him the most, as everyone shifted quickly to online and virtual learning, reimagined internships, social distancing in laboratories, video lab demonstrations, online convocations and so much more.

“On top of that amazing effort, the pandemic saw many of our brightest minds turn to helping the community around us – pausing their own projects to build and research emergency ventilators, facemasks, instant virus testing, hand sanitizer production and contact-tracing software,” Rosehart said.

“Necessity is the mother of invention they say,” he continued. “But in this case, compassion was an equal motivation.”

A Little Bit More

The virtual soiree was also an opportunity to recognize some outstanding achievements through Schulich’s flagship awards: the Schulich Leadership Excellence Award, the Canadian Engineering Leader Award, and the Dean’s Award for Corporate Leadership.

Dean's Holiday Reception Award Winners

Left to Right, Jon Faber, Mark Little and Cheryl Sandercock.

Rosehart handed out the first award to Cheryl Sandercock. She served as managing director for Scotia Waterous Inc. for 13 years and is now managing director for BMO Capital Markets. She has remained a highly engaged advocate of Schulich, serving on the Schulich Industry Advisory Committee and is an active support of the Schulich Connects speaker series.

“It’s been my great pleasure to watch the evolution of the faculty and the university, which is my alma mater, and see where it’s going next,” Sandercock said. “We have a truly impressive school here and I believe that’s the foundation of a truly great community. We are making a difference in the world.”

Next was the Schulich Leadership Excellence Award, which went to Suncor president and CEO Mark Little. A sciences alumni of the University of Calgary, Little was recently named “Resources of the

Future” chair on the federal government’s Industry Strategy Council and holds numerous leadership roles with a variety of organizations.

“As they say, engineering is about solving problems and 2020 has been a minefield of problems that we’ve had to solve and keep moving forward,” Little said. “And now, in this crazy pandemic time, we look to science and engineering to solve this pandemic, provide the vaccine and allow us to move forward in our lives.”

And the final award of the reception was the Dean’s Award for Corporate Leadership, which went to Pason Systems for its part in supporting Schulich through employing interns and graduates, partnering on research and supporting the school financially.

“This award signifies the important historical relationship between Pason and the Schulich School of Engineering,” Pason president and CEO Jon Faber said. “But it also serves as a reminder that to build and maintain a vibrant technology ecosystem in our city, the university and corporate entities must work closely together to develop and employ world-class talent.”

Heart to Heart and Hand in Hand

While the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes on Christmas, the Schulich School of Engineering grew by three new research chairs in 2020. That growth is also expected to continue in 2021.

“To further expand access to engineering, we are proud to have launched a new major in biomedical engineering,” Rosehart said. “We’re taking applications to this exciting new program as we speak, and the first cohort will start in the fall of 2021.”

There was also a 12-per cent increase in the number of students enrolled in the Masters of Engineering (MEng) programs and a 63-per cent increase projected for MEng students in the winter term.

While student access is increasing, Rosehart is also hoping to continue enriching student experiences and enhancing the global research impact as we head into 2021.

“Of course, the pandemic is not over, and there are months ahead where we will be compelled to remain resilient and answer new challenges,” Rosehart said. “But, if 2020 has taught us one thing at the Schulich School of Engineering, it’s that, together, we can handle almost anything.”