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SAIT in the time of COVID

A black and white photo of inside a drive-thru COVID testing centre.
In this view from early March (above), the garage door at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site opens to admit another car. Accessible only to those referred after assessment by a Health Link nurse, these sites helped keep people with symptoms like headache and fever separate from others. – Leah Hennel (JA '98) photo, courtesy of Alberta Health Services.

The voices of our fellow alumni impacted by the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1920 are forever silent. We can only imagine how it felt for staff and students at the fledgling Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (as SAIT was known from 1916 until 1960) to have their buildings seized by the Calgary Department of Health. 

For a month, those buildings served as a temporary hospital for flu patients — but we have no record of alumni who worked, died or recovered there; who used their practical skills to keep Alberta’s essential services functioning; and whose resilience brought hope to a province still reeling from the First World War. 

In this issue — during this historic pandemic — LINK hopes to capture and preserve at least some first-hand SAIT stories for future generations. 

When we look back at how drastically COVID-19 has changed our world — and how quickly it all happened — this LINK will reflect some of the uncertainty, the expertise, the resilience and the strength of SAIT alumni navigating unprecedented challenges. 

 

I call this historic pandemic Calgary's three-headed monster: we have the COVID virus; we have COVID — the health and wellness challenge; and we have COVID's impact on the economy, which is also suffering because of the drop in oil prices. This is the biggest call that we as a CEMA team have ever had.

Tom Sampson (EMTP '85)
Former Chief, Calgary Emergency Management Agency

While SAIT instructors and students were preparing to transition to online delivery, I was doing the same — in Dubai, where I was teaching SAIT-developed curriculum at the United Arab Emirates Higher Colleges of Technology. After returning to Calgary, I continued teaching my students remotely, kicking off class at 6 am, which is 4 pm in Dubai. Though on opposite sides of the world, we were closely connected with the help of technology. One unexpected benefit: quieter students participated more online — perhaps because they had time to think and respond in writing.

Monica Rovers
Logistics Management Instructor, School of Business

When the Government of Alberta moved to online learning for K-12 schools, we wanted to help Julie's project of filling the gap from suspended school lunch programs. For eight weeks — from mid-March to mid-May — Paul Rogalski (PCK '86) offered us his kitchen at Rouge, which closed during the pandemic. I'm also working to help our hospitality community access information that will help their businesses survive as the province gradually re-opens. Food brings us together across a table, and now it's bringing us together to support our community.

Patricia Koyich (HRA '98)

We share a hangar with a flying school at an international airport. I realized this was serious when I came to work and there was a sign on the door cancelling all training flights and ground schools. Then I realized the airport was completely quiet — no one was flying their small planes for training or pleasure. SOS completely shut down for two weeks. We are now open again but customers can only leave equipment at the front doors for repairs. The aviation industry will be hit hard. If this was all over tomorrow, I would guess two years before things resemble normal again.

Miguel Gallego (AXT '16)
Production Manager, SOS Avionics

Because of COVID-19, I'm on a temporary layoff from my job as a national marketing specialist. It was a shock, but I feel compassion for business owners. Millions of layoffs occurred across Canada at the same time so, in an odd way, I didn't feel so alone. Still, I felt like everything was crumbling around me. I lost my job, my wedding got postponed, I couldn't see my loved ones in person, and overall anxiety was (and still is) at an all-time high. But I think the universe has nudged me to slow down, relax, take a long, deep breath. Looking for work right now is tough — many job postings are from before COVID really hit. Once the economy opens up more, I hope my social media skills are something companies will seek even more. During my time at SAIT, I learned hard work and perseverance always pay off. I choose to appreciate the storm because even the prettiest clouds are made of rain. My rainbow will come.

Cathy McDonald (RTBN '09)

When is life ever going to be normal again? I’m a sponsored student from Namibia and have been living in Residence for two years. After finishing my exams, it was difficult to travel because international flights were suspended. My sponsor is working day and night to find flights to get me home, and I was lucky that SAIT Residence has allowed me to stay another month. SAIT’s International Centre checks up with me every week, and my family has helped me through this time — they’re always checking in. I also have caring friends I’ve made through the class. One brought me a bike so I could cycle around to keep busy and distracted from the situation. When we started online classes, it was a lifestyle we were not used to and everyone was just panicking. But you need to adapt to change and in the end, we’ve all gotten used to it. I sometimes wake up, look through the window and ask myself, ‘When is life ever going to be normal again?'

Sakaria Victor Indongo
Instrumentation Engineering Technology diploma student
Patricia Koyich wearing a mask and hair pulled back handing out containers of soup
PATRICIA KOYICH (HRA '98, SHOWN ABOVE) Joined Food Blogger Julie Van Rosendaal's project to create and distribute box lunches, working alongside fellow SAIT culinary instructors, Andrew Hewson and Simon Dunn.

Capturing COVID

Despite the risk of COVID-19, photojournalists across Canada are donning personal protective equipment and using their cameras to cover the pandemic experience. Four award-winning SAIT alumni living in Vancouver, Calgary, Mississauga and Ottawa are documenting this extraordinary time, sharing surreal sights from a country in lockdown and telling the stories we need to know. 

View some of these dramatic images from alumni photographers Nathan Denette (JA ’03), Darryl Dyck (JA ’98), Leah Hennel (JA ’98), and Sean Kilpatrick (JA ’84), in the gallery below:

Caution tape surrounds playground equipment after the City of Vancouver closed all playgrounds in the city due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in Vancouver on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Manager Rob Lambert wears a face mask as he cuts Justin Ludwig's hair at Crows Nest Barbershop, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. British Columbia began phase two of the reopening of its economy Tuesday, allowing certain businesses that were ordered closed due to COVID-19 to open their doors to customers if new health and safety regulations are followed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, arrives to take part in a press conference on Parliament Hill during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at Rideau Cottage during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Monday, June 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
A woman visits her father's cross along with others displayed outside the Camilla Care Community centre marking the deaths of multiple people that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Friday, May 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Shoppers are separated by rows of wood pallets to help with physical distancing as they line up to enter a Costco store in Burnaby, B.C., on Sunday, April 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Head tailor Soheil Khorrami, right, demonstrates a safe way to fit a blazer for Joe Gagliardi at Tom's Place in Kensington Market during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Calgary, Alberta - April 20, 2020 - Evelyn Drake took her newborn daughter, Ivy, along with her husband and their 5-year-old son Liam, to visit her work colleagues at The Camera Store in Calgary on April 13, 2020. Photo by Leah Hennel/AHS

At first, when many reporters were in lockdown, it was the photojournalists who were out there, wearing PPE and shooting photos to capture this moment. COVID-19 is a unique story with so many angles — business, the elderly, unemployment, kids learning online, and more. I'm working hard to research and safely document them all that's what I do.

Nathan Denette (JA '03)
Canadian Press Staff National Photographer based in Mississauga, ON

Having to lay off two-thirds of our staff — that was a really tough day. We went from just over 60 p[people to 21. That surprises a lot of people; they don't realize how many people work at a dealership. The layoffs have shifted every role. I've worked in this dealership a long time and I've worked almost every job; right now, I'm handling four different roles. You just do what you need to do to keep the dealership moving in this new reality.

Terry Coulter (DET '84, APM '15)
General Manager, Valentine VOLVO

My favourite part of teaching right now is seeing my 13 students overcoming so many obstacles while producing some of the finest work I have ever witnessed in the area of water law. They remain calm and resolute - I know they are struggling but they have risen to the challenges of completing their program with excellence. From my computer at home, I celebrate their success.

Judy Stewart
Instructor, MacPhail School of Energy

Our station offers an escape from the 24/7 news cycle, so we talked on-air about the experiences everyone was going through, keeping it positive and informative while acknowledging the weirdness. I’ll remember the ever-changing rules on appropriate safety measures, best guesses on what the numbers infected were going to be, and what counted as a COVID death. And the slogans! ‘We are in this together.’ ‘Flatten the curve.’ ‘Quarantine 15.’

Richard Werry (CTSR '85)
Program Director, KLCE Classy 97 in Idaho Falls, Idaho

Most of the Interfaith Centre’s student support is based on personal visits, so the virtual world makes it awkward for many to engage with us online — sometimes it’s unsafe for students at home to openly share their struggles. But what’s inspiring is that some are meeting together online with greater intentionality, especially as they wrap their faith around these uncertain times. And some are embracing the opportunity to grow, diving deeper into self-analysis and spiritual edification, or simply learning the guitar or how to cook. This generation of students gives me hope. They genuinely care about their own future, the future of other citizens of Earth and even Earth herself. They are creative and innovative and even COVID-19 won’t stop them from making their mark in this world.

Art Kung (EMT '90)
Kung is a Chaplain with SAIT's Interfaith Centre

I am struggling to finish my two online classes now that I have four courses online with my kids here at home with me. I was planning on finishing everything by April 24, but I may have to extend the online courses to May 15. This means I will not convocate until the fall.

A survey respondent

My plan was to spend 2020 in Angola, assisting in training workshops for library staff. My visa application was in the mail when the shutdown began, and there is currently no timeline for when I’ll be able to go. Angola has only registered a few COVID-19 cases, and what they find somewhat galling is how readily the world has ground to a halt to address the pandemic, yet childhood malnutrition kills more children per year than anything else and malaria is a massive killer. Angolans find it upsetting that the Western world is only invested in fighting this pandemic because it affects them directly.

Michael Hoskin (LIT '00)

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