By Scott Bennett, Director of Campus Sustainability and Development
During a time of immense change, uncertainty, and strain this year, community, relationships and connections were more important than ever to our STS family.
In hopes of providing current students and alumni some inspiration and to help students benefit from lessons learned from their peers who have walked in their shoes, the School organized weekly 'Spartan Talk' webinars in May and June. Also, to build support for businesses who are connected to our STS families and alumni, we initiated a STS Business Directory, celebrating amazing entrepreneurs and business leaders.
The virtual opportunities to connect attracted an average of 35 students, alumni and parents each week, with a wide variety of alumni speakers sharing their journeys from STS into their current roles and answering questions.
The first webinar focused on entrepreneurship and business featured:
- Jeremy Ho '05, co-founder and owner of Calgary-based Monogram Coffee which has grown to several retail cafes, a roastery and wholesale coffee for outlets across Canada.
- Jon Zwiers '02 is a University of Calgary Haskayne Executive EMBA alumnus, leads family-owned business Honey Meadows Farm, and has been involved in the beer industry for many years.
- Andrew Ferguson '96 purchased Kensington Wine Market and helped put them on the international map as one of the world's top whisky shops.
- Jeff Kahane '89 founded Kahane Law Office in 2004 recognized as a Best Place to Work in Calgary in 2006.
A number of alumni tuned in to reconnect with their classmates and current students gained invaluable insight into the various business avenues. The power of community was evident when, Jeff Kahane '89 explained how he became friends with Jon Zwiers '02 at a recent STS Homecoming, despite being from different grad classes and industries. Being Spartans and all that that means was their bond.
The second Spartan Talk focused on health sciences with alumni:
- Dr. Jan Jaffer '97 who developed the TREC Dental Partnership and operates 20 clinics in the Calgary area.
- Dr. Eve Purdy '08, a 5th year resident, Emegency Medicine program at Queen's University in her final year of training to be a specialist emergency physician.
- Dr. Jaspreet Khangura '03 who received her MD from the University of British Columnia, holds an MSc in Evidence Based Health Care and MSc in Neuroscience from the University of Oxford, and serves as an ER physician at the Royal Alexandra Hosptial and Northeast Community Health Centre in Edmonton.
- Stacy Finnbogason '90 who is a Pediatric Physiotherapist and has worked in acute care, rehabilitation, private practice, and in school systems.
Current STS students, parents and several prospective families gained insight into the panel's stories and careers. Two common themes emerged — the journey of life is not lienear, and the importance of pursuing your passion. The alumni shared how STS set them up for a successful transition, regularly referencing their Outdoor Education and IB inquiry-based learning experiences.
The next session was led by Jamie Clarke '86, a Canadain adventurer and public speaker, who submitted Mount Everest twice. He crossed the Mongolian desert with his son Khobe and spoke of the power of connection that emerged from this experience. Jamie talked about not fearing failure, to see it as feedback, to do an 'autopsy without blame', and to learn from the experience of not reaching the literal mountain top. Students and parents truly appreciated the message of resiliency and a number of prospective families got a sense of the STS community.
Louie Pearlman '98, an improviser, pop culture writer, and song-writer living in New York City spoke during the final Spartan Talk, about embracing creativity. A number of faculty tuned in who taught him in the past, and enjoyed the chance to ask him questions.
The Spartan Talks were so well received, an additional webinar with a panel of young alumni was organized for the Grade 12s. Reaching the end of their STS adventure and heading into a new adventure can be initiating, and the transition during the pandemic has proven to be even more complex. The guests spoke about university life, course selection, different campus experiences, and co-curricular programs to the fresh graduates. This was another excellent touch point to build mentors and help the STS community to stay connected during a time when meeting in person was not possible.
As with many initiatives developed during COVID-19, the Spartan Talks had many benefits, and we look forward to continuing this series next year to celebrate our diverse and talented alumni while giving students tangible examples of 'why' we do what we do at STS. In the end, it's all about connections — connections with possibilities, connecting with mentors and friends, and connecting the dots. Connections build strong communities.