How we can help future innovators spark change in our world

Even though we graduated 41 years ago, I stay in touch with fellow mechanical engineering classmates from the University of Calgary. We met up last evening at Juree’s Thai Place Restaurant to meet Janet Le, one of two recipients of this year’s Dan Mercier Class of 1976 Engineering Award. This annual get together is also an opportunity for us to remember Dan Mercier, our beloved classmate who lost his battle with cancer several years ago.

Janet Le is a third year mechanical and manufacturing engineering student from the Schulich School of Engineering and an amazing young woman. Once she finishes final exams later this month, Janet will travel to Dresden, Germany to begin a three-month internship with an engineering company that develops bearing systems. Janet mentioned to me last night that she speaks very little German and few employees of the Dresden company speak English. I was not discouraged to hear this. From my experience, my best learning occurred when I was out of my comfort zone. Despite the language barrier, this summer’s internship will be an enriching opportunity for Janet – she’ll learn a lot about engineering design as well as about people and cultures.

In September, Janet will return to Canada to start a twelve-month internship with Canadian Natural Resources Limited at their Horizon Oil Sands site. Janet’s longer term goal is to work in the renewable energy sector and to specialize in the design and manufacturing of mechanisms. She also hopes to continue her advocacy work to promote women in STEM fields and occupations (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Speaking of scholarships, later this month the University of Calgary will be hosting its first-ever Giving Day. Our goal is to create 50 student scholarships in 50 hours (i.e. from 11 am on April 27 to 1 pm on April 29) in celebration of our university’s 50th Anniversary. During this time, gifts to student scholarships will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to $2500. All gifts, no matter the size, will have an impact.

Giving day graphic April 18-17
UCalgary hopes their Giving Day will create 50 student scholarships in 50 hours, celebrating the university’s 50th Anniversary.

And student scholarships do have a big impact. The awards alleviate financial need, award academic excellence and enhance student experiences. They also pave the way for future innovators like Janet Le to spark change in our world. I like to think that the Dan Mercier Engineering Award will free Janet from concerns about living expenses so that she can focus on her studies and maximize the learning value from her upcoming internships in Germany and Fort McMurray.

I’m pleased that for many years my class as well as the family of Dan Mercier have been able to support two annual scholarships to third-year mechanical and manufacturing engineering students. These deserving students exemplify Dan’s admirable work ethic and personality traits. By investing in these scholarships, we tell our community that we believe in the passion of today’s students and support their vision to make the world a better place.

As we were leaving the restaurant last evening, Janet informed me that she will be writing the final exam for her engineering design course in the morning. Yikes! Good luck in the exam, Janet. Thanks for taking time to meet with me and my classmates. You make us proud.

Janet Le for April 18-17 blog 2
Janet Le meets her fan club – the 1976 class of Schulich mechanical engineers and the Dan Mercier family.

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