‘We are pieces of a puzzle that comes together’
We make our own families here, and trust in one another in times of need
Engineering at Alberta often refers to itself as a “family” and when beloved members of this family died last week, our close-knit community instinctively pulled together to support those suffering most deeply, and to collectively mourn our loss.
The faculty comprises individuals of incredibly diverse interests and specialties. Our nationalities, ethnicities, and beliefs are just as broad.
“We’re all from somewhere else,” says Dean of Engineering Fraser Forbes. Not only are we guests of the Indigenous Peoples whose land our city and university are built upon, we are also strangers drawn together. We came here to study and explore, yes, but also to build a community—to build our family.
“Community is a concept ingrained in our DNA here,” Forbes adds. “The climate is harsh. Our predecessors only survived by binding together. That is the culture that has lived on in Alberta.”
Electrical engineering professor Mahdi Tavakoli and his wife arrived in Canada 19 years ago and, not long after, they moved to Edmonton and Mahdi joined Engineering at Alberta. It was here the couple felt most welcome. It was here, at the university, that they found their new “family.”
“It happens pretty naturally,” Mahdi says. “Pretty much everyone I know and everyone I associate with on a family basis is from the university.”
It is the strong bonds we form that keep people here, he adds.
“There is something Alberta offers, and that is the people. This cannot be understated. The beauty of this place, the strength of this place, comes from the mosaic that we all are.
“We are pieces of a puzzle that comes together.”
Like Mahdi, Fraser was struck by the friendliness of people in Edmonton. Walking to campus on his first day of work here in 1996, strangers greeted him with a smile and a “good morning.”
“It took a while for me to figure out that’s what people here do,” he says. The friendliness and support of others didn’t stop.
“When our kids came along, all of our older neighbours became de facto grandparents to them,” he says.
“People come here and find out that even if we look different and speak differently we have the same sense of community—and then they begin to feel at home, very easily.”
This week, members of the engineering family moved swiftly and selflessly to support one another, drawing us closer together in the aftermath of the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 in Iran.
This indescribable tragedy has brought out our family’s best instincts.
“The leadership and breadth of support from our departments and the faculty that we’ve seen through this tragic time has made me particularly proud of our faculty,” Fraser says.
“Hardship breeds strong communities, and the hardship our community is going through now will make us stronger.”