This story is featured in the new issue of Collective Impact, sent digitally to all U of T Engineering alumni.
Gary Saarenvirta (EngSci 8T8) couldn’t imagine missing out on the U of T Engineering F!rosh Week experience that welcomed him to Skule™ in 1984. So when this year’s time-honoured tradition was threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, he stepped forward to ensure the familiar yellow hard hats and purple paint would still adorn the first-year class.
“I am a huge fan of U of T Engineering and I wanted to support the new students in a tough year. I hoped that our support would help make for a better experience in some way.”
Saarenvirta and his AI-powered technology company, Daisy Intelligence, ensured that more than 800 F!rosh Kits were mailed to incoming U of T Engineering students around the world — in Vancouver, B.C., Myanmar, Nigeria and beyond. Each kit included a t-shirt and backpack, along with two F!rosh Week mainstays: purple face paint and a yellow Skule™ hard hat.
When the first-ever virtual orientation took place this September, U of T Engineering Class of 2024 beamed with Skule pride.
“Gary’s generous financial support helped to deliver the best possible virtual F!rosh Week experience to hundreds of first years, all around the world”, says Dana Kokoska, ECE 2T0 + PEY, Vice-Chair Marketing, Orientation Week 2T0.
Saarenvirta positively impacted the Skule experience for many years, supporting scholarships for Engineering Science students since 2017, and appearing as a panelist at BizSkule (now Disruptors & Dilemmas) events and as a featured guest speaker during The Hatchery’s monthly lunch and learn series. He was also an early adopter and champion of the U of T Engineering CONNECT alumni network, and a keynote speaker at U of T Engineering’s inaugural alumni bootcamp on machine intelligence.
Saarenvirta has also hired more than his share of engineering alumni.
“U of T Engineering graduates bring world-class knowledge to the table,” he says. “Meeting the incredibly talented, idealistic and energetic students is also personally motivating. They’re mind me of the importance of Skule spirit.”
He urges all alumni to rekindle their Skule ties, no matter how many years have passed.
“Alumni have been through the U of T Engineering experience. We have careers, and we should share the lessons we’ve learned with students to help ensure that their educational experience is second to none,” he says.
“Going through school is not just about the subject matter; it is about gaining career advice and finding a career path. Alumni like us are best suited for the job.”
Interested in hiring students for 12-16 months under the PEY Co-op Program? This Skule year especially there is a shortage of virtual roles available to students, planning for May 2021 through August 2022. Contact Marlyn De Los Reyes firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in sponsoring a student group, event or scholarship? Contact Kristin.Philpot@utoronto.ca