Welcome (back) to Augustana! Although classes began on September 1st, it was the day prior that marked the start of the school year with the formal Opening Convocation ceremony, featuring wise words from the Dean, uplifting words from our guest speaker, Sandeep Dhir, as well as the ever-entertaining display of the faculty in their bright academic robes. Mr. Dhir’s speech was modest, humorous, enlightening, and called our current students to action: to make the most out of their university experience by becoming active around campus instead of standing idly by, hoping to race through the next four years merely to come out with a degree and a job by the end. Mr. Dhir in no way undermined the importance of these achievements, but instead, in reflecting upon his time at Augustana, recounted the experiences outside of the classroom that made him the success he is today.
Mr. Dhir attended Mount Royal College (now, University) before coming to Augustana and graduating with a degree in history and political science. What brought him to Augustana was not the intimate class sizes or international opportunities, as what may have brought many of our current students here, but instead, the pursual of his girlfriend at the time, who still remains so. Mr. Dhir got more than a love story out of his time here, however, as he served on the student’s union, as well as co-editor of the Dag, hosted a show on the Augustana radio station and in the larger spectrum of student politics as the national executive and provincial chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, which represented over 450, 000 students across the country.
In his speech, Mr. Dhir pointed to specific lessons he learned from professors here at Augustana some twenty odd years ago, which is a testament to the lasting effect they had on him. He spoke to me of a kind of “cross-fertilization” that occurred between his classes and the work he did around campus, proving that lectures were worth much more than just a final grade. His speech also touched on the social and political injustices we are faced with today, and the value of a liberal arts education in combatting them. Mr. Dhir related that “the purpose of learning is to challenge with new ideas; new concepts; to provide the ability to think critically; to ask questions; to challenge orthodoxy; to ultimately come to your own conclusions about what it means to live the good life,” and in doing so, create changes for the better within your community.
These notions stayed with Mr. Dhir throughout his illustrious career. He is currently a partner at Field Law, one of Alberta’s largest law firms, practicing primarily in Commercial Litigation and Metis and First Nations law. He is the co-author of a textbook on collections law in Alberta, regularly participates as a political commentator on CBC radio, is the current director of the Edmonton food bank, and was recently appointed Queen’s Counsel, an honour awarded to exceptional lawyers for their contribution to the profession. Mr. Dhir related that “the education I received [at Augustana] as compared to that which I received at three other institutions was far superior,” and backed up his claim with solid evidence, as a good lawyer does, with a list of his peers who attended Augustana and now have successful careers that are just as impressive as his own.
With that being said, Mr. Dhir made it very clear that students at Augustana receive so much more than just a degree to find a job. His advice to them: think critically, question your surroundings, and “get involved in what interests you, whether it’s drama, sports teams, the student union, or whatever else …that’s where you’re going to meet other people [and] see your experiences expand.”
A thank-you to this year’s opening convocation ceremony and to Mr. Dhir, for starting us off with some much appreciated inspiration.
Watch Mr. Dhir’s full speech here!