McGill’s campuses are typically bustling with activity, especially in the autumn. Students hurrying to class. Friends stopping for a chat. Footballs and frisbees flying in the air. People parking their bikes. The sound of laughter is never far off.
And then, last March, everything in the world changed – including McGill.
Classes went online, most faculty and staff worked from home, and meetings were held via Zoom and Microsoft Teams (featuring cameo appearances from pets). Our campuses became strangely, eerily quiet.
Last fall, things started to return to normal – or at least to something more closely resembling the normal we all remembered. You could hear the sounds of laughter again.
Some things were still decidedly different. Students wore masks to class, a vaccine passport was required to enter McGill’s sports facilities, its concert halls and (as of October 27) the McGill Library, and other safety measures were still very much in place.
Thankfully, vaccination rates among McGillians were high – the Quebec government reported in October that 95 per cent of McGill students were adequately protected against COVID-19.
We asked photographers Owen Egan and Joni Dufour to chronicle the first few weeks of the fall semester for us. Here are some of the images they captured.
Off to the market
Cultural studies student Nina Vukelic (third from left) savours the aroma of one of the teas sold by vendors Julie and Normand Vaillencourt at the McGill Farmer’s Market, while fellow cultural studies student Connor MacInnis looks on. The popular student-run market, located along McTavish Street, made its debut in 2008. The market, which sells organic produce, free-trade coffee, baked goods, and other products, typically operates in the summer and fall, but (like so many other things) was temporarily grounded by the pandemic in 2020. It made its return last summer.
Working up an appetite
The Office of International Students organized a series of walking tours at the beginning of the fall semester for new students from other countries. The idea was to introduce the newcomers to some of Montreal’s different neighbourhoods – and to some of the scrumptious food that is available in those neighbourhoods. This group took part in a tour of Plateau-Mont-Royal and Little Portugal. Other excursions included “Battle of the Bagels” (Fairmount versus St-Viateur – is there really a wrong answer?) and the “Montreal Chocolate Tour.”
Not your typical depanneur
Management students Adam Sheerez and George Theharis consider their beverage options at the Bensadoun School of Management’s Retail Innovation Lab. The lab, launched in partnership with Quebec convenience store giant Couche-Tard, is one of the first retail laboratory stores of its kind in Canada. The goal is to test out new technologies and techniques aimed at improving the experience of customers – for instance, an app already in use allows for contactless checkout at the McGill-based retail lab. Also, it’s a handy spot for picking up a cool drink on a hot day.
Let’s have a look in there
Dentistry student Yawen Chen (right) examines a patient at the Faculty of Dentistry’s Undergraduate Teaching Clinic. The clinic offers individuals the opportunity to receive high quality dental care at about half the cost of a private clinic. Students in the clinical practice stage of their program get a chance to hone their skills under the supervision of a seasoned professional – in this case, Dr. Athanasios Karamitsos, BSc’84, DDS’88, a faculty lecturer (clinical). Prospective patients are vetted based on the treatments they hope to receive – those treatments need to match up with the courses and training that students are focusing on at the time. The clinic provided care to more than 2,500 patients last year.
Lights, curtain, action!
Keith Roche, a course lecturer in the Department of English and the technical director for Moyse Hall’s Scene Shop, gives students in McGill’s drama and theatre program some hands-on training in a course devoted to the ins and outs of stage scenery and theatrical lighting.
Cute cat on campus
Keanu, who accompanied political science and international development studies student Cassia Nasralla for a walk on the downtown campus last fall, was intrigued by the antics of McGill’s squirrel population.
Preparing for Prokofiev
Violinist Astrid Nakamura rehearses with the other student members of the McGill Symphony Orchestra in preparation for a concert in September – it would be their first performance in front of a live audience in more than a year. Nakamura, the winner of the 2020-21 McGill Concerto Competition, performed a solo during the concert of a work by Russian composer Sergey Prokofiev.
A milestone for medical students
Second-year medical students took part in McGill’s annual White Coat Ceremony last October. It marked the 20th anniversary of the event at McGill, and the first time that medical students at both the downtown campus and McGill’s Campus Outaouais in Gatineau took part in the ceremony together (students at the two locations were connected virtually). The ceremony offers students an opportunity to reflect on an important turning point in their medical education: the transition to seeing patients. In his address to the students, Dr. David Eidelman, vice-principal (health affairs) and dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, said, “Your white coat… ultimately symbolizes your intention – to do the very best you can for your patients.”
Lucy Wilkie, an environment and development student, enjoys the serene charms of Lac Saint-Louis, thanks to a paddle board from Paddle Mac. Located on the Macdonald Campus waterfront and overseen by McGill Athletics and Recreation, Paddle Mac rents out kayaks and paddle boards and offers classes on how to use both. It will be back in operation next June.
Revving up for their next challenge
Mechanical engineering student David Green (pictured) and the other members of the McGill Formula Electric team were back in action. The team was busy designing a new electric racecar for Formula SAE Michigan, an annual summer event that regularly attracts dozens of university teams from around the world. Green, the technical director for the McGill team, is seen here examining a damper cage for a decoupled suspension.
Growing food in the heart of downtown
Marysia Zaleski-Cox is one of the student coordinators for Campus Crops, a student-led group that grows a variety of vegetables (watermelons too) in the three gardens it takes care of on McGill’s downtown campus. Campus Crops supplies produce to another McGill student group, the Midnight Kitchen, which offers a vegan prepared meal program for low-income students and others.
Busy at the farm
Snehan Gorain, a student at McGill’s School of Environment, tends to his chores at the Macdonald Student-Run Ecological Garden (MSEG). The farm, located on Macdonald Campus, grows a variety of produce – kale, carrots, leeks, onions, peppers, cucumbers and more – and provides its fresh food to markets in both Montreal and Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue (and to regular customers via subscription baskets). Like Campus Crops and the McGill Farmer’s Market, MSEG has benefitted from support from the Sustainability Projects Fund, a partnership between the University and its students that helps to promote a culture of sustainability at McGill.