Jan 21, 2021


In the fall, the Langara campus reopened for a limited number of in-person classes, under the guidance of the BC provincial health and safety guidelines. Ensuring the safety of those on campus was a major responsibility that two co-op students from the Post Degree Diploma in Business Administration took seriously.

Andrea Boechat and Savita Rani rose to the challenge, and guided by Langara’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Recovery team, developed the robust Health & Safety Heroes (HSH) Program – Langara’s plan to promote health and safety practices on campus and assist with contact tracing and check-ins.  

Hiring, training and coordinating 40 swap students in under two weeks’ time, Savita and Andrea ensured that all students and employees could get where they needed to go quickly and safely. The Heroes (SWAP students) were stationed at check-in stations at the main entrances of Buildings A, L and T. Their role was to welcome all students, answer questions, collect contact information to assist the health authority with contact tracing, and ensure completion of self-health checks (BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment and Langara’s COVID-19 Safety Awareness course).

In addition, Savita and Andrea were tasked with distributing student IDs, working with multiple stakeholders across the College, and identifying and responding to new issues and challenges as the pandemic situation and guidelines evolved. Their critical role ensured that students and employees could have a streamlined and safe experience visiting the campus when needed.  

The HSH Program was developed by a committee from key departments in our COVID-19 response (EOC Recovery) team on campus: Health & Safety, Facilities, Risk Management, Student Engagement, and Communications & Marketing. It is one of the largest SWAP student initiatives for a single project in the history of the College. 

Tell us about yourselves.

Andrea: I am originally from Brazil, where I worked for several years in business communication. I have broad experience in content writing, editing and proofreading, and working on projects from concept to completion. One of these projects inspired me and helped me see how wonderful communication can be when it can motivate, engage, connect and change people’s life. I moved to Canada with my husband and daughter at the end of 2018, and when I started the PDD program, I discovered another beautiful thing: volunteering. In the past two years, I was a volunteer at the International Education Volunteer Program (IEVP) and VOLT. I worked as a Career Leader for the Co-op & Career Development Centre and as a SWAP student at International Education. I had a fantastic leadership experience at the Digital Media Marketing Club. I also studied hard and just graduated (with distinction!) after an amazing work experience at Langara. 

Savita: I have been an active volunteer at Langara and helped organize many on campus events with the International Education department, E-team, VOLT, and Digital Media Marketing Club. Last year, I was one of the Student Representatives for the Langara Board of Directors. After the pandemic hit, I engaged in e-volunteering to continue to create student engagement. One of my greatest passions is to create a valuable learning platform for our community where students can engage in and develop their skills.

HSH Program

What did you like most about the HSH program?
Andrea: I had the opportunity to design and run a new program using my skills, experience, and different topics I learned while studying at Langara. It is great to build something from scratch and see it come to life. Every challenge we had was a chance to be analytical and creative at the same time, in a fast-paced and ever-changing environment. The program helped us maintain a problem-solving and detail-oriented mindset. Besides program and change management, it was about people management, so communication was essential. We trained and informed the team about the procedures daily as well as motivated and engaged them. We received amazing feedback from the team and had lots of fun and learnings throughout the process.

Savita: The HSH program helps keep the Langara community safe. It was wonderful to be part of a project like this. It can make the difference to have the teams check in everyone when they arrive in case someone gets exposed. Also, it provides financial aid to Langara students by offering the opportunity to work on campus to help with the project. 

What was more challenging about it?
Savita: Every day we had new challenges. One of the biggest challenges was to find potential SWAP students to work with our team and to manage the schedule. We had very tight timelines and of course all the challenges around the pandemic. 

HSH-whiteboard.JPGWhat was something surprising and unique about this project that you didn’t expect?
Andrea: Something unexpected was to help students find solutions to their problems. We were stationed at the Engagement Kiosk in the A building and became the first point of contact for anyone seeking information and help, from program change to registration and computer ID set up. I was very happy to listen to the students, share my own student experience, and try to help as much as possible. Another unexpected outcome was the student engagement provided by the HSH Program. We decided to set up whiteboards at the building's entrance to give information on social distancing, masks, and washing hands. Soon, we started to promote virtual events and volunteer opportunities at Langara and welcome messages. The whiteboards attracted students and visitors and it was a way of showing that the campus was “alive” although virtually. I also noticed our team was excited to work on campus and engage with other students and staff. Some of them had never come to campus because they started their programs online. I remember two or three Heroes who were classmates but had the first in-person conversation during their shifts. I am sure this experience in the HSH Program made a difference in the Heroes’ life.

During a challenging time for the world, how was it for you to take on this role?
Andrea: I was glad to have my work experience at Langara, which was my second home for the past two years. It was also the result of all the other experiences I had on campus such as being a club leader, a volunteer, and a student worker. This was a role with an important meaning and purpose, aligned with the Langara strategies, and in compliance with the health authorities’ guidelines. We were there to provide a healthy and safe campus for students, faculty and staff who needed to access the buildings, helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. There was some risk since we were leaving our home, using the transit system, and assisting different people every day. However, the team was trained and continuously reminded about the importance of following the regulations. I think it became natural to use masks, keep the distance, clean the station, and use hand sanitizers during the shifts – if you do it at work, you keep it in mind when you are not working too. Another positive aspect of the HSH Program is that students form the team, and they become examples to other students accessing the campus.

Training Sessions HSH ProgramWhat are the key takeaways you will bring into your future work experiences?
Andrea: The HSH Program helped me embrace changes and challenges with a positive attitude. Solving unexpected issues is sometimes stressful, but it can also be fun! It’s that smile when you achieve something, that feeling of “mission accomplished” that makes it all worth it. Staying in your comfort zone cannot bring you this feeling. So, let challenges come, and I’ll be happy to overcome them! However, the most important takeaway is that people need people to share their thoughts and experiences, to find solutions together, and to feel empathy and kindness. It’s so good when you have the opportunity to help someone achieve their goals or only to listen to someone and make them feel better. During these times of social distancing and virtual life, people might feel lonely, frustrated, and anxious – it can make simple issues seem like big problems. So, no matter the role you have, if you can use your experience and skills to help others, you will make a difference. Empathy, kindness, and active listening should be part of any job.

Savita: There are numerous takeaways from this role. I have enhanced my communication, teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, attention to detail, presentation and many other skills. I have made many strong relationships with my co-workers, my team of Health & Safety Heroes and my supervisors. I have grown professionally, and this role has given me the motivation to work on my career goal.

What does life look like after Langara?
Andrea: I want to have a fulfilling opportunity to use my technical and interpersonal skills with purpose, to help people and make a difference. I have just received a job offer to work as a Student Services Administrator at CDI College, and I can’t wait to start!

Savita: I am looking for a new role in a post-secondary institution in admin/student services or student engagement. My career is goal is to land on a platform where I can help students in making their learning experience productive.

Is there anything else about the project that you would like to share?
Andrea and Savita: We are grateful for having such supportive stakeholders and for learning from them. It was a pleasure to work with Dwayne Doornbosch, Deborah Schratter, Cynthia Fudgell, Patricia Baker, and Maggie Stewart! Also, it was wonderful to work together as co-workers. We are different from each other, have different cultures and backgrounds, and that's why we worked so well together and achieved so much during this work experience.