Mount Royal University Summit Fall/Winter 2021

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The issue of happiness





THE ALUMNI ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS ARE PRESENTED IN FOUR CATEGORIES: The Lifetime Distinguished Achievement Award recognizes alumni at the culmination of their careers who have brought honour to their profession and alma mater. The Outstanding Alumni Award acknowledges alumni who have made exceptional accomplishments in their fields and significant contributions to their community. The Horizon Award highlights the outstanding achievements of alumni early in their careers. The Outstanding Future Alumni Award is given to a current student who has been significantly involved with the University or wider community and exemplifies the leadership and ambassador qualities of our alumni community.

DO YOU KNOW AN ALUM OR CURRENT STUDENT DOING GREAT THINGS? Nominate a deserving alumna or alumnus for the 2022 Alumni Achievement Awards at

Mount Royal is proud to recognize those who have dedicated their time, efforts and careers to spark positive change. The 2021 Alumni Achievement Awards recipients include a resilient social worker and residential school survivor, a compassionate community health nurse, an inspirational human resources professional, an equity-driven entrepreneur and a high-achieving varsity athlete. They have faced adversity head on, passionately advocated for those who do not have a voice and made meaningful moves towards the betterment of society. They share an unrelenting focus on what it means to be human and stand as a powerful reminder of the impact one can have by leading with integrity, humility and compassion.



Oom ka pisi (Big Coyote)


Roy Bear Chief, a social worker and Siksika Nation elder, uses his own story of resilience and perseverance to help make a difference in the lives of others. After attending the Old Sun Residential School for 10 years, leaving at the age of 16, Bear Chief struggled with feelings of inadequacy. Although he didn’t want anything more to do with school, he remembers his late father emphasizing the importance of education at the breakfast table. Years later, those words would manifest and serve as the impetus for Bear Chief to carry on. “I could have been bitter, but I chose to get better,” he says of his past. Proving that age is not a barrier, Bear Chief completed his high-school equivalency at age 40 and a Social Work Diploma from Mount Royal at age 46. He then went to the University of Calgary and earned his Bachelor of Social Work at age 51 and his Master of Social Work at age 56. Over the years, Bear Chief has played an instrumental role in helping incorporate Indigenous ideas, concepts and practices into Mount Royal curriculum through co-lecturing and mentoring students and faculty. He was the elder-in-residence for the Bissett School of Business for two years and currently works as the espoom tah (helper) for the Department of Child Studies and Social Work. “Mount Royal paved the way for me,” he says. “I’m giving back to an institution that has allowed me to be who I am.” Using his education in combination with Blackfoot ways of knowing, Bear Chief’s career has been 2


one of leading through change with compassion. He has advocated for the health and well-being of Indigenous Peoples in his work with Aboriginal Mental Health, Siksika Family Services and Siksika Health Services, and provided insight into applying Indigenous strategies at numerous organizations, including Vibrant Communities Calgary, Momentum, Bow Valley College and Calgary Legal Guidance. What motivates him, Bear Chief says, is, “A smile on someone’s face, somebody saying ‘thank you,’ that's my reward.” When it comes to being recognized on a larger scale, Bear Chief shares that it can bring deep, painful emotions to the surface. “As a residential school survivor, getting and accepting awards becomes difficult as ‘survivor’s guilt’ is elevated, such as in my case. The guilt comes from, ‘Why them and not me?’ Why am I deserving of such an award while others who went to residential school passed away without reaching their potentials?” Through these emotions and the long-lasting impact of residential school, Bear Chief continues to persevere and create a human-centred legacy of change and compassion. It is with both strength and integrity that he openly shares his story, highlighting the importance of working towards a better future while not forgetting the past. “My guilt runs deep. However, through the guilt that I feel I will accept this award in honour of those children and the friends who have gone before me — in their memory.”

The name Kya yiina (Bear Chief) comes

from Roy Bear Chief’s late grandfather Bill,

pictured behind him,

and is proudly carried on to this day. Read more at


For his resiliency and perseverance in the pursuit of education, his endless advocacy against poverty and social injustice and for sharing his knowledge to help aid in reconciliation, Roy Bear Chief is this year’s recipient of the Lifetime Distinguished Achievement Award.






Growing up in poverty, Jenny Philbrick used to dream of living in “nicer low-income housing and working at the mall.” Today she serves as the executive director for the Tsilhqot'in Nation in the central interior of British Columbia, overseeing crucial matters for close to 6,000 citizens, leading over 100 employees, building relationships in the community and supporting negotiations with various levels of government. “I used to be embarrassed to tell my ‘come from nothing’ stories,” Philbrick says. “But now I see the importance of sharing, of letting others know you can make your own path.” Philbrick was the first of her family to graduate from high school and she didn’t stop there. She started with a human resources certificate at Bow Valley College. Next, Philbrick enrolled at Mount Royal, where she spent two years upgrading through the Aboriginal Education Program (now the Indigenous University Bridging Program) and then completed her Bachelor of Business Administration — Human Resources. Balancing schooling with being a parent and working full time, often commuting four hours a day between daycare, school and home, Philbrick credits her children and Indigenous community for being her biggest motivators. “I wanted a different life for my kids,” she says. “And I wanted to be a role model to my community and family members.” After graduating, Philbrick stayed at Mount Royal, working at the Iniskim Centre where she mentored and shared resources with Indigenous students. During her time as a student and employee, she sat on a number of committees and made significant contributions to the indigenization of Mount Royal as an institution. “To actually bring in Indigenous students and get their views and their opinions, I think that was vital,” Philbrick says of Mount Royal’s approach to incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing into the post-secondary system. In 2019, Philbrick received a call offering her the role of human resources manager with her Tsilhqot’in Nation back home in B.C. Philbrick’s work impressed the six chiefs within the Nation and they soon offered her the position of executive director, which she holds today.

On the educational front, Philbrick recently completed her executive MBA in Indigenous business and leadership from Simon Fraser University, which she says will help her provide more opportunities to her communities. Believing that “learning is forever ongoing,” Philbrick is also reintroducing herself to her language and her Nation’s protocols. Reflecting on where she was compared with where she is, Philbrick shares that it was a lot of hard work. Even though nothing came easy, “it was so worth it. “I am a success story of a poor Indigenous girl who overcame many barriers to become educated, gain experience and who moved home to help advance her community and her people.” For overcoming adversity through education to help advance her Nation, for her contributions to the indigenization of Mount Royal and for not being afraid to lead, Jenny Philbrick is the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Alumni Award.


Nen, meaning "land and resources" in the Tŝilhqot’in language, is an important part

of Jenny Philbrick's life that helps keep her grounded and connected to her culture.




Rachael Edwards, an alumna of the first Bachelor of Nursing cohort at Mount Royal, has dedicated her nursing career to supporting vulnerable populations and advocating for more compassionate health care. During her undergraduate studies, Edwards began working at CUPS Community Health Centre, a non-profit that describes its mandate as to “build resilient lives for Calgarians facing the challenges of poverty and trauma.” Later, she moved into a full-time role with CUPS that included working in the liver clinic and on the Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership team (also known as the DOAP team). Edwards says beginning her career with street-level outreach gave her the opportunity to identify — and be responsive to — healthcare gaps in the community. One of those was the lack of palliative care for people experiencing homelessness. “We talk about living in homelessness, but we don't really talk about dying in homelessness and what that looks like,” Edwards says. “How do we make sure that people aren't dying alone, and are dying with dignity and comfort?”



In what Edwards describes as a “serendipitous meeting in a parking lot,” she connected with palliative care physician Dr. Simon Colgan and together they started the Calgary Allied Mobile Palliative Program (more commonly known as CAMPP) in 2016. This unique initiative gives vulnerable individuals a voice in what their end of life looks like by assisting them in managing pain and navigating the health-care system. “It’s an honour to create such a great impact for the people who we work with,” Edwards says. “Integrating a harm-reduction philosophy of care with a palliative philosophy of care, and being able to share that, empowers the whole community to see things in a different way.” In addition to her work in the field, Edwards is a regular preceptor and guest lecturer with Mount Royal’s School of Nursing and Midwifery. She continues to introduce the philosophy of harm reduction and dispel myths about substance use, addictions and people who experience structural vulnerability. She also helps agencies and community members understand the benefits and importance of harm reduction.

“We are only as strong as our most vulnerable,” she says. “I want to help take away the stigma and show the human side that many forget. By highlighting our shared humanity, we can bring people on board to see it the same way.” Never one to slow down, Edwards is currently completing her Master of Public Health at the University of Victoria. She hopes this will help her to be an even stronger advocate, especially within the political and community spheres. She notes that being recognized for this award is a reminder to not give up. “This award is accepted on behalf of everyone practising in addictions and mental health and, most importantly, is dedicated to the humans that we serve and love.”


NURSING, 2010 In her (very little) free

time, Rachael Edwards is

an avid knitter who makes warm and cozy items for her friends and family.

For her dedication to working with vulnerable populations, her endless advocacy for more compassionate health care and her commitment to shifting perspectives through outreach, Rachael Edwards is the recipient of this year's Outstanding Alumni Award — Community Service.





Kylie Woods balances her career advocating for women in tech with being a proud mom to twin girls, Lily and Mae.



With an entrepreneurial spirit and a Bachelor of Communications — Public Relations in her pocket, Kylie Woods is shaking up the world of technology and innovation in the name of equity. After learning that women are twice as likely as men to quit the tech industry, Woods founded Chic Geek, a Calgary-based nonprofit. With inclusion always at the forefront, Chic Geek “embraces trans, gender queer, non-binary and the full vibrant spectrum of gender expression.” Aiming to “stop the leaky talent funnel” by helping women build strategic networks and achieve greater career visibility, "I wanted to create a small piece of the world where everyone feels welcome,” Woods says. “Tech companies by nature are the innovators and changemakers of industry. Leading technology companies across the globe are looking for solutions to retain women and diverse employees, not just because it's the right thing to do for humanity, but because they get better results all around.” Although a degree in communications is not the status quo for entering the tech industry, Woods says for her it has made all the difference. "Participating in Enactus (a global network of values-driven business, academic and student leaders) and having access to the courses run through Mount Royal’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship was really eye-opening for me. They helped me build the confidence and gain the experience to take Chic Geek from idea to action." Woods has started conversations about gender equity in tech throughout Alberta and beyond. She hosted the first Techstars Startup Weekend Women’s Edition in

Canada, was twice a panelist at Mount Royal’s International Women’s Day events and gave a voice to women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at the International Visitor Leadership Program hosted by the U.S. Department of State. Also on Woods’ list of successes is launching Geeky Summit, the largest tech conference for women in Western Canada, and securing $300,000 in grants for Chic Geek this past year. “It’s a testament to the hunger and appetite to diversify and support women and technology in Alberta,” Woods says. “Knowing that we have impacted the lives of women working in technology in a positive way is so meaningful.” Being part of the tech sector means Chic Geek is constantly evolving, and that fluidity and openness to change is also mirrored in Woods' leadership style. “I always had this misconception that leaders are talkers and leaders tell. But in my journey with Chic Geek, what I have learned is that leaders listen,” she says. “They create space for their people to thrive, grow, learn, participate and bring their own ideas to the table.” Woods is quick to share the spotlight by acknowledging the team that supports her, including employees, board members, volunteers, family and friends. And while she admits that being considered a leader initially came with some discomfort, she also has deep gratitude for being in this space. “I see it as an opportunity to show other women, women of colour, that they can do this too.”

For advocating for gender equality in the world of technology and for creating space for women to realize their full potential in the industry, Kylie Woods is this year’s recipient of the Horizon Award.




Marnie Garner is no stranger to a busy schedule. As a varsity athlete and Bachelor of Education — Elementary student, she juggles a demanding combination of classes, homework, practices, workouts and games. But she doesn’t stop there. Garner is also committed to making an impact in her community, and she does all of the above with authenticity and enthusiasm. For five years Garner played a pivotal role as a guard on the Cougars women’s basketball team. After earning the trust and respect of her teammates, she was named team captain. “Being friendly, approachable and knowing that my teammates could talk to me is a big thing for me. I don’t judge anyone, ever. I try to relate to everyone. That’s something I take pride in,” she says. Garner also personifies determination when it comes to her studies. She received the Academic All-Canadian Award, given to athletes in full-time studies with a GPA of 3.4 or higher, four years in a row, and made the Dean’s Honour Roll for two. While Garner has found success in her current program, she shares that academics never came easy to her. Using her own experience as fuel, she is passionate about creating an inclusive classroom environment for her future students.



“I want to help kids who struggle in school like I did. I want to be able to relate to my students while making learning fun and flexible.“ When she’s not on the court or in the classroom, Garner can be found giving back to the community. Over the years she has been a basketball coach and volunteered with Deaf & Hear Alberta and the Salvation Army. She also spent the last four years as a mentor with Crew, a program run by Catholic Family Service that pairs youth aged 10 to 14 with postsecondary student-athletes. As she enters her final year of studies, which will mostly consist of teaching practicums, Garner is excited to take what she has learned and incorporate it into her future classroom. This includes adaptable teaching styles to meet differing student needs, hands-on interactive work and Indigenous learning for all grade levels. “I want to keep learning with my students,” Garner says. “I have confidence that I can be a positive role model for my future students and show them that anything is possible.”


Basketball has played a

big part in shaping Marnie Garner's values and

philosophy of teamwork. For setting an example both in the classroom and on the basketball court, for her passion for giving back to the community and for leading the next generation, Marnie Garner is this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Future Alumni Award.






Dear alumni, I would like to start off with a hearty congratulations to this year’s Alumni Achievement Award recipients, each of whom set, attained and surpassed their goals while helping improve the lives of others. I constantly hear stories of alumni out in the community doing fantastic things. Your selflessness is inspiring. This issue of Summit is dedicated to the concept of happiness, and since I started my training as a psychologist I often muse about this topic. Like many of you, I remind myself that happiness can be found in the most simple everyday moments, yet it can sometimes be challenging to find. The past two years have been hard on all of us, so it is all the more important that each of us identify what makes us feel happy. For me, what truly lights me up is caring about Mount Royal’s people and working to ensure MRU’s future. One happy fact of the past year is that we reached our highest total ever of eligible graduates in the spring. This is a major accomplishment for all 1,937 of those students and our University. Our drive-in Convocation ceremonies were truly happy events. This fall we welcomed new students and a contingent of secondyears to their inaugural on-campus experience. A growing number of students are choosing Mount Royal because they value face-toface learning and personal support. MRU programs are in demand and it feels incredible to be back on campus with people who want to learn and grow. Other highlights were two large gifts. Don and Ruth Taylor donated $15 million to create more classrooms and a student services hub. Ken Lett, a Second World War veteran who found success in the aviation industry, gave $2.4 million to the aviation program. These gifts are so meaningful because they’re a signal the external community recognizes and values our shared work. To guide that work we recently updated our strategic plan, which is very exciting. Our vision is “opening minds and changing lives” and our mission is to provide meaningful and engaged learning opportunities that allow for individual transformation and create societal benefit. You can learn more about the values and strategic direction we have chosen at With an amazing group of alumni, a growing number of students choosing Mount Royal, a revived campus enjoying in-person learning, the support of the community and a new strategic plan, Mount Royal has a robust future. How can that make me anything but … happy? Stay well!




In this issue 11

Letter from the president



| 15

Giving feels good

| 16

Bleed blue

| 22

Research snapshot

2021 Alumni Achievement Awards Celebrating the remarkable members of MRU’s alumni family, including an Indigenous leader and social worker, an inspirational humanresources professional, a compassionate community health nurse, an equity-driven entrepreneur and a high-achieving varsity athlete.

| 48

Alumni Q&A


What is happiness, anyway? Societal pressure demands a constant search for happiness, but when people can't find it they can feel like failures. In this issue, Summit explores the concept of happiness and how to find it in an authentic manner.


‘The Conquest of Happiness’ then and now Philosopher and author Bertrand Russell took a deep dive into happiness nearly 100 years ago. Do his words still stand today?


‘This is fine ...’ Toxic positivity is a forced optimism that can trap people in a vicious loop, doing far more harm than good.





Alumni in this issue Alan Antioquia Bachelor of Applied Interior Design, 2003 Mabel Au Bachelor of Health and Physical Education — Physical Literacy, 2021



The reflections you see may not be accurate

Janaya Callejon Bachelor of Health and Physical Education — Physical Literacy, 2021

We think money is the direct line to a carefree and fulfilled life, but studies say that isn’t necessarily true.

Social media is great for making connections, but the constant comparisons with others can be harsh.

Mackenzie Carr Bachelor of Arts — Psychology and Sociology (Honours), 2021

The best things in life really are free


Cancelling commodification Don’t tell Amazon, but making valuesbased decisions about your purchases leads to the most customer satisfaction.


Can work be your happy place? We spend a lot of time at work … so much so that it’s our second home. What is the actual interplay between work and happiness?


Designs on positive living Our surroundings have a lot to do with how we feel. Taking care with our built environments can lead to more positivity.


The contented classroom These three MRU courses have happiness at their core through a focus on escape, resilience and therapy.

Roy Bear Chief Social Work Diploma, 1994

Mary Anne Moser Honorary Doctor of Laws, 2019 Orest Ndabaneze Bachelor of Arts — Sociology, 2021 Priti Obhrai-Martin Bachelor of Applied Communication — Public Relations, 2001 Mizuki Oshita Social Work Diploma, 2021 Amanda Paterson Bachelor of Health and Physical Education — Physical Literacy, 2021

Trevor Chambers Bachelor of Communication ­— Broadcast Media Studies, 2020

Ben Pearman Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management, 2021

Karen Cresine Environmental Management for Business Certificate, 2010

Shannon Pestun Business Administration Diploma — Marketing Management, 1999

Maddison Drader Bachelor of Health and Physical Education — Physical Literacy, 2021

Jenny Philbrick Bachelor of Business Administration — Human Resources, 2016

Rachael Edwards Bachelor of Nursing, 2011 Danielle Gibbie Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management, 2015 Louise Bernice Halfe (Sky Dancer) Honorary Doctor of Laws, 2021 ​Aymie Haslam Bachelor of Arts — Policy Studies, 2021​​ Alixx Hettinga Bachelor of Communication — Public Relations, 2021

Carolyn Reid Bachelor of Applied Interior Design, 2010 Emily Robitaille Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management and Marketing, 2021 McKayla Saint-Cyr Bachelor of Communication — Public Relations, 2021 Maddison Scarlett Bachelor of Arts — Psychology (Honours), 2021 Christine Silverberg Honorary Doctor of Laws, 2021

Hal Kvisle Honorary Doctor of Laws, 2021 Honorary Bachelor of Arts, 2009

Jean-Nils Sjoblom Aviation Diploma, 2021

Symone Loney Bachelor of Arts — Psychology, 2012

Doreen Spence (Grandmother) Honorary Bachelor of Nursing, 2017

Ashlee Macken-Rocliffe Bachelor of Nursing, 2021

Deanna Thompson Business and Insurance Diploma, 1999

Daniel Major Bachelor of Science — Cellular and Molecular Biology, 2021 Jessie McCauley Bachelor of Education — Elementary, 2019 Mikaela McNab Bachelor of Education — Elementary, 2020 Clarence Wolfleg Sr. (Elder Miiksika’am) Honorary Doctor of Laws, 2021 Honorary Bachelor of Arts — Sociology, 2016

Kylie Woods Bachelor of Communications — Public Relations, 2012 Nathan Woolridge Bachelor of Communication — Journalism, 2021 Karina Zapata Bachelor of Communication — Journalism, 2021






EDITOR Michelle Bodnar BCMM (Applied) ’05



Summit is published in the fall and spring of each year with a circulation of approximately 60,000. Each issue features the exceptional alumni, students, faculty and supporters who make up the Mount Royal community. Summit tells the University’s ongoing story of the provision of an outstanding undergraduate education through personalized learning opportunities, a commitment to quality teaching, a focus on practical outcomes and a true dedication to community responsiveness. Celebrate yourself through Summit. ISSN 1929-8757 Summit Publications Mail Agreement #40064310 Return undeliverables to: Mount Royal University 4825 Mount Royal Gate SW Calgary, AB, Canada T3E 6K6 Enjoy Summit online by visiting

COPY EDITORS Matthew Fox Andrea Ranson Public Relations Diploma ’85

ART DIRECTOR Michal Waissmann BCMM (Applied) ’07 DESIGN Leslie Blondahl BCMM ’14 Astri Do Rego Mike Poon Michal Waissmann Chao Zhang PHOTOGRAPHY Leonora André Chao Zhang ILLUSTRATIONS Astri Do Rego

Where do you find yourself to be the most consistently happy?

If you would like us to deliver a print copy to your office or home, simply email

We asked the Summit team when they feel the most content with the world.

Mount Royal University is located in the traditional territories of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) and the people of the Treaty 7 region in southern Alberta, which includes the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina and the Îyâhe Nakoda. The city of Calgary is also home to the Métis Nation.

"On any Saturday, on the couch with my husband and cats, drinking coffee and enjoying the morning light." Anna

Sustainably yours.

"Fly fishing a quiet stretch of the Bow River." Rob

"Happiness is adventuring in the mountains with my dogs." Rachel

"Outside, reading a murder mystery with my cats nearby." Katherine

FSC 14


CONTRIBUTORS Michelle Bodnar Peter Glenn Ruth Myles Anna Parks Rob Petrollini BCMM (Applied) ’07 Melissa Rolfe Katherine Sharples BCMM '21 Ron Strand Rachel von Hahn Zach Worden BCMM ’21

"When everyone's in bed, watching a mind-numbing reality show with a bag of chips and candy in peace. A mom’s guilty pleasure." Astri

"Corny as it sounds, my happy place is with my husband, my partner in life." Melissa "I love it when I get a chance to go skating. I get such a sense of freedom and unity." Michelle

GIVING GOOD Studies say …


A public relations instructor with MRU, Dr. Ron Strand, Ed.D, has directed several successful fundraising campaigns resulting in the contribution of hundreds of millions of dollars to public and civic facilities. He has also developed courses for and continues to teach in the Non-Profit Management Extension Certificate program.


ake my word for it, there is ample research that giving increases happiness — even if you are left with less after you do it. The research comes in many forms, from logging self-reported "good" feelings after making a gift to measuring neurochemical changes during the process of gift-giving. The same is true for volunteering and similar forms of prosocial behaviour. Evolutionary psychologists such as Dr. Gad Saad, PhD, posit that gift-giving is an innate human characteristic that has evolved because it aids in the survival of the species. The practice probably had its beginnings in simple food sharing and became more complex. It is a universal phenomenon that now takes many forms. Likely positive feedback in the form of happiness and feelings of well-being also evolved to reinforce these activities. That’s kind of a big-picture perspective. Another perspective comes from something called the Self-Determination Theory, which says that self-determination, or the ability to

manage one’s life, is extremely important for well-being (or happiness). Autonomy, competence and connection are essential for self-determination, all of which are supported by giving. In a 2021 article published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, a fourth condition for happiness was noted — “beneficence,” or perceived social impact. Happiness is rated higher when the giver perceives the gift as making a difference. It’s said that happiness is contagious. The same may be true with giving. Studies show that over 80 per cent of Canadians give away money or goods and about 75 per cent of adults volunteer. This may be part of the reason for Canada typically ranking in the top 10 of all countries on the United Nations' happiness scale. Giving, by almost everyone, has helped make this a great place to live.

"I HAD NO IDEA WHAT A TRUE JOY AND BLESSING CREATING THIS BURSARY WOULD BE." These words were spoken by Shannon Pestun, Business Administration Diploma — Marketing Management alumna, founder and CEO of Pestun Consulting Inc. and an alumni representative for MRU’s Board of Governors. Pestun recently created the Gifting Circle Bursary for Indigenous Women in Entrepreneurship and hopes to build a community of gifting to continue to grow the bursary.






Bleed Blue TO




These are just a few highlights from the past six months at MRU, where there has been something to celebrate just about every day — even at a distance. Want to know what's happening at your alma mater? Go to


After a year like no other, MRU welcomes new members to the alumni family

Spring Convocation 2021 took place over four days in June, when eight unique outdoor drive-in ceremonies recognized the hard work of the nearly 2,000 new graduates, now part of the 110,000-strong MRU alumni family. Attendees listened to the proceedings on their car radios, honked their approval and celebrated their shared achievements at the singular event, the only one of its kind in Alberta. Symbolic in their intent, the ceremonies were a sign of Mount Royal’s dedication to its students, former and current. After officially calling for Convocation to be assembled for the granting of degrees, MRU Chancellor Dawn Farrell said graduates should feel both confident and fortunate. “You are among the most educated and privileged people on this planet. Never forget that,” Farrell said. “We are so lucky to live in a country, and a province and a city, that is passionate about education, and that lays a path to support those who are willing to show up and who are willing to do the hard work.” 16







Work-integrated learning opportunities grow Mount Royal University is one of a select group of post-secondary institutions in Canada provided with more than $500,000 of funding through the CEWIL (Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning) iHUB this yea. These resources came in part through the Government of Canada’s Innovative Work-Integrated Learning program. “Hundreds of MRU students have benefited from two rounds of CEWIL funding in 2021,” said Sarah Imran, director

of Career Services, with the money going to those participating in unpaid work experience programs. Each received $1,800, greatly alleviating the stress involved with income insecurity. More than 70 per cent of MRU degrees have a work-integrated learning (WIL) component, which include practicums, co-ops, service learning and internships. “We are certainly leaders in this space,” Imran said, adding that Career Services is

working towards every MRU student having access to WIL opportunities. In addition to helping students, the funding also motivated businesses to create more opportunities. “There has been unprecedented collaboration across sectors,” Imran said. “Communities, industry and the postsecondary world are all coming together to find innovative ways to support student career development.”

Honorary Doctor of Laws recipients Louise Bernice Halfe (Sky Dancer), is an awardwinning writer and Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate who testifies to the Indigenous experience. A residential school survivor and former social work student at Mount Royal College, Halfe has published six poetry collections, including the award-winning Bear Bones and Feathers. Currently an elder with the University of Saskatchewan, Halfe's most recent work is awasis — kinky and dishevelled.

Through an illustrious career, Hal Kvisle has accumulated numerous accolades, including being named Canada’s CEO of the Year and selected for the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame. When chair of Mount Royal's Board of Governors, Kvisle was instrumental in steering the then-College through the process of gaining university status, with his work contributing to the construction of the Bissett School of Business, the Riddell Library and Learning Centre and the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts.

“It has been a journey of self-determination, of reconciliation and the ability to move forward with perseverance, endurance and courage. And that is what I wish for all the students.”

“This is a great day, not only for you, but also for those of us who have been associated with the institution over the years. It demonstrates once again how important MRU is to the community.”

MRU’s spiritual elder Clarence Wolfleg Sr. (Elder Miiksika’am), has been an adviser to national, provincial and local organizations, including the Calgary Public Library, Bow Valley College, Heritage Park, Mental Health Canada and Veterans Affairs Canada. After leaving residential school, Miiksika’am became a soldier, participating in UN peacekeeping initiatives and in NATO European missions during the Cold War. He was also a long-time member of the Siksika Nation Council and sat on the Treaty 7 Tribal Council. “Continue to strive, continue to listen. Take the good things of yesterday and put them with the good things of today for a better tomorrow. There are many more tomorrows.”

Christine Silverberg’s 30-year career in corrections, policing and government has been punctuated by successes, none more public than in 1995 with her appointment as chief of the Calgary Police Service, when she became the first female chief in a major Canadian city. Her impact is still palpable. Silverberg's drive for excellence continues with a legal career that now sees her representing diverse clients in civil litigation and advocacy, administrative law and high-conflict family law at SilverbergLegal. “Success is born from principles and practices that reflect our values, which must never be compromised. Face your critics, reach deep within and move beyond. Know and be true to yourself.” MRU.CA /SUMMIT




Governor General’s Academic Medal recipients


Campus leader for indigenization appointed Dr. Linda ManyGuns, PhD, has joined Mount Royal as the associate vice-president of indigenization and decolonization. As the senior Indigenous Photo courtesy of leader at the University, she provides vision, Postmedia, Christina Ryan strategy, leadership and direction towards advancing indigenization and decolonization commitments. Of Blackfoot descent, ManyGuns was born on the Tsuut'ina Nation and registered at Siksika. With a master's from Carleton University, a law degree from the University of Ottawa and a doctorate from Trent University, traditional knowledge informs ManyGuns’ respect for all life and all thoughts. Speaking of transformation, she said, “It should be gentle, and any process should reflect and integrate all thoughts in a consensus model.” ManyGuns led MRU's Journey to Indigenization this fall, when several events were held in recognition of the signing of Treaty 7, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Sisters in Spirit. She has provided seeds to MRU from the period before contact between Indigenous Peoples and outside cultures, which will be planted at four sites on campus to represent the four directions of the medicine wheel. The seeds include tobacco, sweetgrass and pre-contact foods and will be for use with visiting elders, students and employees.



Centennial Gold Medal recipients exemplify excellence in education The Centennial Gold Medal award is Mount Royal’s highest award for student academic achievement. Recipients must have a cumulative GPA of 3.7 or higher and demonstrate leadership through involvement in campus and community activities. Each represents one of MRU’s faculties.

Ashlee Macken-Rocliffe Bachelor of Nursing After earning a GPA of 3.88, Macken-Rocliffe began work as a nurse in three different addictions and corrections centres and plans to obtain a master’s.



Daniel Major Bachelor of Science — Cellular and Molecular Biology Major has entered the medical doctor program at the University of Alberta, leaving Mount Royal with a cumulative GPA of 3.88.

Orest Ndabaneze Bachelor of Arts — Sociology A decorated varsity athlete (Cougars men’s soccer) and a frequent speaker on the topic of racism, Ndabaneze graduated with a GPA of 3.72.

The Governor General’s Academic Medal, established in 1873, is one of the most distinguished awards that can be earned by a student in a Canadian educational institution. Students graduating with the highest average from their respective schools receive the prestigious medals. Alixx Hettinga was awarded the Silver Medal for achieving the highest academic standing of all graduates in a degree program. Hettinga graduated with a Bachelor of Communication — Public Relations and a GPA of 4.00. Jean-Nils Sjoblom was awarded the Bronze Medal for achieving the highest academic standing of all graduates in a diploma program. Sjoblom graduated with an Aviation Diploma and a GPA of 4.00.

McK ayla Saint-Cyr Bachelor of Communication — Public Relations Graduating with experience as a peer mentor and peer health educator, Saint-Cyr left Mount Royal with a GPA of 3.96.



Chinook Aerosports / Ben Pearman






Annual JMH LaunchPad Pitch Competition lifts off again During Mount Royal’s annual premier match-up of duelling entrepreneurs last spring, students pitched their ventures (virtually) to a panel of experienced judges and a supportive audience for their share of more than $70,000 in cash and services. Hosted by the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the JMH LaunchPad Pitch Competition is its most prominent event of the year. Teams were given five minutes to pitch, followed by questions from the judges, several of whom were successful entrepreneurs with ties to MRU.

THE FINALISTS Chinook Aerosports // Ben Pearman Chinook Aerosports brings technology to the rapidly growing world of disc golf. Received: $10,000 JMH Award, $15,000 LaBarge Weinstein, $4,000 LaunchPad Alumni Award Swim by Em // Emily Robitaille and Connor Pupp Swim by Em creates swimwear from unused commercial fabric and unconventional materials. Received: $10,000 JMH Award, $15,000 Grant Design Bug Broz // Jake McLellan Bug Broz is a licensed pest control company that uses safe and environmentally friendly chemicals. Received: $10,000 JMH Award Evergreen Lights // Aarondeep Maan Evergreen Lights is a custom outdoor LED lighting company that offers permanent, cloud-enabled lighting solutions. Received: $10,000 JMH Award




Decorated Second World War pilot donates to the future of flying In June, Second World War veteran Ken Lett gave back to a new generation of pilots with a $2.4-million donation to the Mount Royal University Aviation Diploma program. “Aviation has been my life. I just love flying,” said Lett, 98, who survived the harrowing invasion of Normandy, served in the Cold War and then found success in the aviation support industry. “My heart is full of joy when I think of helping young people have careers in aviation.” Lett’s donation to MRU will be used for scholarships and bursaries with a focus on the participation of underrepresented groups in aviation, including Indigenous Peoples and women. It will also go towards aircraft maintenance, technology, MRU’s flight simulator and other infrastructure. In the Second World War, Lett flew Spitfires with the 402 Squadron on Channel patrols. As the Allied front advanced through Normandy, Belgium, the Netherlands and into Germany, he was in the thick of the action. After coming to Calgary in 1978 and joining the province's aviation industry, Lett and partners focused on refuelling operations and related services through the Executive Flight Centre Fuel Services, growing extensively as Western Canada’s oil industry boomed. That business side of flight is important to Lett, who applauds MRU’s desire to grow the current program towards a four-year degree with expanded curriculum around business and managerial training enabling broader career pathways for graduates. Dr. Elizabeth Evans, PhD, interim provost and vice-president academic at MRU, said, “We are so grateful to Ken for this gift. It is testament to his generosity, but also to the strength of the program and its important role in the future economy of Alberta.” Mount Royal’s two-year Aviation Diploma is one of Canada’s elite Aviation Accreditation Board International programs, integrating academic preparation with flight simulator training for a Commercial Pilot Licence with multi-engine and instrument ratings. The program marked its 50th anniversary in 2020. MRU.CA /SUMMIT








Spotlighting recent recognitions earned by the Mount Royal community Recognizing high-level inquiry through the Library Awards for Research Excellence

Taylor Woitas

Mazen Hassanin

Mackenzie Carr (psychology and sociology) took home the Senior Individual Award for her work examining increasing inequity during the pandemic. Jarod Huhtala (athletic therapy) won the Emerging Scholar Award for his look at muscle mechanics, joint stability and the energy cost required to run. The Senior Group Award was presented to Mabel Au, Janaya Callejon, Maddison Drader, Amanda Paterson and Makayla Skrlac (physical literacy) for their research into early-adult sleep habits for women.

Journalism students challenge blood donation stigma Bachelor of Communication — Journalism graduates Karina Zapata and Nathan Woolridge were announced as the recipients of the 2020 Canadian Association of Journalists’ Student Award of Excellence. Their investigation for the Calgary Journal titled "Bad Blood" broke down the Canadian Blood Services' blood donation restrictions for sexually active gay men. Zapata was also selected as a 2021 Joan Donaldson CBC News Scholar.

Standout students deconstruct gender inequality Tyler Kostiuk

Hanson Lui


Maddison Scarlett (Faculty of Arts) and Amirah Azmi (Faculty of Science and Technology) each received a Leaders in Equality Award of Distinction from the Government of Alberta, a program that supports students who are working to reduce gender discrimination in their communities or who are studying in fields where their gender is traditionally underrepresented.

MRU students beat out competing universities for national championship

Team earns trip to Canadian finals for research on diverse social problems

MRU receives prestigious fellowship to ‘provide light, guidance and hope’

A team of four Bachelor of Business Administration — Finance students (Taylor Woitas, Tyler Kostiuk, Mazen Hassanin and Hanson Lui), were crowned national champions at the fifth-annual CFA Societies Canada Ethics Challenge, earning top marks from a panel of CFA (chartered financial analyst) judges and outperforming teams from the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Waterloo, L'Université de Sherbrooke and Dalhousie University.

The winning project of this year’s Map the System competition explored the overrepresentation of Indigenous youth in care. Mizuki Oshita, a new social work graduate, Emma Berger (psychology); Vanessa Sandoval (psychology); and Eloisa Gillham (sociology) went on to the Canadian finals to represent MRU and the Institute for Community Prosperity.

The D’Arcy McGee Beacon Fellowship was awarded to Mount Royal University in conjunction with the National University of Ireland (NUI), Galway, and the Ireland Canada University Foundation. This fellowship facilitates strong relationships between NUI Galway and MRU, with future possibilities including student study abroad opportunities and faculty exchanges.


A LU M N I ,





New teachers recognized for outstanding leadership during a year of change

Inclusive activity program for youth with disabilities receives funding

Every year, each school district in Alberta nominates a first-year teacher for the Edwin Parr Award. This year, two recent Bachelor of Education — Elementary grads were recognized. Mikaela McNab was nominated for the Lethbridge School Division and Jessie McCauley was nominated for the Foothills School Division. Both showed incredible dedication and resilience during an unprecedented year of teaching.

Jarod Huhtala and Miguel Klassen (Bachelor of Health and Physical Education — Athletic Therapy) won a $10,000 award from the Trico Foundation for their social enterprise, Adaptive Play Personalized Activity (APPA). APPA’s core objective is to help children and youth with motor disabilities be more active when services and programs are not available.

$40,000 TransAlta gift supports Indigenous Housing Program Families of Mount Royal’s unique Indigenous Housing Program (IHP) are benefitting from a generous donation from TransAlta that resulted in the contruction of a 25-foot Blackfoot-style tipi, the addition of outdoor furnishings and funds for future programming. The IHP provides students with affordable individual or family housing and cultural, academic and social supports.

The 'Dismal Scientists' take home second place in international competition A group of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Business Administration students known as “The Dismal Scientists” won second place in the international EconGames competition this year. The team was comprised of members Aymie Haslam (policy studies), Diamond Reid (policy studies), Elliot Ryland (sociology), Janine Shen (accounting) and Thomas Tram (accounting).

Miguel Klas sen Ja

tala rod Huh

Leadership-driven scholarship awarded to exemplary nursing student

New research note captures interweaving of MRU and Indigenous history

The McCall MacBain Scholarships at McGill are Canada’s first leadership-driven scholarships for master’s and professional degree students. Out of 735 applications from across Canada (and some from abroad), Mount Royal nursing student Shani Markus was selected for an interview and selected for a regional award valued at $5,000 to attend graduate studies at any public university in Canada.

Former assistant professor Dr. Sean Carleton, PhD, and ecotourism and outdoor leadership student Wacey Little Light recently published a research note in Prairie History exploring the transformation of Old Sun Residential School on Siksika to a community college and a satellite campus of Mount Royal in 1971. Old Sun Community College is now a place of hope and learning and marked its 50th anniversary this year. MRU.CA /SUMMIT




Asking questions and then working to find the answer is what universities do Professors and students investigate topics to gather evidence and contribute to the global body of knowledge, addressing societal needs, improving community wellness and shaping policies for the future. WORDS BY ROB PETROLLINI


ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR MARK AY YASH, PHD Department of Sociology and Anthropology

PROFESSOR RANDY CONNOLLY, PHD Department of Mathematics and Computing


ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR LYNNE LAFAVE, PHD Department of Health and Physical Education

Driven by questions about relations of settler colonial power and justice as well as social change, Ayyash’s research has largely focused on the effects of political violence in state and society, the structural foundations of settler colonial sovereignty that occur when a population is replaced, and decolonial struggles for liberation. An expert in peace studies, recently Ayyash has been expanding his research into the Palestinian struggle, highlighting both the obstacles that Palestinians face as well as the potential for them to introduce alternatives. “Specifically, I am examining what the pandemic in Palestine/ Israel can teach us about the specific kind of Israeli settler colonial domination that Palestinians have endured for decades,” Ayyash says.

Connolly’s research oscillates between his dual academic backgrounds of computer science and political science, with a focus on web development, the pedagogy of computing education and the social effects of computing. He has published five books, including the Fundamentals of Web Development, currently in its third edition and used at hundreds of universities worldwide. “Why computing belongs within the social sciences,” a recent paper by Connolly, appeared in the Communications of the ACM. In it, Connolly argued that computing needs more than pasted-in ethics instruction; instead, computing curricula need to move “away from engineeringinspired curricular models and integrate the analytical lenses supplied by social science theories and methodologies.”

For the last eight years, Jacoby has been a member of the Alberta Health Services (AHS) Waterbirth Working Group, collaborating to help develop a provincewide infection control policy, clinical practice guidelines and a frequently asked questions sheet for informed consent for waterbirths. “In this climate of evidenceinformed care, these materials can mean the difference between care providers meeting your needs or not,” Jacoby says. This is the first Albertabased study on waterbirth outcomes. Previously, it was “too easy for hospitals to disallow it and women were disenfranchised,” Jacoby says. The Waterbirth Working Group’s recommendations are now standard policy in all AHS hospitals and “give midwives and the women we serve safe access to waterbirth if they choose.”

Research has shown that eating habits developed in early childhood profoundly influence dietary preferences plus behaviours and attitudes towards food that span a lifetime. The heart of Lafave’s work is health promotion and child health, specifically in the areas of nutrition and physical activity during the early years. Her evidenced-based Creating Healthy Eating and Active Environments Scale (CHEERS) for child-care providers produces action plans to promote healthy eating and physical activity. “Child-care programs play a critical role in raising healthy children and it is important they have the valid tools and resources to assess and enhance their eating and activity environments,” Lafave says, who also works with vulnerable families to support food literacy.



Become a guide to greater success

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR JESSIE LOYER Mount Royal University Library Loyer’s research investigates information literacy from Indigenous perspectives. She uses a nêhiyaw (Cree) law called wâhkôhtowin, which guides people to know their relations, which in turn informs the way she teaches. “These relations aren't just people in our family — they are other humans, non-animal kin, plants, water, land, and in my case, books and other information,” Loyer says, who describes her work as “kinship." Students bring their creativity, interest and expertise to Loyer, and she connects them with relevant research, which sometimes changes their original question completely. The approach recognizes that research is not just a mental exercise, but an emotional process, especially when considering residential school or intergenerational trauma.

Mount Royal University’s Harry G. Schaefer Mentorship Program partners senior students with career mentors, 70 per cent of whom are alumni. Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2021/22, more than 1,500 mentors and mentees have taken part. Both Karen Cresine and Tom Latta have been mentors with the program since its inception and say they have no intention of stopping now. A graduate of Mount Royal’s environmental management for business program, Cresine's motivation for joining was wanting to give new grads support, guidance and advice. And the benefits go both ways. “I cannot tell you how much I’ve learned being a mentor. It’s cliché, but it’s true,” Cresine says. Latta, a senior finance representative at PetroChina Canada, says that while he is providing leadership, he is also provided perspective. “It’s important to understand what students and young professionals are going through these days. Mentoring has allowed me the opportunity to keep my thumb on the pulse and to relate with others across generations,” he says. “What I’ve learned has even helped me communicate better with my daughters.” Every student is different, Cresine says, and their goals are wide-ranging. “Typically I’m supporting new grads who are exploring career options or developing job search strategies to find full-time employment after graduation,” she says. Recently, Cresine mentored a student who started a full-time job while in the program, which allowed her to offer guidance on topics such as managing direct reports and liaising with management. Recalling how mentors in his life helped him focus his direction, Latta says that he is happy to pay that forward. “And it’s not really a huge time commitment. I meet with my mentee every few weeks or once a month. The Harry G. Mentorship Program is truly a worthwhile, enlightening endeavour.”

“The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.” — David Viscott

Support the Harry G. Schaefer Mentorship Program at

Become a mentor at



What is happiness, anyway?



happiness, n.



appiness just may be one of the world’s greatest conundrums. When it’s there, it’s often fleeting. When it’s not, it can seem impossible to attain. There's societal pressure to be “happy,” with a lot of value placed on the “feeling,” so much so that when people are not happy they can feel like abject failures. That’s why we at Summit wanted to explore the happiness “issue” this time around. A lot of what we do daily is aimed at making ourselves happy, such as landing the perfect job, finding the ultimate partner and accumulating the material wealth we think we need. What if we’ve managed to do all that (at least to some extent), but we’re still not happy? And what is happiness, anyway? “Research shows that happiness is where you're completely content and you find joy in the littlest things,” says Dr. Tara Grams, PhD. “It's almost like finding micro-moments of emotion.” Grams, who works in MRU’s psychology department, earned her doctorate in the field of positive psychology. A fairly new area of study credited to the University of Pennsylvania's Dr. Martin Seligman, PhD, positive psychology first started to take root in 1998. It came about as researchers began to realize they were concentrating mainly on the negative aspects of psychology, such as depression and abnormal behaviours, and trying to “fix” them. Positive psychology looks at when things are going well and works to understand how to duplicate that. Grams says continued happiness demands being present in the moment and the ability to reframe difficult situations, such as having a flat tire. If you can eliminate or minimize the negative (“Now I’m going to be late for work!”) and turn it into something more positive (“Thank goodness I have roadside assistance and that it’s a nice day.”) then you have more chance of being happy overall. “The one thing we always have the power to choose is how we’re going to react to a situation,” Grams says. “And there's something magical and awesome about that.” The problem is that attaining happiness may sound easy, but in fact it is not.

The state of pleasurable contentment of mind; deep pleasure in or contentment with one's circumstances. ­— Oxford English Dictionary

Your personality plays a part (obviously) Happiness is never guaranteed, even less so for some than others. Dr. Naomi Grant, PhD, of Mount Royal’s Department of Psychology says, “What the research shows is that a large part of happiness is genetic. It’s really hard to simplify to a percentage because genetics interact with environmental factors as well. But absolutely a huge part of your happiness is just the way you are.” In her popular book The How of Happiness, psychologist Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, suggests that 50 per cent of happiness is genetically predetermined, 10 per cent is due to life circumstances and 40 per cent is the result of your personal outlook. Happiness can be defined in many different ways, too, Grant says. One is according to life satisfaction. Another is how much positive emotion is experienced each day as opposed to negative emotion. So, to start, we need to take a look at how much happiness we are actually capable of and figure out what that means to us. The best way to begin, Grams says, is by living an “authentic” life. “Be who you are. Don't try to compete with or be anyone else. Just be vulnerable. If you have good selfworth, it goes a long way towards being able to make those more positive decisions,” Grams says. “Like anything worth doing, it is hard work, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.” These are debates psychologists have had for ages, but all agree that there’s a lot more we could do as individuals to support our own happiness — whatever it may look like. The goal in the following pages is to find out how. MRU.CA /SUMMIT


"The conquest of happiness" then and now

"Certain things are indispensable to the happiness of most men, but these are simple things: food and shelter, health, love, successful work, and the respect of one's own herd." So wrote author and philosopher Bertrand Russell in his 1930 book The Conquest of Happiness, which attempted to clarify what causes unhappiness. More than 90 years later, we wondered whether Russell’s basic prescription still rings true today. We asked Mount Royal University philosophers Dr. Allison Dube, PhD, and Dr. Gülberk Koç Maclean, PhD, to discuss Russell's thinking. WORDS BY MELISSA ROLFE



his little book Russell wrote between the two world wars is not a philosophical book on happiness, but rather, what we call today a 'self-help' book for the layperson who suffers from unhappiness in a 'civilized' country,' ” says Koç Maclean in her description of The Conquest of Happiness. “Russell discusses sources of unhappiness, such as nervous fatigue, boredom, envy, the sense of sin, fear of public opinion, as well as sources of happiness, such as zest, affection, effort, impersonal interests. He suggests practices we should avoid and practices we should embrace in order to conquer happiness.” Koç Maclean, a senior lecturer in humanities and winner of the 2015 Bertrand Russell Society Book Award, and Dube, an associate professor in general education whose research focuses on the works of Jeremy Bentham, dissect those practices and more through this Q and A.



Do you agree that Russell’s recommendation of developing impersonal interests is conducive to happiness?



Russell emphasized being curious and exploring interests outside of our own daily lives to forget our worries and keep our perspective on 'our place in the universe.' Was he right?

Koç Maclean

I agree with Russell that if our basic needs are met, self-absorption is not conducive to happiness. Russell believes that the antidote to self-absorption is the development of a friendly curiosity in other people and things, which serves to remind oneself that one is not the only thing in existence, but rather part of a universe with innumerable beings of different kinds. The search for knowledge about this universe, in any shape or form — be it an interest in certain kinds of roses or an interest in black holes — has a significant role in achieving happiness.

I agree, but the 'friendly interest' he advises may not be enough. Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) writes on the concept of ennui in Chrestomathia, in which he describes a Mr. Beardmore, whose mind was 'richly stored with pleasant anecdotes' and 'useful information on a great variety of topics.' He approached his job, and many other things, with what Russell might call 'zest.' For example, having 'a lively, popular facility of singing easy songs.' He was a good and popular guy, and would have been a hit at karaoke night. However, all of his understanding 'was derived not from books but from living studies.' Sadly, 'from the fatal hour in which he quitted business … he grew insensibly more and more the victim of listlessness and ennui.' Ennui, a feeling of weariness or boredom, is also a danger to the opulent, because they have played 'a comparatively passive part' in the obtainment of pleasures. The greatest security against ennui? Learning. One’s mind must contain 'a richly stocked and variegated garden of art and science.' This is not exactly to disagree with Russell. It is to emphasize that the 'friendly interest' he refers to at times will not, on its own, do the job. We need a kind of engagement in learning, and about different things, that is active to the point that we would call it mental labour. In this sense, I worry about the future happiness of many in our world now, who, like Mr. Beardmore, have gathered a little knowledge about a lot, 'passively' as opposed to 'actively.' Social media provides a never-ending deluge of information serving a friendly (or often unfriendly) interest in other people; but the jury is out on whether a life lived largely through passively consuming information and entertainment can truly generate happiness.


Russell said happiness doesn’t just happen without concerted effort — hence 'the conquest.' The world hasn’t become any easier to live in since he wrote this. Are his views relevant today?

Koç Maclean

Russell is right in his observation that there are so many causes of misery in this world that for most people happiness is not something that can just fall into their laps; they have to work towards it — adjust their beliefs, attitudes and practices as much as they can in order to achieve it. In the parts of the world where the basic needs and security of almost all people are met, which is Russell’s focus in this book, people’s lifestyles are such that if they are economically middle-class, they develop nervous fatigue and anxiety due to overwork and fierce competition, and if they are super wealthy, they suffer from boredom. Not much has changed in these respects since 1930. I am especially struck by the relevancy of Russell’s remarks on fear of public opinion. Russell explains that this fear is based on a person’s natural impulse to seek the approval of the herd, because one needs the herd to survive and flourish. We have the same fear today, except that the media is different — news websites, Facebook, Twitter and so on. I think that we need to heed Russell’s advice and not change our beliefs and behaviour solely based on public pressure, since this would be 'voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways,' as Russell observed. MRU.CA /SUMMIT



Q Dube

What it means to have, or even want 'the respect of one’s herd' that Russell writes about will entail different things to introverted and extroverted people, and vastly different things to people in different social and economic situations. To some extent Russell writes about 'first-world problems'; but these problems, such as boredom, would be a luxury to many even in Canada. My worry is that people reading these books become attracted to templates and storylines that do not suit their natures, or that constrain their natures and possible growth. Admittedly, the range of what Russell wrote is inspiring, and many of his works are approachable. He was a true public intellectual. Yet I have grown weary of many self-help books, even one such as his, which engages human life on a profound level. There has to be a one-size-fits-all quality to such works; but one size does not.



What makes other people such a complicating factor in our happiness?

Koç Maclean

Russell maintains that a person should not only be at the receiving end of love and affection, but also give love to others since everyone’s happiness is dependent on the happiness of their fellow human beings — the happiness of the herd. I agree with Russell that an individual’s happiness is inevitably bound up by the happiness of the members of the community they belong to. This very fact brings with it many complications, which are hard to overcome. We have to ensure we promote values of tolerance and benevolence so that everyone freely pursues their own interests so long as they do not harm anyone else in the process. But, of course, delineating the limits of freedom is the most difficult issue.

We are social and political beings. We cannot thrive on our own; but indeed, every person’s relationship with other people will often seem like an elaborate and neverending bumper-car ride at the Stampede. There are so many kinds of harm people suffer and inflict in their relationships with others. Space does not permit going into the myriad ways we can harm others. However, the question at hand is our happiness; and Russell offers good advice on avoiding one of the greatest ways we harm ourselves in these relationships: comparing ourselves to others is counterproductive and a waste of time. One of the greatest avenues, if not to happiness, but to rescuing ourselves from unhappiness, is a capacity to retell our story to ourselves at different times, to extract ourselves from the templates and storylines we have consciously and unconsciously adopted, or had imposed upon us. If someone asked me to recommend a book on how to search for happiness, would I recommend The Conquest of Happiness? No. Instead, I would recommend a more 'concrete' book about something they find interesting, or a work of good literature — something that can actually generate happiness for them. Delving into the incredible array of possible lives offered by good literature will serve people’s exploration of potential avenues to a kind of happiness that suits them, more than a book purportedly about happiness. Russell is right: be curious and take an interest in the world. But many are better served by just getting to it without a self-help manual.

‘This is fine …’ Insisting things are great at all times does more harm than good. Beware the toxic positivity loop. WORDS BY RUTH MYLES


ike jumbo shrimp and a working holiday, toxic positivity is an awfully good example of an oxymoron. In addition to being a literary device, however, this state of mental being has realworld consequences. Focusing exclusively on positive aspects of life, while rejecting anything that may trigger or elicit negative emotions or experiences, is the hallmark of toxic positivity, says Dr. Ines Sametband, PhD, an assistant professor with Mount Royal’s Department of Psychology. This forced optimism can be thought of as an unbalanced response to experiences such as hopelessness, pain or hurt, she says. “When we hide, or pretend that everything is great when it’s not, our relationships with others suffer. Responding to others with toxic positivity signals that we’re unwilling to engage, share and listen to others’ experiences,” Sametband says. “Pretending or pushing aside these experiences — instead of recognizing them as part of life — can influence us into distancing and disconnecting from others, which in turn may trigger further toxic positivity. So we’re caught up in a vicious circle of pretending that all is great, which limits opportunities for meaningful

encounters with others, resulting in more isolation and feeling misunderstood.” In addition to contributing to isolation, toxic positivity requires a hefty dose of emotional and mental effort as it involves transforming and editing events that are perceived as less positive so that they fit the category of “awesome,” Sametband says. Because we’re socialized to believe that life should be happy, successful and effortless 24/7, it seems that we’re doing the right thing in trying to stay endlessly positive. This is unsustainable and exhausting, but Sametband has some practical tips for supporting those stuck in the toxic positivity loop. Lead with compassion, she advises. Sharing a variety of your own experiences along the emotional spectrum — the good, the bad, the ugly — can “help normalize human experiences as involving a range of emotions, not always positive or negative only.” She also refers to the work of Canadian family therapist Dr. Allan Wade, PhD. Wade

proposed a shift in how the field of psychology views resistance. Traditionally, it can be seen as an obstacle to change. But Wade, in working with victims of violence and oppression, recognized that by resisting they were engaging in “small acts of living.” For example, this could be resisting the urge to respond violently to violence, instead showing opposition to violence by resisting it non-violently. “Rather than being caught in a false dichotomy — either things are ‘wonderful’ or ‘the worst’ — we can recognize ways through these 'small acts of living' in which this restrictive dichotomy can be gently resisted and abandoned,” Sametband says. “For example, try reflecting on the societal messages you receive about what life should be like and consider whether these messages really speak to how you want to live.” Put simply, by not insisting everything is perfect and all problems are solvable, happiness may be more easily achieved. MRU.CA /SUMMIT


The best things in life really are free We work to have more, feel stressed if we don’t have enough and dream of winning the jackpot so we’ll never have to worry about it again. But will a positive response to “Show me the money!” really make us happy? WORDS BY PETER GLENN


ix years ago, the CEO of Gravity Payments Dan Price made headlines when he reduced his salary by $1 million in order to implement a $70,000 “minimum wage” for every single one of his employees. It’s a decision Price does not regret. Since then his business’s revenue has tripled, Price's company is now a Harvard Business School case study and his employees caused a mini real-estate boom when 10 times more of them were able to buy homes. It’s clear that some money is good for everyone, but the idea that all the money (like Jeff Bezos' billions) will make you happy is actually false. We spoke to Dr. Naomi Grant, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at MRU, about how happiness and what’s in our wallet are related.



Will winning the lottery or making a lot of money make a person happy? “Not really,“ Grant says. “There’s a famous study called 'Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative?' that was done in the late '70s that found if you win the lottery you might get a blip in your happiness, but then you kind of go back to your baseline. We adapt to our life circumstances. If I win the lottery, or even if I get a big raise, I’m just going to adapt to that new situation and my happiness will go back to similar levels.” Money can “buy” happiness, but mainly for those who don’t have enough in the first place, Grant says. Those who are worried day to day about being able to afford food and necessities will feel happier with more money. Wealthier nations such as Canada, Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands, Iceland, Australia and so on, report higher levels of happiness, however within those nations the research shows that having a higher income doesn’t make much of a difference to overall happiness if basic needs are being met.

A more recent study titled “Happiness, income satiation and turning points around the world” looked at global Gallup Poll data worldwide and tried to figure out the perfect amount of income for satisfaction and emotional well-being. It was found that “satiation (or fulfillment) occurs at $95,000 for life evaluation and $60,000 to $75,000 for emotional well-being.” There was a great variation in findings depending on where people lived, and researchers also found a detrimental effect — at least in certain nations — of having more than that “perfect” amount. “I think the idea is, the more you have, the higher your expectations are going to be as well. If I’m making a ton of money, I ‘should’ be happy. And so, if I’m not, then I can end up even more unhappy,” Grant says. “We’re always engaging in social comparison. If you have more money, you’re just going to be comparing yourself to a different population than you would be if you had less. If you live in a fancy neighbourhood, there’s always going to be somebody who has more money than you. With social media, we can now compare ourselves not only to our neighbours, but all the rich and famous people.”

What about how we spend our money?

So, what makes us happy? Or, what is a more reliable precursor to happiness?

“There are ways we can spend our money to make us happier as well. One study gave people $5 and said spend it on yourself or spend it on someone else. People were happier when they spent it on someone else,” Grant says. Other research has shown that spending money on experiences, such as a concert, a vacation or a class, results in more satisfaction than spending money on material goods. “If I renovate my kitchen, it’s really exciting for the first while, but then I get used to my new kitchen and I don’t really notice it anymore. But, if I spend it on a trip, then I get all those memories. I can talk about the trip to others, so there’s more of that social value as well.”

Universally, the most reliable antecedent for happiness is strong, supportive and meaningful relationships with friends and loved ones. Another is pursuing goals that are intrinsically valued. “You value the goal personally as opposed to pursuing a goal that is more extrinsically motivated, where you think you ‘should’ do this,” Grant says. “If it’s something that’s personally motivating to you and you’re pursuing that, that’s going to bring you happiness,” such as doing things you enjoy doing, engaging in meaningful work, feeling gratitude and being kind.”

Is there a magic amount of money you need for ‘happiness’ in retirement? Dr. Jim Fischer, PhD, associate professor of finance in the Bissett School of Business, says the investment industry still suggests receiving 70 to 80 per cent of your pre-retirement income in retirement as the benchmark for being “comfortable.” The number would include income from investments, pensions and government programs such as the Canada Pension Plan. Fischer produced a research paper for the Academy of Financial Services in the U.S. that looked at whether popular investment strategies that have been followed for the last 50 years would provide the suggested 70 per cent of pre-retirement income in retirement. The good news is that the model portfolio was found to provide an adequate retirement income.



GIVING FEELS “GOOD Giving Day is devoted to celebrating the people who make Mount Royal the great and inspiring place we all know it to be. It’s a day when we can rally together and collectively support students and their goals.

Dr. Tim Rahilly, PhD, president and vice-chancellor




Advance your career from the comfort of home We offer more than 50 continuing education programs that you can complete entirely online. From project management to conflict resolution, organizational change management to entrepreneurship, our programs are tailored to meet your professional development needs. MRU alumni can receive a $50 course discount. For details, visit

Cancelling commodification Values-based marketing leading to more consumer satisfaction WORDS BY KATHERINE SHARPLES


n recent years, there’s been an ongoing shift away from old marketing tricks to a new wave of advertising and consumerism. What worked in the past doesn’t necessarily fly with today’s buyers, who are hyper-vigilant in scouting out authentic brands and products. Social media activists, free articles and accessible infographics are providing a wide range of product information that may have been previously difficult to access. These sources have led to an increased awareness of the negative implications of unethical consumption and overconsumption, from the downsides of fast fashion to the importance of supporting equity-deserving groups. As consumers make more conscious buying decisions than in the past, the question is: Do meaningful purchases lead to happier consumers? Dr. Catherine Pearl, PhD, an associate professor of social innovation at MRU, says that marketers have become more sensitive to social issues, and those community interests are now being played out in advertising. There has been an increase in “green,” or environmentally friendly products, plus an effort to include more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) and 2SLGBTQ+ representation. But consumers are quick to hold brands accountable when representation comes too little, too late, or completely misses the mark.



The evolution from the days of Mad Men “Marketing used to be more detached from the product,” explains Ray DePaul, director of Mount Royal’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “The product was created and then marketing put ‘lipstick on the pig.’” Campaigns have often put forth wild claims, such as smoking is actually good for you, products are “doctor recommended” and declarations of just about every kind of health benefit imaginable. Making misleading claims in advertising can end in serious consequences, however, such as classaction lawsuits against major brands like Method and Windex when they claimed their products to be non-toxic. In fact, they contained harmful chemicals. “This approach is not only illegal as a deceptive marketing practice, but can completely undermine the brand. Brands really need to include these ambitions in the product design, not just the marketing design,” DePaul says. Values-based marketing is an appeal to customers’ values and ethics, but in order to work, it has to be genuine. “It’s a shift from the product-based marketing, which focuses on functional aspects,” DePaul says. “If done authentically, there’s evidence that consumers will choose products that align with their values over those that don’t, and will even pay a premium.”



The people are watching When the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement started gaining momentum in 2020, Band-Aid launched a multi-racial range of their product. While the change was appreciated, the public was cynical since Band-Aids for different coloured skin tones had been a decades-long request. “The timing felt more like a marketing ploy,” DePaul says. “Brands need to understand the values they believe in and engage proactively in those values rather than reacting to market pressure.” Calgary’s own Righteous Gelato also had a misstep in June 2020 when they released a BLM-themed gelato. Even though the business had stated profits would support an appropriate charity, the reaction was swift in claiming that they were capitalizing on the backs of Black people. Righteous quickly pulled its product. “The first thing brands need to do is engage with the groups they wish to support before embarking on well-meaning, yet tone-deaf campaigns,” DePaul says.

Buying with your conscience Values-based marketing isn’t just an industry trick designed to sell more products. The parallels between Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and a consumer’s hierarchy of values offer proof of this. The bottom of the consumer’s pyramid consists of the functional benefits of the product, such as

cost and time savings, availability, quality and simplification. Up a level are the emotional benefits, such as a reduction in anxiety, improvement in wellness and entertainment. Above that are life-changing values including the provision of hope and a sense of belonging. At the very top is social impact. “The higher up the consumer’s hierarchy of values you go as a brand, the more valuable you are to the customer,” DePaul says. Since consumers are looking to make purchases that align with their values, it’s not only about the meaning behind the product itself, but rather about the organization’s values as a whole that will affect a buyer's happiness.

Consumer's Hierarchy of Values

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs





Hope, motivation


Wellness, therapeutic value


Esteem, belonging and love

“Most would argue that aligning with brands that are more inclusive with respect to 2SLGBTQ+ rights and BIPOC communities will help build momentum around these important movements,” DePaul says. “By engaging corporations, positive messaging can be amplified and reach new audiences.” Consumers want to see themselves reflected in ads, social media posts and branding. “The sense of belonging is a key outcome of aligning with a brand that shares your values. It is affirmation that you are part of a community of like-minded individuals,” DePaul says. “Social connection is a proven ingredient to happiness.” Buying a pair of shoes simply because they feel good likely won’t result in the same satisfaction as making a selection based on a shared value with the brand, such as choosing Nike sneakers to align with their sponsorship of Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who in 2016 started to kneel for the pregame national anthem in protest against racial injustices. Valuesbased buying is a simple way to improve relationships with products and feel good about the choices being made.


Safety and physiological


Saves time, simplifies MRU.CA /SUMMIT


Mary Anne Moser, PhD

Money can't buy happiness ... well, sometimes it can (for a little while, at least) We asked some members of our alumni community what they have purchased recently that has brought them real satisfaction.


President and CEO of TELUS Spark, Moser co-founded Calgary’s Beakerhead festival, believing that access to science is the ticket to ingenuity.



Chambers started with Global News Calgary while a student and was the manager of and a popular host for radio station.

Being a part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, it is very important for me to support companies that advocate for us. And I don’t just mean slapping a Pride flag on their social media page. I specifically support Calgary businesses that contribute to 2SLGBTQ+ charities, whether it’s a restaurant or greeting card company. For example, Shelf Life Books is an independent bookstore that has a queer section of reading, hosts many 2SLGBTQ+ events and gives back to our community. Giving this local bookshop my business brings me complete happiness.



Gibbie is the president of the MRU Alumni Association, chair of the Alumni Council and director of institutional partnerships at Operation Eyesight.

A recent purchase that brought me joy because it aligned with my personal values is steeped coffee bags from a local company, Dingo Coffee Co. This innovative product combines three of my favourite things: coffee, nature and sustainability. Steeped coffee bags work just like tea. All you have to do is add hot water. They're perfect for enjoying while out hiking or backcountry camping. I like this product because the bags are fully biodegradable; environmental sustainability is something I look for when purchasing a new product.

Every day, at no prescribed time, I reach out to the playful puppy button and start the best purchase I made during the pandemic — or maybe even my life. The Down Dog yoga app. I like to imagine that the algorithm can tell whether I am requesting a sequence for a morning session or an after-work wind down. I want it to be able to read my mind and body for clues as to what I need. Now I just need the app that makes boat pose go away.

Grandmother Doreen Spence HONORARY BACHELOR OF NURSING, 2017

Spence spent 40 years as a nurse before becoming an accomplished author and an active elder for the United Nations, protecting fundamental freedoms for Indigenous Peoples.

I purchased an essential item, which was a new furnace. It reestablished my home to be a warm, welcoming and sacred space again. This critical time of total isolation brought me to a realization of what is important in life. That's what we all need — a warm, welcoming place where we can feel safe. What is important to me as someone who has lived under colonization and is now (finally) hearing the horrific stories of residential schools being validated is awareness and mindfulness. This is the time for us all to create a more loving and caring society for all nations globally.

Can work be your happy place? Elevating mood in the workplace requires a team approach



e spend a lot of time thinking about work: at least a third of our day if we’re employed and probably more if we're searching for a job and worrying about it if we’re not. Karl Marx theorized that the “alienation” of people from their labour (what they made, how they made it and with who) was depriving them of their very humanity. Work-life balance gurus, on the other hand, suggest that a separation of the two is necessary. Others say that if we can find passion through our job we’ll never work a day in our lives. Whether it’s in the office, out in the field, in a truck, or at a school, clinic or jobsite — even the kitchen table during the pandemic — work is work, but if we are aiming to achieve happiness in life surely we must also seek some of it when we’ve got our nose to the grindstone. It is possible, says Symone Loney, a Mount Royal alumna (Bachelor of Arts — Psychology, 2012) who now works as a human resources business partner with Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Ltd. “I’m a person who finds happiness in accomplishing goals, completing tasks and human interaction, and someone who believes work is a great contributor to my personal fulfilment,” Loney says. “All of this, in turn, leads to feelings of happiness.” Dr. Christian Cook, PhD, associate professor of human resources at MRU’s Bissett School of Business and academic director, Academic Development Centre, looks at happiness in terms of “intrinsic motivators,” citing the work of Dr. Frederick

Herzberg, PhD, whose research in motivation theory from the 1950s through to the 1980s was considered to be pioneering, and also that of Daniel Pink, who has written six books on business and human behaviour. “I think that happiness is tightly coupled to engagement,” Cook says. “Particularly these days, the bosses, colleagues and stakeholders we work with every day are material characters to how happy (or unhappy) or engaged employees are. More than ever, employees need to feel they are seen as people, rather than ‘just’ a worker or employee.” Cook “gets nervous,” however, when people put pressure on themselves, thinking their job needs to make them happy at work and they have to be working at their passion. “Ideally, people are working in roles where they are happy, but that is different than expecting a job to make you happy. We are whole people, and fascinating ones at that. While I appreciate that work is important to us, and for some even part of our identity, all of the other aspects of our life contribute to our overall sense of happiness.” Happiness or unhappiness in a job environment, as in life, is complicated.

“Ideally, people are working in roles where they are happy, but that is different than expecting a job to make you happy." — Christian Cook, PhD, associate professor of human resources



“I have worked in HR for a very long time, and rarely are the issues that arise connected only to work issues; usually, they are tied to worker relationships, worker behaviours and the work environment. And while much more common, those can also be the more challenging things to ‘fix,’ ” Cook says. Dr. Uthpala Senarathne Tennakoon, PhD, suggests redefining what we think of happiness and focusing more on being content rather than joyful. An associate professor of human resources at MRU, Tennakoon says, “Achievements, recognition and sometimes the simple completion of the work as you planned it to be would lead to happiness at work, but I believe it has more to do with satisfaction, which then leads to happiness.” She suggests factors such as what type of work a person does, whether they have a choice in selecting that work and workplace, whether the work is connected to their values and what energizes them all play a part. “But, I am not sure if happiness should be the goal of a job. Happiness in a job may be more indirect through satisfaction, accomplishment and recognition.”

Employers or employees: Who owns happiness? Cook believes that everyone has a responsibility to provide a respectful work environment. Those courteous conditions are necessary (though admittedly not sufficient), as a first step toward happiness. Employees want to feel they have the tools to succeed, to feel cared for and that their employer has their back. “Employees take their cues from their employers and leaders and naturally emulate those behaviours and values; so, the tone at the top is also important.” Tennakoon agrees that happiness in the workplace is a shared responsibility, beginning with employees choosing the right job and workplace for them, and employers selecting the right people for the job and the organization. “If you don't get a good match with the individual's personality and values with the organization's culture, plus the work the person is supposed to be doing, there is going to be unhappiness, rather than happiness,” she says. “From an organization's point of view, there is an ongoing responsibility to make sure that individuals are treated fairly and ethically, and understand that the whole self of the individual comes to work. That has never been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Some organizations, Tennakoon notes, are intentional about creating happiness opportunities, scheduling things like fun work gatherings and providing arcade games, meals and entertainment. These are beneficial if they align with organizational and individual employee values. Other areas organizations can focus on to increase happiness, suggests Tennakoon, include: creating an inclusive culture; fostering recognition when due; improving bosses’ performance through leadership training; understanding work-life balance; offering opportunities for advancement; and empowering employees. Alumna Loney says, “I believe promoting an environment of openness and acknowledging that we all have low days allows more room to experience the high (happy) days as well.” “Endorsing mental health initiatives and having difficult, vulnerable conversations can foster healthy work relationships, inevitably allowing employees to feel understood and supported, which can lead to a ‘happier’ workplace.” Meanwhile, employees can try to create their own happiness by making efforts to better understand their co-workers, as well as themselves, and what may positively or negatively affect their happiness levels. Negative factors can include being rushed at work, unrealistic deadlines, feeling undervalued and unsafe work environments. “Finding ways to mitigate stressors for themselves and others can be a way to improve happiness for employees and their co-workers in the workplace,” she says. Ultimately, the right fit at the right organization and everyone doing their part contributes to happiness at work. It really is in everyone's hands.

The reflections you see may not be accurate

Strategizing through social media WORDS BY ZACH WORDEN


ccording to Statista, there are an estimated 3.78 billion social media users worldwide. It’s the primary way many of us get our news, how we stay in touch with friends and family, and a platform to share our lives with the world. With global blockbuster-esque success, it would seem that social media has hit on the ultimate please-the-people formula, but the truth is it’s a “double-edged sword,” says Dr. Malinda Desjarlais, PhD, an associate professor in Mount Royal’s Department of Psychology. While social media does facilitate connections of all kinds, it has been linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, lower selfesteem and suicidal thoughts. Desjarlais has been studying social media since her days pursuing her doctorate and says using the technology is a delicate balance. She finds the human tendency to weigh one’s personal

achievements and societal position against others is its main difficulty. “A lot of the time on social media, you’re only seeing people’s highlight reel, the best image of themselves,” Desjarlais says. “What happens is that we compare that image to our whole existence. So when we have our flaws, our bad days, we compare ourselves, and that’s where we see a lot of the increase in depression and loneliness.” There’s also FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” We see people doing great stuff that we weren’t invited to, or couldn’t possibly afford. Then we start comparing habits, lifestyle and success levels, and then even start using social media more to stay in the loop and try to keep up … somehow. Those who manage sometimes volatile social media accounts in their professional lives have their own ways of handling the emotional ups and downs of social media, and it’s advice that can benefit the regular user.



" Alum Priti Obhrai-Martin graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Communication — Public Relations. The social media strategist with a Calgary-based consultancy firm offers effective social media marketing strategies to businesses large and small. They recommend those managing accounts at work minimize their personal social media use to help stay positive. With a public-facing job, there is safety in personal anonymity. Obhrai-Martin, who once ran an e-zine called Cue, says, “One lesson I learned was that I could not sustain being everywhere all the time and being subjected to constant criticism or praise. Social media itself is a full-time job, and it became difficult to balance that with the actual work of publishing. I am generally a private person and did not like being 'seen' so much. That’s why it’s important for me today to separate my personal and professional social media work.”

You take the good, you take the bad While using social media can negatively influence our happiness, it can also foster the development of communities that would be impossible without it. “These are connections that wouldn’t have normally been made,” says Dr. Alan Fedoruk, PhD, associate professor and chair of MRU's Department of Mathematics and Computing. Algorithms driven by machine learning suggest what you see on social media, people who you seem to have things in common with and additional networks you may not have been aware of. These algorithms have been trained and are supposed to do the “right” thing for the user (and even more so for advertisers, by keeping you engaged and online longer). But there are some inherent flaws. “Who is building these AI algorithms?” Fedoruk asks. “It's computer scientists and mathematicians and engineers, and other types of technologists, most often young, most often men and most often not trained in the humanities.” Big tech companies get much of their talent from a small pool of schools, such as MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University, leading to the same type of people from similar backgrounds designing our major platforms.



The education we provide our MRU computer science students builds in some psychology, some sociology, and makes sure students understand that the stuff they're using isn't just a nice piece of technology, it's also part of the human condition. ALAN FEDORUK, PHD,





“We need to start partnering with people who understand people,” Fedoruk says. “The education we provide our MRU computer science students builds in some psychology, some sociology, and makes sure students understand that the stuff they're using isn't just a nice piece of technology. It's also part of the human condition. It becomes a part of our culture and part of society.” Fedoruk offers the example of Twitter, which designers honestly thought would create a “wonderful hive consciousness,” but instead it started out (and mainly remains) a place where people can be horrible to each other without revealing who they are. Twitter had to react, build in the ability to block somebody, put in ways to report users and figure out how to spot fake accounts. “Maybe somebody who was trained in psychology would have said, ‘Wait a minute, an anonymous ability to mock and ridicule and bully other people? Of course people are going to do it,’ ’’ Fedoruk says. Fedoruk sees social media in the future moving away from “likes” and “upvoting,” which will hopefully help alleviate the endless comparison-making we all do as we scroll through our feeds.

Users are also fighting back against negativity in social media by exposing those who are using platforms irresponsibly, calling out trolls and contacting authorities when behaviour is completely out of line or even dangerous. This sort of social media activism proves that technology can be used for good and it can bring out the very best in people. By controlling our own social media usage and ensuring that we are getting the positives out of all the different platforms available to us, there is a path to supporting personal happiness. Karen Richards, senior social networking strategist at Mount Royal and an instructor with the Faculty of Continuing Education and Extension, says social media can offer access to new ways of thinking and opportunities if used consciously and with deliberation. “I think it is important to use social media judiciously, like following credible accounts so the information in my feed is accurate, or knowing when I am being negatively affected and taking a step back. You have to actively manage your own social media to keep the content you see balanced,” Richards says. In other words, be proactive rather than reactive. “Social media can provide inspiration and new ways to learn about complex topics like how to be an ally, how vaccines work or what systemic racism is. I also think it helps people not feel alone and can be an important resource when a person’s mental health is suffering,” Richards says. By actively finding the good on social and limiting the bad, we feel more in control. And that is a positive step towards well-being.

Protect yourself Don't compare and be aware Re-evaluate who you follow often. Purge accounts that promote negativity. Find inspiring and positive accounts and follow their lead on who they support and promote. Limit how much time you spend per day on social media (some say 30 minutes or less is the magic number). Don’t go on social media an hour before bed or first thing in the morning. If you catch yourself spreading negativity, stop and ask yourself what you are getting out of that kind of energy. Use social media as more of a reflective tool rather than treating every response emotionally. Don’t check social media when you’re in a group of people or around your friends and family. Evaluate your motives for using social media.



Designs on positive living Creating a sanctuary through the art — and science — of interior design WORDS BY RUTH MYLES


or avid bakers, an ideal kitchen would likely include acres of countertops (with a marble insert for pastry work, naturally), double wall ovens and counter-height storage for heavy items such as a stand mixer. Put a baking enthusiast in a kitchen with zero counter space, a tiny oven and no storage for cake pans, rolling pins and specialized ingredients, and you’ll have a cranky cookie maker. Creating a positive indoor environment is dependent on designing the space to support what the end user wants to do in it. As British interior designer and author Ilse Crawford says in the Netflix series Abstract: The Art of Design, “We spend 87 per cent of our lives inside buildings. How they are designed really affects how we feel, how we behave … ultimately, design is a tool to enhance our humanity. It’s a frame for life.” Her peoplecentred approach includes the tenet that “Empathy is a cornerstone of design.”



Building better moods

Putting themselves in the shoes of clients to truly understand their needs is central to student learning in Mount Royal University’s In addition to understanding the science Bachelor of Interior Design program, says behind colours — blue is calming and can Associate Professor and help reset an off-balance circadian rhythm, alumnus Alan Antioquia. for instance, while red is an energizing colour The profound impact our that can intensify negative emotions — it’s environment can have on also important to consider reactions to the our mental well-being has objects in a space. Emotional design, as been really brought home proposed by Dr. Donald Norman, PhD, of during the COVID-19 the University of California, San Diego, says pandemic, he says. that people go through three stages in terms “Designed spaces affect how we feel and of how they feel about an object: an initial function in them. When I started working instinctive reaction, followed by a behavioural from home, I was facing a window and found response based on using the object, and myself daydreaming. I turned my desk 90 lastly a reflective response. degrees so I looked at a white wall. It’s much less distracting for me,” Antioquia says, noting he also had to buy a larger desk. "It was about, ‘Where does my notebook go? How much surface do I need on either side of the monitor?’ For good design, it’s all about supporting how people use their interior space.” While Mount Royal students learn “good design” in terms of standard applications — the comfortable height of a doorknob, sink and countertop, for example — what suits one person doesn’t always — CAROLYN REID work for another. (Antioquia’s sister, BACHELOR OF APPLIED INTERIOR DESIGN, 2010 for example, is five-foot-even, so he designed her kitchen with countertops an inch lower than the standard three-foot placement.) The incredibly personal nature of interior Interior designers are taught to focus on design is what led Mount Royal alumna "user experience." For example, first-year Carolyn Reid, who graduated with a students at MRU create dioramas and then Bachelor of Applied Interior Design in 2010, adjust the ceiling, wall or floor plane to result to found hex + o design studio in 2018. in various interiors. Then, they reflect on how “As interior designers, we can the change affects the experience. Students encourage those feelings and emotions also visit various areas of campus to gauge in the built environment without people their emotional reactions in different spaces. necessarily being conscious of why they are These practical exercises foster a deeper experiencing them,” Reid says. For example, understanding of how interior environments a busy floor pattern creates more energy affect the people in them. and can direct traffic flow. Although wellsuited to the lobby of a commercial building,

the same material can create anxiety in a residential kitchen. “A well-designed space improves our relationship with that environment,” Reid says. If you know what the user experience is going to be, more positive energy is generated. Reid was once hired by a client who had moved into a new home, but then said, “This doesn’t feel like me.” Because there wasn’t money for a renovation, Reid countered her client’s negative emotional reaction with colour and texture. “It was understanding what her style is, what makes her feel happy,” she says. “In this case, I created positive emotions by bringing in items to mirror her style. A favourite sectional was dressed up with bold, graphic pillows and I created a gallery wall.” Layering lighting, colouring, textures and natural elements can also transform a space. Popping a plant or two into the office environment can pay off as well, studies have shown. “Work performed under the natural influence of ornamental plants is normally of higher quality and completed with a much higher accuracy rate than work done in environments devoid of nature,” according to “Health and well-being benefits of plants,” an online article published by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. If you want a space to be used for a specific purpose, using persuasive design can lead people to conduct activities in a built environment. Placing seating so people are face-to-face rather than sideby-side in rows facilitates conversation and

As interior designers, we can encourage those feelings and emotions in the built environment without people necessarily being conscious of why they are experiencing them.



collaboration, for example. A round dining table not only promotes conversation among all users, its organic shape is more soothing than a sharp-edged rectangle. Knowing what you want to achieve in a room is threequarters of the battle, Reid says. “If there is no sense of purpose in a room, I feel the user will have a negative experience in that space. “For example, if a bedroom has bold colours and competing patterns, naturally the user will feel anxious and/or energetic, rather than the calm, relaxing feeling you want.” Layering in lighting, relaxing colours, soft textures and natural elements will create a soothing atmosphere that promotes rest.

The future is making the most of it all The pandemic changed how people use and view their personal spaces, Antioquia says. Formal dining areas, for example, quickly switched roles to become home offices and homework stations. Before COVID-19, that space was likely reserved for one function that might have taken place seven hours a week, if that. Now, people are looking to make the most out of the square footage they have. Maybe the dining area is an office on weekdays, then the laptop and papers are put away in the sideboard when it’s time to eat. After dinner, the space is repurposed for games, arts, crafts, what have you. People want — and need — flexibility in their interior spaces, not rigidity, Antioquia says. “I think we are heading more into one aspect of sustainable design. In order to reduce the size of spaces we occupy in our environment, spaces should be used multiple times in multiple ways. Adaptability of space is a trend in smaller compact condos, as well. Walls can move to adapt to the function you need at the time, or can be more of a screen to act as a soft divider. These create different spatial experiences.”

Get to your comfort zone You can make a big impact in your living space on a small budget, Reid says. “It can be as simple as artwork and family photos on the wall. Graphically, these can really change the look of a space, but they also bring about positive emotions.” Key to achieving a space that works is understanding how you will be using the area and what elements make you feel happy. In love with the tropics? Create an island getaway-inspired study with touches of turquoise accent pieces, a driftwood-base side table and a big-box bookcase with a palm leaf wallpapered back panel for storage. Layer colour, personal artifacts, natural elements, light and textures to create a space that speaks to you. Also, be open to changing up your spaces, especially if they are small, to reflect how you use them throughout the year. For example, in the spring, Antioquia moves the furniture in his living room to provide greater access to the patio doors. Come late fall, the furniture is rearranged into a cosier layout that maximizes the view of the outdoors. When it comes to your home, prioritizing what is important to you is always the best place to start.

The contented classroom Sometimes we just need to escape WORDS BY MICHELLE BODNAR


his fall semester, Dr. Tony Chaston, PhD, launched his PSYCH 4408 ­— The Digital Frontier: Perception, AI and Virtual Reality (VR) in Psychology course, the first-ever Canadian university class to be held mainly in an alternate dimension. A professor with the Department of Psychology, Chaston has been working in the VR field for more than a decade and has run several VR research projects through MRU's Centre for Psychological Innovation. “One of the largest growth areas in VR right now is how it can assist with improving mental health and wellness,” such as guided meditations run through VR for relaxation and stress reduction. VR nature experiences are also beneficial, Chasto says. When building a natural world in VR, which Chaston did himself when designing his MRU course, researchers look for the “critical components” of what is found outdoors and then try to replicate those in VR. Of course, being in actual nature is always better, but it's not always possible to get to.

“Teasing out the important variables is interesting. One of the things we haven't been able to explore is that the exercise factor probably also plays an important role,” which has led Chaston to begin playing around with the idea of providing treadmills when in VR for that extra added burst of dopamine. Additionally, VR can be helpful for reducing anxieties, such as a fear of spiders. “One of the most common treatments is exposure therapy. What we do is we expose people to spiders in some way, very mild at first, and make that a positive experience.” The exposures slowly become more up-close, until eventually the person is actually holding a (virtual) spider. This shows that people can eventually learn different ways of interpreting the things that are happening in their lives. “It's the way you process them and what choices you make about them,” Chaston says. “Maybe you'll never get rid of initial negative reactions to things, but you can recognize that you're having that emotional reaction and then make a cognitive choice to have a different outward reaction to it. You can choose.”



Teaching teachers resilience WORDS BY MICHELLE BODNAR

Music to your ears WORDS BY RUTH MYLES

Whether it’s a favourite song, a distant memory of a snippet of a symphony or an aria that moves you to tears, music creates emotional responses and connections. A new course at the Mount Royal University Conservatory provides an overview of how music therapy can be used to positively affect mental and emotional health. The six classes comprising Music Therapy: Approaches and Techniques equip students with an understanding of music therapy practices from a person-centred perspective, says instructor Fleur Hughes, a certified music therapist. “I love how music therapy offers a space where the client is free to grow and develop an awareness of their inner experiences. At the core of the work is the relationship with the client and how that is centred within the framework of music,” Hughes says. “Within the music, we develop a therapeutic relationship based in respect, empathy, positive regards and acceptance.” Working with stakeholders, the Conservatory has been exploring ways to offer music therapy programming for a few years, says interim director of the Conservatory Jean-Louis Bleau, who notes there was strong community interest in the subject. “The importance of music for mental well-being is core to what we do at the Conservatory,” Bleau says. “This course is the next evolution in promoting what we know to be true about the study and import of music. We’re keen to support the mental, emotional and cognitive health benefits of music therapy.”



Teachers stand up in front of classrooms every day to lead students in learning — regardless of how they may be feeling. They are constant role models, the people to whom we entrust our kids, and they carry the heavy burden of creating a healthy environment even if they have other things going on in their personal lives. Dr. Shannon Kell, PhD, an associate professor of health and physical education, is keenly aware of how teachers must model happiness in their classrooms, leading her to develop a new teacher wellbeing course. She saw an opportunity to better equip student teachers with the tools needed to support themselves so they can support others. “If you can't be well, you can't deliver,” Kell says. “Teachers, in particular, get overworked and down this rabbit hole of, ‘I have to mark, I have to deliver.’ But taking a step back and remembering that you're a person, and you have needs and you have dreams, allows you to relate on so many more levels to the little people in front of you.” The Teacher Wellness course was first offered this fall. The framework is based on comprehensive school health and was developed in close consultation with organizations such as Alberta Health Services and Ever Active Schools. Four pillars provide the overall structure: curriculum and teaching, policy, social environments in schools, and communities and external partnerships. Kell says pre-service teachers learn that if they want to create change in a school they can pinpoint one or all of those pillars. Examples may be addressing school policies that don’t allow for sick or mental health days or creating an outdoor classroom to improve learning environments. “If we're not happy, then we can't learn and we can't be good people,” Kell says. “ ‘Resiliency’ is a key word I focus on. If we learn about resiliency and come out with that perspective, it will teach children that, ‘Yes, you can be mad and you can be sad that something didn't turn out, but now what are you going to do about it?’ So that the end game is always happiness.”

REACH OUT It’s impossible to be happy all the time, of course, but everyone deserves to feel good about themselves. Connections help. Reach out to your alumni family at a/Alumni.

Mental health resources available: Alberta Health Services’ Access Mental Health program provides helplines and toolkits to help improve mental health. The Distress Centre Calgary offers free crisis counselling and 24-hour counselling services by phone. | 403.266.HELP (4357) The Canadian Mental Health Association (Calgary chapter) provides emotional support, life coaching, programming and referrals to other community resources. | 403.297.1700 Both the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre and the South Calgary Health Centre offer crisis mental health assessment and support. Sheldon Chumir – 403.955.6200 South Calgary – 403.943.9300 Wellness Together is a no-cost, nationwide initiative created to assist Canadians through the pandemic. | Text WELLNESS to 741741

GIVIN FEELS “GOOD We want students to have access to financial and social supports that will help them be successful in their MRU journey. Our first Giving Day will raise funds for many areas, especially student awards, to assist today and in the future.

Terry Kellam, executive director, Mount Royal Foundation










Alumni Q+A Deanna Thompson

Business and Insurance Diploma, 1999 INTERVIEW BY ANNA PARKS

Deanna Thompson was successfully employed in the insurance industry and in risk management for several years after graduating from Mount Royal, crediting her education for her relatively easy transition into a career. But her real love was her volunteer work in animal welfare. In 2010, after realizing that “business suits, downtown office buildings and corporate lunches weren't working for me,” Thompson took a leap and became the executive director of the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS). Under Thompson’s guidance, the organization has grown into one of the leading animal welfare organizations in the province, including housing a veterinary hospital dedicated to homeless animals. She has received multiple awards, including a Global Calgary Woman of Vision recognition and a Top 40 Under 40 nod from Avenue magazine. Thompson shares her home on an acreage outside Calgary with her husband and a flock of rescue animals including three dogs, three cats, sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys and chickens.


You have been AARCS’ executive director for more than 10 years now. What challenges does the organization face?

As an animal foster parent of many years, what would you advise to those who are considering creating a foster home?

AARCS assists remote communities where animal services and veterinary care are unavailable. Unlike a regular animal shelter, our teams travel across the province to help animals in need. In order to address the root causes of animal homelessness in these marginalized communities, we have included in our efforts free spaying and neutering services. We also take in stray, injured and abandoned animals and put them up for adoption. We do not receive any government aid and rely on the generosity of the public to support our operations through direct donations, fundraising and events, and adoption fees. In 2020, we assisted more than 4,000 animals while also managing to navigate the pandemic.

It's so easy to become a foster home and it's so rewarding. The way it works is our team will help pick out an animal at the shelter that we hope will fit well with your home. All we ask is that you treat your temporary guest as you would your own family pet. We want it to be a fun and positive experience and our team is here to support you along the way, including three on-staff dog trainers. AARCS provides all you need for food, toys, litter, crates, beds and all the medical care, so there is zero cost to fostering an animal. For those who can’t foster, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer.


"My one piece of advice is — take the risk. Don't play safe."

What aspect of your work gives you the most happiness? I am surrounded every day by so many amazing, compassionate and kind people who together ensure our doors remain open to help thousands of animals. Our staff and volunteers are exceptional, and they really don’t get enough credit for all they sacrifice to show up every single day. We all do it because it gives us great happiness to know that each and every day, we are saving lives. There is no greater feeling in the world. If you had one piece of advice for other MRU alumni, what would it be? Take the risk. Don't play safe. Life is too short, and we can all do amazing things when we take the leap into unknown territory, because that is where greatness lives. It will never happen if you wait for the ‘right time.’

Mount Royal University alumni, feel confident with preferred rates from TD Insurance. You could save with rates on car, home, condo and tenant’s insurance.

Get a quote and see how much you could save! Go to Or call 1-888-589-5656

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