Crushing it during an extra challenging academic year

10 stories of students who made major scholastic impacts in 2020/21

MRU’s online learners
Students face pandemic challenges head-on

A University student wearing a mask in the Riddell Library & Learning Centre.

Students continue to adjust to a routine of working and learning online.

With attention turning to Convocation and a return to in-person learning in the fall, we congratulate and applaud all the students of Mount Royal who turned on their laptops at home (sometimes in their sweatpants and pyjamas) and hit the books for a year of alternative delivery. While faculty and staff worked hard to support them, each student was faced with pivoting to a new and challenging learning environment. It wasn’t always easy but each and every one deserves a physically distanced thumbs up for a job well done!


Cougars student-athletes
Mount Royal sets new record for Academic All-Canadians

Dane Domic in action against Thompson Rivers University WolfPack.

Dane Domic in action against Thompson Rivers University WolfPack.

It was a record-breaking year for MRU Cougars Athletics with 76 student-athletes receiving Academic All-Canadian status for the 2019/20 season, two more than the previous year.

The Cougars received the highest percentage of Academic All-Canadians in the Canada West conference with 44.7 per cent of all student-athletes achieving this distinction. This also placed Mount Royal in the top 10 of all U Sports schools across the country.

To obtain this prestigious honour, Mount Royal varsity student-athletes must maintain a 3.4 or higher GPA while enrolled as a full-time student. These top performers make up over 40 per cent of all student-athletes at MRU, making the University an academic leader in the Canada West Conference.

Women's soccer had the most student-athletes honoured with a total of 18, three quarters of their roster. Leading the charge in percentage of the roster, however, was women's volleyball, with 14 of their 17 members named an Academic All-Canadian.


Kourtnee Burnett, journalism student, social media team lead, Healthy Campus Office
Student urges others to check up on their own mental health

Kourtnee Burnett sitting next to a black cat.

Kourtnee Burnett believes that an easy way to start to progress forward is to make use of campus resources.

Showing compassion and understanding, Burnett reached out to students and encouraged them to take care of their mental health while sharing her own struggles. In a story on, Burnett urged her fellow students and faculty to do a mental health self-check.

“As more and more university campuses open up conversations around mental health, I often wonder how aware students and professors are of their own mental well-being. It is easy to get caught up in supporting others and reciting positive messages and warm assurances, but are you OK?”

A place to start, she wrote, is making use of campus resources and she shared that her own life has improved by reaching out to Early Support and counselling services. Burnett also gave a nod to @MRUbanter Instagram and shared her experiences as a peer-to-peer mental health educator.

“Everyone needs a little nudge occasionally to remind them to take inventory of their mental well-being. If you are reading this, consider yourself nudged.”


Investment fund financing for Mount Royal’s future
Students achieve real-world experience, make immediate impact

Michael Berger.

Michael Berger is the portfolio manager for diversified industrials, financials and energy for the Student Investment Fund.

Managed by 16 third- and fourth-year students and in its second year of operation, the Mount Royal Student Investment Fund offers real-world experience in finance through the careful analysis and trading of conservative investments. Dr. Allan Dwyer, PhD, along with faculty colleagues at the Bissett School of Business, developed this student experience, which became a reality with a $100,000 foundational gift from Yvonne and Kevin Wolfe.

Michael Berger, a fourth-year Bachelor of Business Administration ― Finance student, acted as the portfolio manager for diversified industrials, financials and energy for the fund.

“The MRU Student Investment Fund so far has provided me with many different experiences, from meeting with potential donors as an ambassador of the fund, to hearing from weekly guest speakers that are industry professionals in Calgary,” he said. Last year the Student Investment Fund team finished as runner-up in the prestigious McGill University Portfolio Competition.

The initiative from the very beginning has been to grow the Student Investment Fund to a point where it can give back to the University in the form of scholarships and bursaries, research and infrastructure monies, and overall support.


Journalism students make their mark
Honours from competition with some of the largest U.S. programs

Karina Zapata.

Karina Zapata honed her research and writing skills with both The Reflector, the newspaper of the Students’ Association of MRU, and The Calgary Journal, a newspaper published solely by students from the journalism program.

Mount Royal University’s journalism students once again excelled in a competition of student newspapers that involved some of the biggest journalism schools in the U.S. Forty-six student papers competed in the annual Pacemaker Awards of the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP).

A series of print-based Calgary Journals won the coveted Pacemaker, with several more online Calgary Journal stories capturing additional ACP awards and honourable mentions.

Students Nathan Woolridge and Karina Zapata finished second this year in the Multimedia News Story category for a story called “Bad Blood: Breaking down Canadian Blood Services’ donation restrictions for sexually active gay men.” Zapata also won an honourable mention for her story “Preserving mother tongues: Why children of immigrants are losing their languages” in the Story of the Year — Diversity category.

Blaise Kemna, Kyra Bird, Hailey Payne and Andrea Wong took home fifth place for Best Multimedia Feature Story for “Choices: A Cerebral Palsy Story.” In the COVID-19 Individual ACP Award category, Ricardo Garcia received an honourable mention for his photography for the Journal cover story “Calgary under quarantine.”

Woolridge and Zapata were also honoured with a nomination for the Canadian Association of Journalists Student Award of Excellence for “Bad Blood.”


Finishing high at the Econ Games
Students reach the podium at 2021 international event

Mount Royal students recently placed second in the international Econ Games.

Aymie Haslam (policy studies), Diamond Reid (policy studies), Elliot Ryland (sociology), Janine Shen (accounting) and Thomas Tram (accounting), also known as The Dismal Scientists, won second place in the Econ Games, an international economics competition held from February to March this year.

The games brought together 266 students from 18 universities from the U.S., the U.K. and Canada. Lavinia Moldovan, assistant professor of economics, was the faculty advisor for Mount Royal University.

Five more MRU students worked together as The Aces: Dhafnie Basilio (policy studies), Shabnam Sangha (policy studies), Hanson Lui (business), Gayatri Rikhi (business) and David Higham (business). Both teams completed the weekly online challenges starting at the beginning of February in addition to their regular course load. They learned new skills, got to know each other, and identified each team member’s strengths in the process.


JMH Launchpad takes off again
Dragons’ Den-style event showcases student entrepreneurs

Ben Pearman of Chinook Aerosports.

Ben Pearman of Chinook Aerosports.

Hosted by Mount Royal’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) in April, the JMH LaunchPad Pitch Competition is the IIE’s most prominent event of the year. This year’s finalist were:

Chinook Aerosports, bringing innovation to the rapidly growing world of disc golf. Founded by Ben Pearman, Chinook Aerosports builds technology that lets you track your athletic progress and helps you find your disk when it gets lost (which it inevitably will).

Received: $10,000 JMH Award, $15,000 LaBarge Weinstein, $4,000 LaunchPad Alumni Award

Swim by Em, an ethical swimwear line that fosters comfort without sacrificing style. Founded by Emily Robitaille and Connor Pupp, Swim by Em diverts unused commercial fabric from landfills to create limited-edition garments that cater to increasing body confidence.

Received: $10,000 JMH Award, $15,000 Grant Design

Jake McLellan, the founder of Bug Broz, a licensed pest control company aimed at making your backyard more safe. Bug Broz eliminates pests that damage property and that carry various diseases using safe and eco-friendly methods.

Received: $10,000 JMH Award

Aarondeep Maan,  the founder of Evergreen Lights, a custom outdoor LED Lighting company. Evergreen Lights offers permanent, cloud-enabled lighting solutions that provide homeowners control of millions of colours and animations year-round.

Received: $10,000 JMH Award

Moov, out to change the way the junk removal industry operates. By utilizing contract drivers with their own vehicles, Moov’s founder Kevin Lee is finally making junk removal a painless process.


Vivacity studies ‘Tech for Good’
Social innovation class draws students from across the city

Catherine Pearl, Wendy Lees, Danika Dinko, Kat Bravo, Ashley Villaflores, Roshni McCartney, Ivy Daminan standing in front of the Riddell Library and Learning Centre.

From left, Catherine Pearl, sign artist Wendy Lees, students Danika Dinko, Kat Bravo, Ashley Villaflores, Roshni McCartney, Ivy Daminan.

Vivacity is a multidisciplinary and inter-institutional civic innovation course taught by Dr. Catherine Pearl, PhD, associate professor of social innovation at MRU. While attending classes virtually each week, teams during the winter semester engaged with their communities and also examined cities around the world considered great examples of civic tech and tech for good to assess lessons learned and what might be applicable to Calgary.

“We were trusted with the responsibility of working on real projects, which was one of the most exciting parts of the course for me,” said MRU information design student Dawson Diment. “Getting to work with people with different skill sets was such a great learning opportunity for growth. I didn’t know too much about tech for good at the start of the semester, or about user testing for civic organizations, but I’ve come to have a deep love and respect for the work of user testing and technology for good.”


‘Map the System’ for system-wide solutions
Students explored overrepresentation of Indigenous youth in care

Emma Berger, Mizuki Oshita, Vanessa Sandoval and Eloisa Gillham on a video call.

Mizuki Oshita, Emma Berger, Eloisa Gillham and Vanessa Sandoval explored the overrepresentation of Indigenous youth in care for their Map the System project.

Challenges facing women or families were the focus of this year’s participants in the fifth annual Map the System competition held by the Institute for Community Prosperity.

The yearly event sees teams of students or recent graduates from across different disciplines analyze social, economic or environmental problems to understand the many contributing factors. Students are expected to apply different skill sets as they think of problem-solving through a process that documents the full complexity of an issue. Again this year, the event was held online.

The winning group explored the overrepresentation of Indigenous youth in care and included: Emma Berger, third-year psychology student; Mizuki Oshita, an international student and recent social work graduate; Vanessa Sandoval, second-year psychology student; and Eloisa Gillham, third-year sociology student. These students went on to represent MRU at the Canadian finals. 

The team has created a resource document to help others learn more about the Indigenous child welfare system, decolonize their beliefs and take action on related issues.


New SAMRU executive elected
Mix of experience and diversity to lead students

Yasmin Ahmed.

Yasmin Ahmed says she will work to bridge the gaps within the university community.

In May, Student Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) welcomed a newly elected Representative Executive Council for the 2021/22 year following student elections.

Spirit River Striped Wolf returns to a second term as executive council president of the student’s association. The policy studies student possesses a lifetime of advocacy experience, and says relationship building is integral to his work and he continues to strengthen the relationship between SAMRU and the larger MRU community.

Vice-President Student Affairs Joseph Nguyen is a second-year education student who brings years of committee work and volunteer experience conducting and running board meetings. He says he believes in transforming ideas into action.

Vice-President Academic Yasmin Ahmed is a student in the Bachelor of Communication program. As a black Muslim woman, she is passionate about the power of community and inclusivity, and believes students must feel comfortable, represented and included.

Vice-President External Rachel Timmermans is in the sixth year of her degree and is joining the executive council for her second term. Timmermans is well-versed in political affairs and is an experienced advocate and lobbyist.

May 18, 2021 — Peter Glenn

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