School spirit subtle but present on campus
by Miriam Ostermann
Despite many students’ views that school spirit at Mount Royal University is declining, the Students’ Association at the university has seen an increase in clubs, greater numbers of volunteers and new events.
Over 300 volunteers have gotten involved with the SA, with roughly 250 serving as executives in 48 clubs, including academic, social and special interest clubs. That number has increased from 40 clubs last year, and has resulted in 11 events this year hosted in the Liberty Lounge with an average turnout of 100 students.
Currently, the service centres run by the Students’ Association have more volunteers than they have positions, though this may reflect how many students are actually using services.
During the latest campus election, all candidates ran unopposed, and only five candidates ran for 10 available student council positions. However, to fill in the gaps, a record 23 students have applied to fill the remaining positions, according to VP Student Life Eily Sweeney.
“I’m very excited to see the increase of student involvement, especially within the Students’ Association this year,” Sweeney said. “I think students are getting more involved at Mount Royal.”
Last year, MRU distributed over $2 million in scholarships, while the SA provided an additional $40,000 in scholarships and bursaries. Students are being encouraged to mention their extracurricular involvement on their resumes when it comes to future career opportunities.
“It’s incredibly important to have school spirit because we’re a community and students’ time within this community is heightened and enhanced by their experience and school spirit, whether by being involved in a club or coming out to an awareness campaign or event,” Sweeney said. “Those elements of students’ education are essential – I would even say critical – to having a high-quality educational experience.”
She said connecting course work to on-campus involvement has proved extremely effective in the past, by making use of projects in classrooms or initiatives on campus.
Yet, students such as Logan Frederickson say that opportunities should be better advertised and that some responsibility rests on resident advisors to get students living on campus more involved.
“From what I’ve noticed, there is a little bit of an audience at volleyball games and things like that, but not crazy crowds, so there is definitely room for improvement,” said Frederickson, a third-year student. “The RAs have lots of responsibilities already, but they could help to send out flyers and maybe organize trips to get groups out to games… that would probably help a lot for the teams anyways.”
Frederickson, who used to be enrolled at the University of Calgary, said he prefers the Mount Royal atmosphere, but noticed better advertising for events, clubs and Dino games at the U of C.
Mount Royal posts messages and events on the myMRU.ca website, Blackboard, via email and posters in the hallways, but the number of students that come out to support events and athletic teams is still minimal compared to the over 12,000 credit students enrolled at MRU.
While students have the opportunity to follow various Mount Royal University Twitter accounts or join the MRU Facebook page, only 1,796 students have joined since the page was created.
Fifth-year criminal justice student Katy Johnston has been living on campus since 2005 and said she feels that fewer activities and events were brought to her attention and has yet to ever see university mascot Calvin the Cougar.
“I think they need to make people more aware of things like the voting and getting involved,” Johnston said. “Last year we never had anyone come to our door, but before then we always had people who were running for whatever position come to our door and explain to us some of the issues and how they’re going to fix it, and they kind of stopped doing that.”
However, for events related to university status and a brand new logo, students have come out to celebrate the changes.
Over 1,500 students celebrated the university’s name change on Sept. 15, 2009 by wearing blue Mount Royal T-shirts and forming a giant human U shape. And with the distribution of the new logo, roughly 1,600 students, staff and faculty provided detailed feedback on the designs.
According to Sweeney, Mount Royal is the second university in North America to introduce an assessment seminar to explore how to create a better student experience.
The Students’ Association is planning on increasing face-to-face interactions with students and created a council engagement committee, which focuses on events and engagement of students using interactive approaches like classroom visits or Main Street campaigns, with the goal of getting more students involved in the future.