The man, the myth, the hair
It doesn’t take straight As to head up a large non-profit organization and work with a multi-million-dollar budget, just ask Robert Jones, president of the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University.
Jones, who will not be running in the 2011 Students’ Association election, said he skipped many of his high school classes and got bad grades before eventually dropping out altogether. Overall, he was a long way from reaching his potential.
“I had no real aspirations in my life to be anything more than a garbage man,” Jones said. “You know, lots of fresh air.”
It wasn’t until he spent time working at grocery stores — pumping gas and stocking shelves — that he started thinking about finding something more fulfilling.
Jones eventually enrolled at what was then Mount Royal College and originally planned on transferring to the University of Calgary, before realizing Mount Royal’s small classes and accepting atmosphere made him want to stay where he was.
“This place immediately grabbed my attention and made learning fun for the first time in my life,” Jones said.
Jones signed up for policy studies and his interest in government led him to get involved with the Students’ Association. Despite initially having little idea about the mechanics of student government, Jones got involved and was elected VP external in 2009.
The next year, Jones was elected SAMRU president. His new position included monthly meetings with Mount Royal university president Dave Marshall where they discussed student issues.
“I’ve been a university president for 21 years and I’ve had 21 student union presidents to work with, and Robert ranks right up there with the best of them,” Marshall said. “He’s thoughtful, committed, creative, got a good sense of humour and he speaks well.”
“He’s got a pretty good package there; maybe some day he’ll even get a haircut,” Marshall joked.
“Dave’s just a really straight up guy, he tells it like it is,” Jones said. “Sometimes you may not necessarily agree with what he’s saying, but he’ll tell you what’s happening, why the decision was made and where it’s going.”
Jones said it has been a pleasure working with Marshall — who will step down as university president this spring — and that he’s learned a lot about leadership basics.
“It’s not just the leader that needs to be great,” Jones said. “It’s about attaching your ego to the whole group and having the team soar.”
Collin Semenoff, SAMRU communications studies representative, was one of the people who worked alongside Jones over the past year.
“Rob’s very charismatic and he’s got a great personality,” Semenoff said. “He really brings a spark and a passion to everything that he does on council.
“You can tell that he’s really engaged with the material and he really puts all of himself into every issue.”
However, it’s not all about business for Jones, who seems as relaxed behind a pint of Royal 100 as behind an office desk. “Anyone can do this job,” Jones said. “The training is so fantastic that you don’t need to come in with any skills.
“It’s been a life-changing experience of epic proportions.”