Paul Brandt Becomes Mentor at MRU
As new Storyteller-In-Residence, the country singer hopes to help students make a difference
Kari Pedersen, Publishing Editor
Mount Royal University has acquired a new Storyteller-in-Residence, but what exactly does that mean to us?
Paul Brandt, Canadian country crooner and humanitarian is joining MRU for a two-year period, working as a supporter and motivator of students who are trying to assist in social change. This semester, students worked with Brandt to launch a campaign called “W: at MRU” which aims to bring awareness to human trafficking and missing and murdered indigenous women, two causes close to Brandt’s heart.
As many have seen around MRU the campaign aims to bring awareness to these serious issues in ways that really stick with you. The exhibitions happening around school include an exhibition with powerful statistics about missing and murdered indigenous women, a sycamore forest representing new growth, and a forensic reconstruction of a rape cubicle juxtaposed with “The New Home,” illustrating the journey to safety for those who have been rescued.
So how exactly has this all come together? For Brandt it was as simple as a connection at his alma mater of MRU with Patty Derbyshire which led to a proposal of social and business enterprise projects to students to see what they could come up with. Since coming up with the idea, Brandt has been spending time in classes and working with students.
“I get to take my experience, not only my experiences working in hospitals (as a nurse) but now my experience over the past 20 years of travelling around the world to meet people, and bring that knowledge to the students,” Brandt says of the project.
“Hopefully we can make a difference not only in our local community but even internationally, I think that really the sky is the limit.”
Fourth year marketing student Bryton Udy has been working with Brandt all semester.
“I feel that students will be taken back by some of the exhibits and the stories told throughout the campaign,” he says. “It is a sensitive subject, but one that we all need to stop turning a blind eye to, so I feel students will think about it with more care.”
Brandt’s passion about these issues stems from a trip to Cambodia over seven years ago, where he watched a six-year-old girl being trafficked without being to do anything to stop it. It was at that time in his life that he realized he had to do something, whatever it may be.
“You hear about these things, but if you don’t see it, it is so hard to sink in, so I think as a society it is really important to take these issues and dive in, ask ourselves ‘what do we think about this, and how does this make us feel.’” Brandt goes on to say that the shock of connecting with a young girl and watching her be taken to a brothel was eye-opening and something he never thought possible. That was the moment he asked himself, “What am I going to do about it?”
The issue may seem enormous, but Brandt encourages students and society to push against this, and be on the right side of the line, saying “this is wrong” and really doing something about it.
Udy echoes Brandt’s point as this semester has made him passionate about making a change, and it has allowed him to see how he can affect change with his peers.
“If we can help one young woman or girl, help change one man’s mindset towards this issue, we have done our job. For sure we want to have a larger impact than that, but we want to instill change in others, the way we as a class have shifted our mindset to the issue,” says Udy.
Valeri Kinnear, dean of the Bisset School of Business is also helping support students in this marketing class on their quest for social change.
“I think this is important for all of us to be aware of, and understand what is going on, and understand that these issues are happening in Canada and right under our nose, too often we brush them off as ‘these are happening in other countries’ but we have to be aware that they are happening here.” Kinnear says.
Kinnear believes that if we were all more aware of these issues, then maybe we would be aware of how to help, and the impact society can make on these important and often devastating situations.
Kinnear says the aim of the “Storyteller-In-Residence” position is to get Brandt involved across the university by using his mentorship and entrepreneur skills to make a difference across campus and give future classes the opportunity to work with the Juno award winner.
Udy says that from his perspective the most important thing for students to be aware of is that they don’t need to be a super hero by physically saving a girl in the sex trade. But to stand against verbal, emotional and physical abuse against women is enough.
While many of the W: At MRU events have passed, “The Deal” runs from April 5 to 7 and will give participants the opportunity to experience life if you were “dealt a different card,” and as the W campaign states, “you are not going to want to see this, and that is why you need to.” For more information on the W: at MRU campaign visit www.mruimpact.com and learn how you can get involved with social change. Also stay tuned for what is next for Brandt as MRU’s new Storyteller-In-Residence.