A night full of MRU Alumni stars
By Noel Ormita, Contributor
The annual Outstanding Alumni Awards recognized seven alumni who continue to showcase the spirit of Mount Royal University (MRU) beyond campus grounds through their professional careers and work in the community.
Tia Hagen, president of MRU Alumni Association, described this year’s recipients as engaging and inspirational advocates. She added why it’s important to continue to recognize alumni success.
“These recognitions go beyond mere accolades; they serve as inspiration for current students who see that those who came before them have achieved remarkable success and have made a positive impact,” Hagen said. “Recognizing alumni deepens our relationships and keeps us connected to one another.”
Beginning with different
The night started more inspirational than you would expect. Instead of a music or dance performance, the reception was met with spoken word. The night began with a performance from Calgary’s sixth poet laureate, Wakefield Brewster, who moved the audience with his beautifully crafted narration “The Difference”.
‘In our world, we are all often led by those with vision. Attempting and assisting one and all of us to see a combination of clairvoyance and crystal clarity,’ he said. ‘For it is who you are that shows us all whom we may be.’
The ambient lighting and elegant furniture set up added to the energy of the room full of gratitude and pride.
A night to remember
Steve Kootenay-Jobin, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 2015 and a Liberal Arts and Science diploma in 2011 from MRU, continued his connection with the university working as an Indigenous housing and events coordinator with the Iniskim Centre.
Tom Buchanan, who nominated Kootenay-Jobin for the award, praised the awardee’s commitment and community involvement throughout the years.
“Steve is a relentless advocate for Indigenous students as he is deeply devoted to his community and his professional work. This bridge has been critical for Indigenization,” Buchanan said.
Deep roots with MRU campus
Kootenay-Jobin has his long-time connection to MRU, dating back to when the institution was still Mount Royal College and his mother would bring him and his siblings on campus as she attended classes in the social work program.
“When there was no babysitter for my brothers and I, we used to come to campus and wait outside in the hall while my mom attended class,” he said. “When it was nice out, we would go and play around the pond.”
After a lack of confidence academically and financial barriers, Kootenay-Jobin believed his post-secondary journey would be cut short after returning in 2007. Regaining confidence through completing prerequisites in the Aboriginal Education Program and with the institutional transition of Mount Royal from a college to a university, he knew the next step after receiving a certificate was a diploma and then a degree.
“I knew this was an investment in my future. I applied with confidence and my last two years as a student on campus were some of the best years of my life,” he said.
Meaningful work on campus
During his last semester in the sociology program in 2014, Kootenay-Jobin joined the Iniskim Centre.
“This year is historic as this is when the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was released and MRU began the work towards a path of decolonization and Indigenization on campus,” said the award recipient.
“I felt like the institution aligned with my vision of a better future. A more equitable future that focused on truth, healing and creating equitable opportunities for Indigenous Peoples.”
Kootenay-Jobin left MRU to lead the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s (SAIT) Chinook Lodge as manager of Indigenous student supports. But he has always considered this campus as his home and is open to return to MRU again one day as an Elder in residence.
Kootenay-Jobin is the first Stoney Nakoda recipient of the award but he hopes his story inspires other Indigenous youth to pursue post-secondary education.
“I truly believe that education is healing and that it is a tool that no one can ever take away from you.”
Shine bright like a diamond
The MRU community continues to grow every year with new and graduating students who keep a life-long connection to the campus outside of their classrooms.
“Remember that you always belong here,” Hagen said. “You may be crossing the stage and stepping into the next chapter of your life, but at any time, you can get reconnected to the university.”
Kootenay-Jobin says there’s no one degree that will gain you recognition or success in the future.
“We are all diverse individuals with unique histories and experiences that when combined with education gives us the ability to develop skills and critically think, whether that is being innovative or solving problems,” he said.
Attending the awards night and listening to the recipients as they share their experiences, I am reminded about what it takes to be a leader in my chosen field and in the community.
“Passion is the biggest exemplar of a successful person,” Kootenay-Jobin said.