Mount Royal University

Learning the ropes

For the last 99 years, Mount Royal University has invested in the lives of its students and community members. Founded as a college in 1911, Mount Royal started as a private, Methodist institution. At first, the college simply offered the credentials that the community needed, but over time, programming kept evolving as the community changed and as the needs of the students and local employers changed. Never considered a community college, Mount Royal didn’t have any technical or vocational career classes; rather, it had more what you might call ‘white collar’ programming.
It was only last year that Mount Royal was given the university distinction, reflecting how far the school has come over the century. While the university still offers certificates, diplomas, applied degrees, it now offers a full range of bachelor degrees—from general arts and sciences, to business degrees.
As it rings in the new century next year, the school has a lot of forward thinking to do. “I think the next 100 years will be a challenge for Mount Royal,” says President Dave Marshall. “While its reputation is cemented in the Canadian University system, we want to ensure that Mount Royal will always be a unique institution. It’s one that will, due to its undergraduate nature, focus on issues related to student engagement and instruction, rather than research.”

Setting itself apart

Now a school of 12,000 students, Mount Royal prides itself on fostering an environment where students aren’t just another number, enhancing their education experience. And what an education it is! There are a number of programs for which the university is nationally known.
The Music program is one of them; in fact, the Conservatory is the oldest in the west. According to Marshall, students take music programs through Mount Royal’s conservatory every year.  “We have linkages with Conservatories in China and Europe,” he says. “Some of our graduates have gone on to perform in some of the best symphonies in the world.”

“Some of our specialty programs in business are also highly recognized, particularly for our accounting programs. Our students seem to be the first choice for accounting firms in Calgary,” adds Marshall. “We also have some special degrees that no one else has, such as a business degree in non-profit management; it’s the only one in the country.” Marshall could go on, but all one has to do is a bit of research to find out just how much this university has to offer.

 Getting a facelift

After quite a few decades, it’s only natural for a cutting edge institution to want to update its facilities, and Mount Royal University has a number of projects going on.
“We have a $25-million addition to our science lab to support the delivery of full undergraduate science degrees,” begins Marshall, about to continue with a long list. “We also put in an addition to our Centre for Continuous Learning, which serves 30,000 students a year in non-credit continuing education programs. Then there’s the parking lot we’re building; it’s a little boring, but we do need more parking.

“Two of our more exciting projects will be the new $60-million Conservatory—funded with $20 million from the federal government, $20 million from the Province, $10 million from the City and $10 million from some private sources. The shovels should go in the ground by next spring,” says Marshall. “The next project is a little further away, but it’s one that we are planning now with the government. We call it our new learning centre; to others, it’s a library. But it’s more than a place for dusty books. It’s a node in the digital highway and a place for students to meet and to work.  We’re working on that one and it would be a $100-million project, if and when it’s funded. We are hopeful that is our next project in support from the government.”

For Mount Royal, it’s important to expand their facilities for a number of reasons, not the least of which is growth. Over the next few years, the school plans to increase its student body by a couple of thousand. Furthermore, an updated and expanded institution is essential for delivering university-level credentials, which is why the library and science labs are so important. Finally, upgrades are important for student experience. “Our goal is to be the top institution in Canada when it comes to experience,” affirms Marshall. “That’s why all of the spaces we are designing are student engagement places, as well.”

Messages to students

When reviewing a place like Mount Royal University, it’s a school that has stayed true to its student-focused mission for almost 100 years. “I have pulled out some of the speeches from past school presidents and I could say the same things today as they did decades ago,” says Marshall. “It’s all about Mount Royal’s goal is to serve the students. Our target is to be the best university in Canada and reach all the measures related to student success and satisfaction.”
“I think that’s the kind of thing we want to celebrate now, that we are consistent with who we were 100 years ago,” he concludes. “There have been many examples of change, but what we’ll probably celebrate is the thing that hasn’t changed and that’s our focus on our students. I think that’s what Mount Royal is known for and what it will be known for for a long time.”