Aileen Smyth works hands on with students across campus at Student Learning Services but as her peers reflect on her contributions as she heads into retirement this week, it’s clear the impression she’s left on the MRU Community can’t possibly be confined to a singular role.
“Aileen is a collaborator, a builder, and a connector. She is full of wonderful ideas and always works from a place of how to bring others together to help make those ideas a reality,” says Katharine Barrette, Associate University Librarian, Public Services, when asked to describe Smyth.
Barrette not only works two floors away from Smyth in the RLLC, they both collaborated on Mount Royal University’s inaugural Long Night Against Procrastination (LNAP) this past March, which was initiated by Smyth. Working as a Writing and Learning Strategist, Team Lead, since 2006 has allowed Smyth to connect with students, help them to improve specific skills, and identify opportunities to set them up to succeed here at MRU and beyond.
LNAP is now a renowned initiative that is typically hosted by writing centres at post-secondary institutions around the world. The idea to host a full evening dedicated to guiding students towards resources meant to help them throughout their course work first kicked off in Frankfurt, Germany in 2010. Smyth was introduced to it by a speaker at a conference she attended in November 2012 and was inspired to bring a version of the event to MRU.
“Most of the institutions at that time did an all nighter, it started at 10 p.m. and went to 7 a.m.” says Smyth, who goes on to explain that her and the rest of her colleagues at Student Learning Services knew they could gather support for LNAP by preserving the spirit of the event but adjusting elements, such as the timing, to keep from encouraging late night cramming and students forfeiting sleep.
Shortly after working out the details, Smyth approached Barrette about incorporating the MRU Library into LNAP. The pair formed an LNAP committee, comprised of partners across campus that came together to offer everything from free yoga classes to help with writing and study techniques. The goal is to ensure student attendees are supported academically, spiritually, emotionally, physically, and socially.
“Students who came out expressed excitement at discovering services and support available to them and we certainly had students express gratitude at being able to access some of these services (SLS and START in particular) at times when those areas are normally closed,” says Barrette, who looks forward to planning future LNAPs at MRU, but she knows Smyth’s presence will be missed.
“I will miss Aileen so much; I’ll miss her energy, her positivity, her unwavering belief that our potential to support student success is limitless. I’ll miss how she listens deeply to others and I’ll certainly miss how calm and calming she is, even when there’s a terrible blizzard on the day of the very first LNAP ever!,” says Barrette as she recalls the unseasonably frosty weather that made an appearance at the first LNAP on March 15.
Smyth’s last day at SLS is Friday, June 29. When asked what she’ll miss most about being on campus, her response is immediate and instinctive.
“The students! My colleagues are wonderful, but I’ll miss the students.”
The next LNAP will take place on November 14, 2018. Please look out for updates as the evening’s activities are confirmed.