One part of the whole

Augustana alumna, volunteer and donor Jessica Ryan displays how we can give back to our community in small, consistent ways.

Sydney Tancowny - 25 May 2021

When we think about the concept of community, we often think of the “whole”—a singular group working towards a shared purpose. However, focusing on the whole often overlooks the consistent actions each individual needs to make to achieve this purpose.

Jessica Ryan—Augustana alumna, volunteer and donor—is one such individual.

Jessica arrived at Augustana at the same time she arrived at Camrose. After her father began a job on campus, she decided to transfer from her school in Montana to finish the last two years of her degree at Augustana. While the education systems, in terms of structure and credits, were similar across the two institutions, Jessica could enrol in a wider range of courses at Augustana to pursue her interests, from philosophy to piano.

When recalling her time on campus, Jessica remembers her professors who left an impression on her, both in the ways they fostered discussions in their courses and introduced her to new ways of thinking. “It sort of shook up who I thought I was and how I viewed the world,” said Jessica. “And that background of being open to new ways of looking at things and conflicting viewpoints definitely shaped how I went out and looked at the world.”

Following graduation, Jessica’s learning continued, but this time, it was through her experience within the Camrose community. After working in various roles, Jessica took a job as a reporter at the Camrose Canadian. In her work, she was exposed to the many ways people collectively devote their time to create programs, events and supports—many of which were previously unknown to her—and widening her view of the community she lived in.

“Camrose offers great opportunities to be part of and contribute to the community, and to benefit from the people working to make it a good community,” said Jessica. “From that, I got a very positive perception of being involved.”

This would become part of the reason why, after later moving to Calgary for work, Jessica decided to move back to Camrose to take a public relations and communications job at Newo (pronounced NAY-wo). An environmentally-focused non-profit organization, Newo grew from the Spirit of the Land Conference at Augustana, which was guided by the belief in the power of community collaboration. 

Today, Jessica integrates this value of collaboration into her relationship with Augustana in small, meaningful ways, but in ways that nevertheless make a difference. From her work at the alumni-founded Newo that reflects the ideals she views within Camrose and Augustana, to volunteering with the campus’ Alumni Student Support and Engagement Team (ASSET) to benefit student mental health, to her monthly pledge to the campus, Jessica helps to better the community she’s chosen as her own, bit by bit.

“I felt there's no good reason not to,” Jessica said in regards to her monthly pledge to the campus. “I want to support Augustana to help make getting an education in a rural community possible.

“There's something very important about education not just being something you have to go to the city for. In places like Camrose where people are involved in volunteer work, they know more people around them and they feel more connected, and I think that's probably healthy for everyone—to get involved and do good work to make the community better.”

A shorter version of this story originally appeared in our 2021 Report to the Community.