Alumni Citation Award winner highlights the importance of “ordinary people”

Our 2020 Alumni Citation Award recipient, Margaret Rathnavalu, recognizes the importance of individuals who get involved in their communities.

Sydney Tancowny - 07 June 2021

A photo of Margaret Rathnavalu As a small, residence-based campus in rural Alberta, Augustana is closely tied to the members of its surrounding community. The campus’ Alumni Citation Award looks to honour this community by recognizing a non-alumnus/a each year for their contributions to life at Augustana. A shining example of how this community connection can manifest and make a difference is through the engagement of the 2020 recipient—Margaret Rathnavalu.

An alumna of the University of Alberta’s North Campus, Margaret has been a member of the extended Camrose community since she was young. It was her experience growing up and working on the farm south of Camrose, as well as the influence of her parents, that Margaret credits for instilling active neighbour and community interaction as an essential way of life. Today, this value is seen in how Margaret thoughtfully offers her time to Augustana.

Over the years, Margaret has attended and engaged in various areas on campus. Film screenings, concerts, lectures, student research and international student presentations, Ronning Centre events, reconciliation workshops and more—if something is happening on campus, Margaret is often involved.

“Augustana welcomes people who haven't studied at the campus or university, and there’s spaces for community to be involved,” said Margaret. “It’s been a very valuable, rich part of our family—we’ve had the opportunity to be a part of what happens.”

Margaret’s wide-reaching enthusiasm and concern for the campus and its liberal arts and sciences education is clear in her advocacy. From 2012 to 2018, Margaret championed the Spirit of the Land conference that attracted people from across Alberta to campus every fall to discuss key topics of our time. Through Spirit of the Land, Margaret was able to connect further with both students and the local community, to learn from each other and share in their own connection to the land. 

Most recently, her leadership took form in the promotion of Augustana’s impact—on both students and the surrounding community—by organizing, with the help of many, a Friends of Augustana gathering held last summer in response to changes in government funding. During a time when many were distant and isolated due to pandemic restrictions, the gathering brought our community together to share their campus experiences—all the while ensuring provincial health regulations were met.

 “Community awareness is important. We wanted to celebrate and listen to how much the campus means to people, and hear their hopes for the campus’ future.”

In addition to her engagement, Margaret and her family support a student award on campus. She and her husband, Larry, also joined a group of donors in 2019 to ensure Stewart Steinhauer’s Treaty Bear sculpture remained on campus in recognition of its place on treaty land and its collective commitment to reconciliation.

When speaking about the ways she gets involved with the community, both on and off campus, Margaret reflects on the outcomes of what an individual does: “Maybe it makes a difference or maybe you don't even open the door,” said Margaret, “but maybe what you do helps someone else see that there's a door there.”

“I am so appreciative of people who are involved—I don't know that I can say anything else other than that. I just appreciate what they do.”

Margaret’s willingness to not only get engaged but advocate for the campus demonstrates how community members make significant contributions to life at Augustana and the experiential education of its students. As a campus founded by and for its community, Augustana Campus benefits from active community members like Margaret.

“I’m just an ordinary person,” said Margaret, “but ordinary people are important in this world.”