Have You Met… Ruby?

Have you met… Ruby Swanson, the General Manager of the University of Alberta Botanic Garden? Spend the next few minutes getting to know her…

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Have you met… Ruby Swanson, the General Manager of the University of Alberta Botanic Garden? Spend the next few minutes getting to know her a little better.

Where is your favorite place on campus?

I have about 20 favourite spots, but if I had to pick just one, it would be plot 12 from the top of the hill of the terrace garden, at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden. It reminds me of Stanley Park, and I have to say that it is my favourite spot. It's a gorgeous vista that's a little taller then everywhere else in the garden and it has an assortment of beautiful and majestic trees and perennials. When you see it, it's hard not to ask "how did this happen out on the prairies?" It changes year round and is just beautiful.

Tablet or paper?

I use very little paper, ever.

Name one thing you've brought to work from home.

I have a beautiful water decanter made of glass that I brought from home. It sits on my desk and I use it everyday. It's beautiful to look at, but highly functional because I drink a lot of water.

What is the one thing you can't live without?

My family. Frequent contact with my husband and sons.

If you won airfare to anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Back to Alhambra. It's in Granada, Spain. It's an Islamic garden that's over 800 years old and I've seen it once, but once is not enough. The room where Queen Isabella gave Christopher Columbus her endorsement to set sail for [what we now know as] North America is located there - so it's a place that we hear about in world history and that has had an impact on the lives we lead here and now. To walk among the beauty, perfection, and history was a profoundly meaningful experience. I'd recommend seeing it to anybody and everybody.

You can invite anyone - alive or dead, real or fictional - to dinner. Who would it be?

My dad. He died too young, and I miss him. He was a farmer, and I would love for him to see where I work. This is the most specialized type of agriculture and he would have thought that this is the best place. He'd appreciate all of the work and effort that goes into it. His jaw would drop and he'd ask the question "how many people take care of all this?"

If you could switch jobs with someone else on campus for a week, what would you do?

I'd like to spend time in either the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry or the Faculty of Education. I think that education and medicine are two of the most important things in life; if you have an educated population with healthy supports, the problems of the world would be minimized.

What does "uplifting the whole people" mean to you?

I fundamentally live by that philosophy. Everyone deserves equal opportunities. The quality of your life should in no way be restricted by circumstances that aren't of your making. Despite [things like] age and culture, everyone should have equal opportunities. I think a society is judged by how it helps its most vulnerable populations, so we have to provide supports for everyone. I know that it's a big task, but the goal should be that we bring everyone along; no one should be forgotten or left behind.

If you could solve any problem in the world, what would it be?

Religious warfare. I think we can have peace when religious leaders from all faiths come together for regular, annual conversations - and that it could help their followers come together too. I don't know for sure, but I think it could do a lot for world peace and that it could help to eliminate some of the realities of war around the world.

What 3 words best describe your U of A experience?

Fulfilling. Challenging. Unequaled.

If given the chance to do it over again, I'd do it.

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Ruby Swanson is the General Manager of the University of Alberta Botanic Garden and is a recipient of the University of Alberta Human Rights Education Recognition Award. She is the author of A Family Outing, a memoir about the experiences she's had as a result of having a gay son. In 2016 Ruby traveled to Ukraine on two occasions where she met with LGBT activists and presented at an international conference for parents who have LBGT children.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.