Have You Met… Heather Raymond?

Have you met Heather Raymond, the new president of the Alumni Association? Spend the next few minutes getting to know her a little better.

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Have you met Heather Raymond, the new president of the Alumni Association? Spend the next few minutes getting to know her a little better.

You worked in Edmonton Public Schools for 34 years. What did you learn from being a teacher?

Surround yourself with people who inspire you to think and learn — people who look for the good in everyone. I started my career working with people with disabilities and the description people had for them was always “can’t” instead of “can.” One thing I learned is we build on our strengths, not on our deficits. So shifting that language of looking to what people can do, seeing the good in them, that’s how we should treat all students and the people we meet in our lives.

What made you want to volunteer as Alumni Association president?

I was a passive alumna until I volunteered to be the Education Faculty Alumni Representative for the Faculty of Education. Listening to other people talk about their pride in being alumni, it was an awakening for me. I realized that the world-class education I received here had shaped my life, and that revelation touched me deeply. Once I fully understood the value of the university and I reflected on the opportunities I had to learn alongside my peers and instructors who challenged me, that’s when my pride grew. Being Alumni Association president is an opportunity to give back and show my pride in this school and the richness of the alumni community. It’s also an opportunity to learn.

What do you hope to accomplish during your two years as Alumni Association president?

I want to make sure alumni are part of the university’s work in terms of thoughtful response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, as well as looking at how we can support equity, diversity and inclusivity on campus. Another big thing for me is bringing together the alumni and student communities: continuing to grow and build on how our alumni can support students of today. I know one way we do that is career mentoring — be it through online platforms like Switchboard or face to face. When the alumni community becomes more involved with students, students become more aware of what’s possible for them when they graduate.

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The Alumni Association motto is Do Great Things. What does that mean to you?Do Great Things. What does that mean to you?

Multiple things. One is, yes, individuals do great things and we want to recognize them. We want people to know that U of A graduates have done amazing things. But Do Great Things can be small things too. What may be a small act to someone might be big to another person. Something like helping out someone who’s new to the country, or taking care of your neighbour’s cat when they go away a few days. Those gestures — the great things we do for each other — those are important too. And finally, great things come about because graduates use their degrees in their fields to do good things for society.

June is Spring Convocation. Do you have any advice for graduates?

I think it’s really important that grads realize that walking across the stage is not the last time the university wants to be there to support them in their careers. And I think that’s the gift of the alumni community that, through us, graduates have access to a huge network on and off campus. So my advice to them is come back to campus often and take advantage of the support and benefits the Alumni Association has to offer.

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

Picking just one is cruel! I read this great book about Ruby Bridges. She was the first child to help desegregate all white schools in New Orleans during the desegregation crisis. Norman Rockwell did a painting of her with the four marshals escorting her at the beginning of school. And none of the white parents would send their kids to school so she was the only child in the class for a whole year. She’s only two years older than I am. She’s still alive and she’s a social activist. I’d love to hear her story from her point of view. As a teacher, I’d love to hear what her teacher was like.

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On June 1, Heather Raymond became the 78th president of the University of Alberta Alumni Association, which aims to strengthen the relationship between the university and its more than 290,000 alumni. Heather has a BA, MA, PhD and diploma from the Faculty of Education at the U of A. In her spare time she likes to knit.