Turning personal experiences into opportunities for giving

How funding something you’re passionate about can make a difference in the lives of students.


May 10 is U of A Giving Day, an institution-wide campaign involving faculties and units around campus with the goal of increasing alumni and donor participation and engagement (giving) to the University of Alberta.

As both a U of A alum and employee, I’ve seen firsthand the impact that even a small award can have on the student experience.

My own experience with giving began as the recipient of an award when I was an undergraduate student in the department of Biological Sciences. That little bit of extra money helped reduce some financial pressure and allowed me to be involved in leadership opportunities I was passionate about. I became a Residence Assistant in my third year and went on to become a staff member working with students in residence.

When I received some money from my grandfather’s estate, I knew I wanted to use it to set something up for students, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to do.

I had gone back and forth with the development team when Mark Chytracek, a dear friend and colleague, had this great idea. Mark pointed out that there is a group of students involved with athletics as mentors, coaches or trainers who play a pivotal role in the success of their teams, but don’t get the same opportunities for funding that athletes do.

He also knew that my grandfather and dad were both involved with minor sports. My dad coached hockey for years and my grandfather was the trainer for the Edmonton Mercurys when they won Olympic gold in the 1952 Winter Olympics and was also the trainer for the Edmonton Huskies during their three time championship streak in 1962, 1963 and 1964.

With this inspiration, I worked with the Office of Advancement to create the Moncrieff Ford Sr. & Moncrieff Ford Jr. Memorial Award for Dedicated Service to Athletics to support students who are involved with athletics, but not necessarily as an athlete.

Seeing the effect that giving has on students, but also on the community, is great. There's a direct line between the student experience and them being able to get into a professional program, and ultimately the impact that they have on other people.

When I finished funding the endowment, I decided to keep my payroll deduction in place to fund the Rob Ford Residence Life Leadership Award, an annual award for students who are involved with residence life on campus.

People may not always see the impact of a small award, but these things have a cumulative effect. As the Supervisor, Residence Services & Student Engagement, I’m in a unique position to understand where funding could help the most. There are a ton of stressors on students right now and they don’t just put these aside when they come to campus. A small amount of funding may give students an opportunity to take a break, treat themselves or go out with friends — to do something that contributes to their wellness.

Giving is a very personal thing and it starts with supporting something that you are passionate about. For me, giving is a way to stay connected with the community that’s been so important to me. It may sound cliche, but giving is an investment in the future.

Join us on U of A Giving Day to help make a big impact!

U of A Giving Day will launch on May 10, but you can visit the website now to learn more. All contributions will go towards student support including scholarships and bursaries, mental health initiatives, athletic/recreational programs, libraries and other ways to enhance the university student life experience. Spread the word and join us on May 10!

Visit the U of A Giving Day website

About Rob

Rob Ford is the Supervisor, Residence Services & Student Engagement for the Augustana Campus. He has worked in residence services at Augustana for more than 30 years and has been involved with volunteer groups in Camrose, including the Camrose Police Commission, Tourism Camrose and the Camrose Games Society. He is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Dominant Cultures, Equity and Social Justice.