As a budding photographer and communications professional, esteemed St. Mary’s University alumna Mikayla Pritchard shares with us her near ‘picture’ perfect experience as a student at StMU. A recent grad, Mikayla graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies, concentrating in Sociology and Political Science this year at our first in-person convocation ceremony since the pandemic.

When Mikayla graduated from high school, she was looking for direction and a supportive campus environment. “Thankfully, St. Mary’s was able to provide me an opportunity to learn and grow as a young adult and build such an amazing support system within the community which I will always be grateful for. My professors made a huge impact in my life and how I view the world,” notes Mikayla. “It is because of those experiences I can say shaped me into who I am and where I am today.”

Mikayla loved the sense of community and connection between students, professors, and the staff. She would visit campus hours before her classes started just to visit friends and participate in campus life. However, it wasn’t until her second year that she began participating in the student council as a representative and volunteering as an ambassador at StMU events. “I learned so much more about myself and the university culture that I will cherish for the rest of my life,” remarks Mikayla.

One of Mikayla’s favourite memories from her time on the StMU campus was Pumpkin Pie Days during the Thanksgiving season. “Coming out of class to enjoy a free slice of pie with all my peers and meeting new people brought so much joy to gather as a community. By my fourth year I was organizing the pie day as the VP of Events. It encapsulated everything the holidays are about, while providing some relaxation for the students. Especially after a midterm or submitting a paper, it was such a great time!” says Mikayla.

Mikayla was considering her options for a major, but when she discovered our Liberal Studies program, she knew it was the perfect choice. “Not only was I gaining an education in many different fields offered at StMU, but I also started to discover my interests and had the option to focus more on other specific topics along the way. I gained experience in scholarly research processes, university-level writing skills, and witnessed many perspectives on global issues that shaped who I am today,” she says.

Mikayla originally planned to finish her degree in the summer of 2020 but had not anticipated a global pandemic. Although her plans succumbed to some changes, she is so grateful she was able to take the rest of her classes online and graduate this year.

Throughout Mikayla’s degree, she was a Student Representative on the Student Legislative Council in her second and third years, then elected as the VP of Events in her fourth year. She was also a Student Ambassador for StMU events, such as the annual golf tournament and New Student Orientation.

Mikayla currently manages Communications and Donor Services at a non-profit organization in Calgary. She previously worked as a Communications Officer for the Alberta Government for over a year in Edmonton. Initially, she had applied for a summer internship with the government before the pandemic, leading to a career opportunity.

As a result, Mikayla had the chance to capture and edit photos and videos for Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) while being exposed to political processes. “Using those skills I acquired while being there, and the knowledge from attending St. Mary’s, I am now furthering my career path into the non-profit sector,” she elaborates.

In addition, Mikayla loves to take photos of all kinds, but her specialty is nature and portrait photography. She has worked with TELUS as a volunteer photographer and has attended many events, weddings, and special occasions as a volunteer photographer as well.

“A goal of mine is to hopefully get back into hiking and traveling the world again! St. Mary’s had given me the opportunity in my second year to experience the Mediterranean through both a classroom setting and travel study, which was an amazing time to learn first-hand in both Morocco and France while feeling like a tourist with my peers,” says Mikayla.

Mikayla uses skills she learned at StMU, such as writing styles and research tactics, daily in her career. She can create and open her mindset to new ideas and ways of thinking because of the many different areas she studied throughout her degree. “I met so many people with varying opinions and beliefs in comparison to mine; it was fascinating to me that I could learn both in class and outside in the hallways of the university; it was the full package you could say!” she adds.

“The most important takeaway from attending STMU was to always take opportunities when they show up. I can be very introverted so being able to put myself out there is tough when you’re so used to your own bubble and routines. From the moment I walked into new student orientation in my first year, until classes were moved online in my fourth year, there were always many opportunities for me to choose between. Now that I have been in the work force full-time, I know how to seek out those opportunities in both my professional and personal life,” explains Mikayla.

Mikayla also reflected on a life lesson she learned while studying at StMU, “everything eventually comes to an end so take every day as a gift,” says Mikayla. She is thankful for all the time spent on campus because she “grew as a person more than I would have anywhere else. Although it may have seemed like an eternity to finish my degree, I can say with certainty that my time as a student at St. Mary’s will always be the best decision I ever made,” says Mikayla.

Her grandfather, Louis Perrin inspired her at a young age to take part in the photography world as he was and continues to be a huge figure in Canadian photography. He shares his stories and photos for the Canadian Heritage Photography Foundation to tell his legacy as a photographer.

Check out Mikayla’s photography website here: