They say that all roads lead home, and for esteemed St. Mary’s University alumni Randi Palyga, home might just be the St. Mary’s campus! Having completed two degrees at StMU, and now working in both Athletics and Alumni Relations on campus, Randi exemplifies the spirit of St. Mary’s.

Initially enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts – General Studies program at StMU, Randi gained a diverse skillset throughout the course of this unique degree program that is geared toward students who wish to explore a number of subjects to determine their future professional and education goals.

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Randi looked toward her future and found herself reflecting on how her favorite summer jobs were always ones where she was able to work hands-on with children as a camp counsellor. With this realization, Randi promptly enrolled in the esteemed Bachelor of Education – Elementary program at StMU.

“The education program was amazing and I truly loved every minute of it. The practicum experience was so extensive and hands-on that I immediately felt confident in a classroom. Outside of the practicums, I really credit the small class sizes at St. Mary’s and the caring nature of my professors for helping me to thrive throughout both of my degrees at StMU,” says Randi.

In her time as a student at St. Mary’s, Randi made her mark outside of academics by being a driving force behind the establishment of our Lightning Athletics cross country and indoor track program – a program which she promptly joined and set multiple records!

“When I started as a student at St. Mary’s, I actually helped to launch a recreational soccer league on campus because I love to run so much,” explains Randi. “But then the recreational league was such a hit that I figured, why not approach the university about starting a cross country program?”

Randi did just that, and was told that if she could identify enough students who would be interested in signing up, the program would get the green light to start on campus. The number of students who were interested in joining was immediately clear, and what started as a small running group in Fish Creek Park quickly blossomed to the vibrant cross country and indoor track programs that we know today.

In her time running track with the Lightning, Randi set multiple records, two of which she proudly still holds:

  • Indoor Track record holder of the 60m run since Dec 4, 2016 (8.93s)
  • Indoor Track record holder of the 200m run since Dec 4, 2016 (30.05s)

Upon graduation in 2017, Randi began immediately working at a Private Jewish School in Calgary, where she taught a variety of classes; first, second and third-grade homerooms, second-grade music, K-9 physical education, and seventh to ninth-grade option classes. She also took on many extra-curricular projects such as organizing the Terry Fox Run, Lag BaOmer (Sport’s Day) and Year End Celebrations.

Randi and her dog, Camper.

“When I started teaching, I felt so prepared to handle my own classroom and help ensure the success of my students,” says Randi. “And as soon as I started working, I used the StMU lesson-plan that I was provided during my degree and I continued to use it every day for the five years I worked as a teacher – it was that good!”

But although Randi loved working as a teacher and helping to shape the bright minds of the future, when she learned of a position in the Athletics Department becoming available at St. Mary’s, she felt drawn back to her alma mater. After accepting the position at StMU, in an interesting twist, her teaching position was filled by a fellow St. Mary’s BEd program graduate!

“I can honestly say that in my time working in schools, I saw repeatedly how members of a hiring committee’s eyes would light up when they saw that a candidate was a St. Mary’s graduate. The reputation of the university, and the quality of its graduates, is that well known,” explains Randi.

Back at St. Mary’s again, Randi began working as the Fitness and Athletics Coordinator, and shortly after accepted her additional role as Alumni Relations Liaison – with both roles tying into her passions for health and wellness and getting to meet and connect with new students and fellow graduates.

“I firmly believe that the unique, diverse, and welcoming campus community at St. Mary’s is what has kept myself and fellow graduates so connected to the university even after graduation. The time that we spend learning and growing here as students is such a positive experience that StMU will always hold a special place in our hearts. To me, this is the St. Mary’s advantage,” says Randi.

In addition to her important work at StMU, Randi is an avid hiker and fitness-enthusiast. She created a website to share her passion and love of the mountains through blogging and identifying hiking trails. If you are interested in learning more about must see hiking trails throughout Alberta, visit her hiking blog here.

We are very proud at St. Mary’s University to hear and share stories such as these about our alumni. We would like to thank Randi for allowing us to share her passion and continued successes. If you would like to share your stories please reach out to Randi.palyga@stmu.ca or Mackenzie.Hermann@stmu.ca. We would love to hear what you’ve been up to since graduating at StMU!