December 11, 2018 | Campus Life
From the hallways of Building 5 to the staircases of Allard Hall, MacEwan’s campus is often bustling with backpack-slinging students and busy professors. But regardless of the day or time, there’s one spot on campus you can count on to be quiet.
MacEwan’s Spiritual Reflection Room (7-161) is open during school hours, and can be accessed by students, faculty, staff and members of the community. And although having a multifaith space is standard practice at post-secondaries, it’s more than just a quiet room, explains Irfan Chaudhry, director of the university’s Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity.
“That space should not only be safe and private, but there should also be a sense of tranquility,” says Irfan. “Regardless of your spiritual background, you should feel the room is for you, and that you can comfortably practice your faith without being disturbed.”
MacEwan’s Spiritual Reflection Room is designed to be adaptable to the needs of various groups. It’s primarily available for drop-in visits, but individuals or clubs can also book the room for specific times through the Room Booking System on myPortal.
Dr. Lynn Wells, MacEwan’s associate vice-president, Students and Teaching, says the space is part of the university’s commitment to creating an inclusive, dynamic learning environment for all students.
“I think it's very much a representation of what MacEwan is meant to be,” she adds. “It brings people from different faiths together — cooperation and inclusion are required for the space to work well.”
That collaboration not only ensures all groups can comfortably use the room, but also opens opportunities for connection between students from different religious and spiritual backgrounds.
"You sit in that room and it creates conversations. I think it’s because everyone who walks in, no matter their religion or spiritual perspective, is, in some way, looking for the same thing."
Hanan Baalbaki, a third-year social work student and secretary of the Muslim Students’ Organization (MSO), says they have formed a relationship with the Meditation Club, another student group that regularly uses the room.
“Not only are they really respectful of our prayer times, but they actually wanted our group’s members to share our practices with them,” she says.
The Meditation Club invited students from the MSO to one of their meetings to explain dhikr — remembrance of God — the Islamic practice of mindfulness or meditation, explains Hanan.
“Two members from our group led a session and they absolutely loved it,” she says. “As student clubs sharing space, we’re not only respectful of one another, but we can actually come together over certain commonalities, and that’s beneficial to all of us.”
In starting these conversations, the room also contributes to overall wellness at MacEwan.
“It sends a message to students that MacEwan really respects and values diverse viewpoints,” says Irfan. “We want to make sure we’re a campus that actually acts on our commitment to inclusion.”
“I’ve found university is a place where people can fully be themselves. Here, I feel free.”
The Spiritual Reflection Room also contributes to another university priority: supporting mental health on campus.
“Enhancing the mental health of students is a critical part of what we do here,” says Lynn. “Having good mental health is an important aspect of university life, and knowing there is a place to stop, be quiet and reflect is invaluable.”
For Hanan, that’s exactly what the Spiritual Reflection Room has been. “If I don’t pray, my mental health is not in a good place. It helps me feel centred. But the space isn’t just for people who pray — anyone can go there in times of stress, like exams, and have a quiet place to reflect. It’s a good place to check in with yourself.”
Ultimately, Hanan says having the room on campus has helped her feel at home at MacEwan. “I’ve found university is a place where people can fully be themselves. Here, I feel free.”