Myrna Khan has only worked at MacEwan for a few months, but she’s already developed her own little ritual.
“Every day, regardless of how busy I am, I walk the entire campus. I see the students, the professors, the beautiful buildings and the energy. It inspires me.”
As MacEwan’s vice-president, university relations, Myrna exudes her own quiet, determined energy, fittingly personified in her brilliant red blazer.
She took on the newly-created vice-president position at the start of September, assuming leadership of government and community relations, alumni and development, marketing and communications, and sustainability initiatives.
Myrna brings 25 years of experience in stakeholder engagement, external relations, corporate sustainability, strategic planning and change management to the role. In recent years, she’s worked as the vice-president, resource development at the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region and as the head of external relations at the City of Edmonton.
Although this is Myrna’s first foray into working at a post-secondary, she says her previous positions offered her a glimpse into MacEwan’s vision and values.
“I was drawn to MacEwan’s optimism, curiosity and focus on inclusivity,” she explains. “I wanted to be a part of this place – to get a closer look at all the good things happening here, harness those stories and amplify them.”
In her first few months, Myrna has been starting conversations with as many members of the university community as possible, hoping to further distill and define what makes MacEwan unique.
“Every time I speak with a student or faculty member, I learn more and more about what they’re doing not only here, but in the community – whether it’s a research project or volunteering.”
As Myrna continues to uncover what, and who, makes up the university’s story, she is also focused on finding creative and compelling ways to share MacEwan’s spirit and pride.
One story Myrna has consistently heard since her arrival is the university’s commitment to what she calls “the human side of things.”
“Our primary focus is on students,” she says. “Everyone here really cares about teaching – this is the place to go if you want a great student experience.”
With an undergraduate degree in biology and neuroscience, and an MBA from McGill, Myrna is passionate about the academic experience. Her parents immigrated to Canada in the late 1960s, and instilled in her the value of hard work and higher education. And while academics not only opened career doors for Myrna, they also allowed her to grow personally.
“When you go to university you’re not just learning the ‘what,’ you’re learning about how to be in the world – that’s an experience unique to post-secondary,” she explains.
As the leader of alumni and development initiatives, Myrna is focused on connecting with employees, parents, alumni and community leaders to illustrate the important role their contributions can play in making scholarships, awards and bursaries available to students.
“I can see that people at MacEwan really embrace the duty and moral responsibility of making the university experience accessible to as many people as possible,” she says. “This means not only supporting the students here and helping them succeed, but also doing our part to make funding available for those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend.”
A glimpse into giving
November 15 is National Philanthropy Day. Every year, MacEwan’s Alumni and Development department nominates a donor for the National Philanthropy Day Awards Celebration hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Edmonton and Area Chapter. This year, we nominated Allan and Barbara Partridge, who created an endowed award in memory of their daughter, Martine Partridge. A MacEwan alumna, Martine loved the English language, and also taught in the university’s English department from 2012 to 2016.
Learn more about giving at MacEwan.
Building a city
After completing her MBA, Myrna lived and worked in cities across the country – Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. At the time, she swore she’d never come back to Edmonton, until an epiphany about six years ago. She realized that the city offered many things she was searching for: family, community and the chance to make an impact.
“I lived in other cities where I had a nice lifestyle, but here, I’m actually building a life,” she explains. “Working at MacEwan allows me to contribute to this city and potentially improve the lives of other Edmontonians.”
While Myrna is focused on ensuring students get access to education, she also emphasizes the fact that MacEwan graduates take with them the skills and desire to bring value to their communities.
“This university has a strong role to play in city-building,” she explains. “Not only in the literal sense – because our campus is situated downtown – but in terms of the contributions that students who graduate from MacEwan will make to the community.”
A significant number of MacEwan graduates stay in Edmonton. “Our grads are the nurses, the social workers, the musicians – really the unsung heroes of the city.”
While Myrna continues to walk the campus daily, seeking out stories, supporting the student experience and city-building, she strives to remain in the present, while keeping an eye for the future. “I want to make sure we are telling the story of not only what MacEwan is now, but what we can be.”