The power of the picnic table resonates with Royal Roads MBA grads 16 years later

Among Royal Roads University alumni, the importance of the cohort cannot be overstated. Within their group, classmates from different backgrounds and with myriad personal and professional goals, mix, mingle and learn with and from one another. They build bonds — in the classroom, in breakout sessions and on the school’s lush, green grounds — that last well beyond their months of online classes, their two-week in-person intensives and graduation.

Such is the case with a Master of Business Administration cohort that started in 2005. Long since departed from RRU’s Victoria campus, its members have spread far and wide, personally and professionally. But recently, they came together because of a picnic table.

Not just any piece of furniture, the picnic table in question, overlooks Hatley Castle and is adorned with a plaque inscribed with these words from the French philosopher René Descartes: “It is not enough to have a good mind, the main thing is to use it well.”

This table was a gift from that 2005 MBA cohort, which saw the need based on its own experience gathering outside after long, intense days to discuss and reflect on what they’d learned, maybe blow off a little steam.

Now, that same group has raised $5,000 to make a contribution to A Vision in Bloom, a fundraising campaign launched in spring 2021 to restore and maintain the university’s historic gardens and related facilities, and to have their picnic table refurbished for the next groups of big thinkers and great friends to gather around.

“For many of us in the 2005 MBA cohort, the motivation [to contribute] was to continue the legacy of the table that we started all that time ago,” says Sheridan McVean, a member of that class who is now an associate faculty in RRU’s School of Business. “We wanted to continue the legacy of the outdoor table and continue its use as a place for discussion, learning and understanding.

“I think the motivation goes back to the fact that we continue to receive the benefits of completing the RRU MBA program to this day. Even though we are from the class of 2005, we continue to receive benefits in our current work from obtaining that degree all those years ago,” McVean says.

His classmate Scott Ackerman, now a strategic advisor and executive coach, says when he and McVean reached out to members of their cohort, some reflected on memories of times spent around tables on the RRU grounds.

“Ensuring, even in a small way, that there would continue to be place for students to sit and collaborate, with an inspiring inscription to look at, would be a great way to live our legacy and celebrate our special experience,” he says.

“We’re super appreciative to all those who donated and made this happen,” Ackerman adds, noting, “One of the great gifts from this project was connecting with classmates and old friends.”

Ackerman says that while some classmates were unable to donate, they were thankful for the project and the opportunity to reminisce on the impact RRU had on their lives.

“Their experience here was just so impactful and life-changing,” says Andrea Boyes, an RRU advancement officer and a RRU Master of Professional Communication graduate herself, “they wanted to leave a legacy for students after them.”

“It showed us that no matter how much time had passed, there’s still that strong connection with their experience at Royal Roads,” she says. “That’s quite meaningful for us, too.”

The 2005 MBA cohort’s contribution comes under the memorial bench program that is part of A Vision in Bloom, the fundraising campaign launched in spring 2021 to restore and maintain the university’s historic gardens and related facilities. There are more than 20 commemorative benches and picnic tables on the campus.

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