“Mr. Iveson?” I questioned in disbelief.
“That’s me,” he replied with his trademark smile. I immediately reached for a handshake and explained to him how he was an idol of mine and remarked about my respect for his work he has done as mayor of Edmonton.
I checked my bag and carried on through security; but it dawned on me: this was an incredible opportunity for me. When again would I be able to approach the mayor one on one and ask him a question? So naturally, I got right back in there.
“Mr. Iveson I’m terribly sorry to bother you again, but could I have a moment of your time?” I nervously spewed out.
“Of course, what can I do for you?” he generously offered.
So I asked him “if there is one piece of advice you could give to local university students, what would it be?”
He smiled, and thought for a moment and then replied “If I could give [just one], it would be to focus on your extracurricular activities as much as your studies. A lot of life happens by chance and focusing on [things outside of school] can open doors for you that you don’t know exist.”
Iveson, who was the head of the University of Alberta newspaper during his tenure, explained that several doors opened for him simply by him taking chances and partaking in activities besides his studies. He made a valid point and that piece of advice forced me to idolize this man even more.
On the surface this piece of advice may seem lousy, why wouldn’t you put the majority of your time and dedication towards the schooling you’re paying thousands of dollars for? He’s not saying we should avoid our studies, but to find balance in our lives. We all need time to de-stress, time to learn new skills and find new opportunities. As he stated, focusing on extra-curricular activities helps us become “well-rounded.”
So if someone devotes 100% of their time and effort to schooling, they will learn the material like no other, but will lack general life skills provided by trying new hobbies and interests. They will lack the social interaction necessary to not only open doors, but ensure that we are the ones who walk through them and seize the opportunity. Life is about balance in any facet.
This can be turned around as well; if someone only focuses on their extra-curricular activities and ignore their studies, they will likely have an ideal university experience filled with friends, nights at the bar and a lifetimes worth of memories packed into just a few years. However, they’re going to lack the education and mindset for success.
The well-rounded individual wins because he/she possesses the positives from both of these areas.
Don Iveson is a fine example for our generation; someone who was born and raised here in Edmonton and attended a local university. He became the managing editor of The Gateway, the University of Alberta’s newspaper. Don then finished his university career at University of Toronto, where he became president of the Canadian University Press and continued to become an advocacy director for U of A’s student union, playing a major role in the founding of the Universal Transit Pass for students. Mr. Iveson initially became a member of city council and after Stephen Mandel stepped down from civic politics he saw an opportunity; an opportunity to not only have a say in civil politics but to be the leader of this great city.
“A lot of life happens by accident” – Don Iveson. Take a chance, pursue opportunities that excite you and don’t be afraid to take risks during not only university, but the rest of your life.