Jonas MacLaurin applies public relations knowledge to build community

Jonas MacLaurin


Meet Jonas. Inquisitive. Down-to-earth. Community builder.
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta
Program: Bachelor of Communication | Major: Public relations | Minor: Digital media


Jonas MacLaurin’s time at Mount Royal began through the Indigenous University Bridging Program (IUBP) offered by the University’s Iniskim Centre. The IUBP is designed to help Indigenous students prepare for post-secondary education.

When it was time to choose a field of study, MacLaurin initially wanted to pursue broadcast media studies. However, after being introduced to public relations, he appreciated how the concepts he learned could be applied to both his work and volunteer roles.

As a school bus monitor for the Tsuut'ina Nation, MacLaurin observed the ways in which his relationship with students, drivers, parents and schools could quickly turn sour without crisis management policies in place, as well as a proper understanding of the historical and cultural context of Indigenous people.

“Helping people communicate with one another is probably why I've gone to PR,” he says.

During his second year at Mount Royal, MacLaurin went on an exchange trip to Scotland to expand his knowledge of public relations.

“I got the opportunity to go, explore and understand what public relations — or communications — was in a different part of the world and how I can relate that back to my life,” he says.

Scotland also turned out to be a bit of a self-reflection journey for MacLaurin as the trip helped him gain a better understanding of the Scottish heritage that makes up part of his identity.

While completing his minor in digital media, MacLaurin encouraged his fellow classmates to become more engaged with Indigenous culture, even helping a classmate “get a story” during their first experience on a reserve.

“That was one of the cool things that I really wanted to enjoy and focus on — getting more people involved in Indigenous topics and seeing what’s going on because not everyone hears about a lot of the good stuff that happens in Indigenous communities,” Maclaurin says.

As a peer mentor in the Iniskim Centre, one of MacLaurin’s memorable experiences was helping a fellow student break out of his shell.

“He definitely really brought a lot more significance to my life because I felt like I really did help him get on the right path,” MacLaurin says.

Fostering inclusion on campus is important, particularly in the case of Indigenous youth for whom leaving their families and tight-knit communities can be challenging.

“The last thing you want to hear is someone dropped out because they didn’t find that place where they belong,” he says.

A curious, self-directed learner, during his trip to Scotland MacLaurin also took on learning to code in order to develop accessible websites. He enjoys photography and videography and is now getting into graphic design.

"I just don’t want to be stationary and be chill. I want to be out doing stuff, doing fun things, experiencing new things, learning new tricks and tips when it comes to photography and videography. So for me, education, especially at MRU, really opened my eyes."
Jonas MacLaurin

MacLaurin also appreciates the internal communications work involved with his role with Agriculture and Agri Food Canada, and the technical skills he has acquired have come in handy. Videography, in particular, has great storytelling potential through its use of images, music, sound and interviews.

With skills acquired in digital media along with his degree in public relations, MacLaurin says, “I can write out communications plans and develop products. I also have the ability to be like, ‘Oh, I can execute these by myself now!’ ”

Finishing his degree didn’t come without personal struggle, and MacLaurin credits Marija Small Legs, student success coordinator at the Iniskim Centre, for her leadership.

“I felt like I could talk to her and she could help me get the right supports and guide me in the right direction. Even when she didn't have an answer, she always encouraged me, saying, ‘You got this, you'll figure it out. You’re a smart kid.’ ”

MacLaurin also thanks Steve Kootenay-Jobin, Mount Royal alumnus and former events and housing coordinator at the Iniskim Centre.

MacLaurin says, “Even though sometimes I would probably want to wander off to take the side path a little bit — go on a little side quest — he always encouraged me to look at the bigger picture and remind me that everyone has their own journey, everyone has their own educational experience and we must experience that in our own way.”