Map The System: The MRU Systems Thinking Experience

 Posted January 10, 2024 - Linh Bui

Hey there, future changemakers! In a world buzzing with problems, have you ever wondered why those problems exist; how they happen and why there seem to be different problems that overlap with other problems? Imagine possessing a mental toolkit that not only helps you understand complex issues but also empowers you to enact positive change. It's time to develop a secret weapon – system thinking. This is the essence of the Map the System (MTS) program at Mount Royal University.


Image: MTS Info Session on November 14, 2023

Why Apply for MTS MRU?

System thinking, roughly synonymous with holistic thinking, is the focus of MTS. In a world where quick-fix approaches fall short, MTS equips students with a wider lens to look at how a variety of issues are interconnected with one another. It transforms an inexperienced student into a more strategic, multi-dimensional thinker, capable of navigating the intricate web of challenges our society faces.

Map The System: More than Just a Competiton

This year's MTS promises an even more exciting journey, providing students with the opportunity to dive deep into real-world problems. Past participants attest to the transformative nature of the competition, where challenges become stepping stones and barriers become opportunities.

Connecting with Community

MTS is not just a competition; it's a bridge between academia and real-time, real-world issues. It is also an opportunity to explore a topic students are passionate about and a chance to share that with a wider audience. Participants engage in research that goes beyond the confines of classrooms, addressing real-world issues. As Alita (BComm, 2023), a past participant, emphasizes, "The purpose is to connect the dots of seemingly different issues."

Mizuki (BCIS student) echoes the sentiment, noting "It can be a first step into a future project." The impact extends beyond the competition, encouraging participants to channel their newfound skills into ongoing community projects.


On the left is Alita Vaz - MTS Campus 2023 and on the right is Mizuki Oshita - MTS Canada 2020

Consider the story of Thomas Tri, whose research delved into education barriers for immigrant youth in East Calgary. The inspiration for their study came from lived experiences, highlighting the program's ability to tackle issues close to home.

Reflecting on the competition, Thomas shares the challenges and rewards. The process, though convoluted at times, builds relationships and fosters connections. The growth is evident not only in research skills but also in personal development.

The competition has compelled us to contribute to social change. Whether it be through current volunteerism and involvement in the community or aspiring toward careers that advocate for social change, we attribute this ignited passion to the competition.

  • Thomas Tri, December 12, 2023


Thomas and his team. From left to right: Sutherland Hedley, Amanda Ong and Thomas Tri

Roisin Dillion's journey is also inspired by her lived experiences and life challenges. "Roisin's grasp of the issue from a research standpoint, a clinical nursing practitioner viewpoint and a personal perspective, having lost a friend to a fentanyl overdose, meant she combined analytical rigour, real world experience and passion," said James Stauch, Executive Director of the Institute for Community Prosperity at Mount Royal.


Roisin Dillion - the winner of MTS Global competition 2018 (Image source:Skoll Centre, University of Oxford)

Your System Thinking Journey Starts Here!

As the MTS MRU program opens its 8th annual call for students, the question is not just why apply, but rather, why miss out on the opportunity to hone your strategic and critical thinking skills to identify critical sources of life challenges you care about? And more importantly, it is a great opportunity to evoke empathy and provoke people's concern for these challenges. MTS is not just a competition; it's a journey that shapes individuals into holistic thinkers, change-makers, and advocates for a better world. Connect the dots, bridge the gaps, and join the MTS community, where thinking systemically is not just a skill but a way of interpreting life.




Top 6 Global Finalist at Map The System 2023 - Karen Fletcher, Athabasca University