Originally written by Jen Gonzales on May 26, 2015 to close the #RoadtoCACUSS journey of 6 SA pros from Ryerson University.

6 days, 2 countries, 3 provinces, 7 states, 5,000 kilometres, 6 coworkers, 6 partner institutions, and 168 hours together. The journey that started in downtown Toronto on Ryerson’s campus on May 17, 2015 ended with our arrival to #cacuss15 in Vancouver on May 23, 2015. We were greeted by a group of supporters who were kind enough to take some time to welcome us to the conference. And just like that, it was over.

We have reflected about how to describe this adventure. As a team the words epic, powerful, transformational, inspiring, challenging, hilarious, beautiful, and awesome came up.  Personally, I would describe this trip as a game-changer.

We work at an institution that allows us to try, and expects us to innovate. Innovation at Ryerson means reaching, collaborating, connecting, being committed to quality, creativity and standing up for excellence. We figure out ways to say yes- especially if there is potential to develop the lives of our students and staff.

To innovate, the staff in Student Affairs at Ryerson are required to commit to challenging themselves to transform personally and professionally. As we innovated on the road, these key learning emerged:


Leadership is not right or wrong. It is important to empower students to reflect and articulate their development that emerges from diverse involvement experiences, and leadership opportunities.

Jen and Kait, friends forever.


You must keep moving. You can not afford to be stagnant. We all know what happens to stagnant water. Never get tired of sharing your mission statement. Your audience may not have heard it before.


The issues being discussed on American and Canadian campuses are the same. Inevitably scope and scale are factors that contribute to differences, but old perceptions that have us disregard ideas from the US due to budget and profile limit us. Connecting across the 49th parallel to model programming, partner, and exchange ideas is essential.


We don’t need to be seeking acceptance or validation of our work in higher education by comparing ourselves to our friends in the USA. Rather, connecting with institutions you are curious about is essential. Let’s eliminate our inferiority complex and recognize our American friends are excited to learn from us too. Collaborate rather than compare and tell these stories.


Tradition, nostalgia, and excellence can be powerful motivators. More resources doesn’t necessarily translate into better outputs or outcomes. You are only limited by your time and your creativity.

And for me

Transformative experiences inspire great relationships. Taking big risks in your relationships will yield big rewards. Take a chance, and get personal.

We are forever indebted to the gracious hosts who took us into their communities and treated us as if we were one of their own. Feeling the magnitude of large programs at Michigan State University and Notre Dame, seeing 2 of my mentors on their home turf at Northwestern, and returning home to the west at the generous University of Calgary, Banff Centre and University of British Columbia Okanagan—we are transformed because of the people who shared their experience and wisdom with us. We all hear the student affairs world is small, and after this week I would add: we are all connected.

If you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with, my stock is up. Way up, and I feel blessed.

Hamza, Brandon, Troy and Nick thank you for being four of the most caring, smart, handsome, and capable gentlemen I know. Kait thank you for modelling what it means to lead with individual power and contribute to a team like a champion.

This trip was for Kia, Sarah, and the rest of the incoming Ryerson students that we will welcome with open arms during Orientation week in August. Though we had time to surprise two students with a welcome to Ryerson, I hope the other 7, 498 students that are incoming to Ryerson know that we are as excited to welcome them to our community as we were for Sarah and Kia.

So we are ready to welcome the Ryerson class of 2019 with open arms and open hearts. We are bonded, and ready to create an exceptional experience for this next class of scholars we will welcome to Ryerson. We are going to encourage these students to try new things, make new friends and take big risks. We will do so by providing experiences that are good and different. These experiences will build community, inspire personal and professional development, enhance academic learning and enhance mental wellbeing.

This trip reminded me that we are in the business of making memories for our students. To do so, we simply can not stay stagnant. We are responsible for modeling the way as professionals. And when our students see us making memories with each other, they feel the connection.

This is what #RoadtoCACUSS was all about: challenging ourselves to go deep within to find, enact, and grow into the best versions of ourselves we could be. We are ready #Ryerson2019, welcome to the #Ramily.

To learn more about the #RoadtoCACUSS campaign, visit the official site to meet the team, see and follow their route, and become a member of the journey.
The #RoadtoCACUSS RV launched on Sunday May 17, 2015.


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