For a 40-centimetre-tall wooden polar bear, Ursula sure gets around. The mascot of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, Ursula has been on a whirlwind tour of Canadian campuses since early May. With universities still signing on to host the little bear, the association estimates she’ll likely visit more than 40 universities by the time she wraps things up at McGill University this fall.
The tour is a light-hearted, social media-based component of the association’s centennial celebrations this year. The first Conference of Canadian Universities,the precursor to AUCC, was held at McGill in 1911. To mark the centennial, university presidents will meet at McGill in late October, where they and a handful of invited speakers will discuss the future of university education in Canada.
As for Ursula – who is patterned after the two polar bears on AUCC’s Coat of Arms – her journey has two objectives, says Helen Murphy, the association’s communications manager. The first is to build a sense of community among institutions that may otherwise not get the chance to interact. By encouraging a friendly competition in terms of who can most creatively host Ursula, Ms. Murphy hopes member universities will be drawn closer together.
The second objective of the project is best expressed through Ursula’s blog, Ursula on Tour, where each stop of her journey is documented through words, pictures and video. These posts capture a valuable slice of life on university campuses, says Ms. Murphy. The tour has seen Ursula partake in various adventures. She had a memorable boat ride down the Saint John River, which connects the University of New Brunswick’s two campuses. She met some famous Canadians, including journalist Peter Mansbridge and former Auditor General Sheila Fraser at Mount Allison University’s convocation. And, to the great surprise of Ms. Murphy, Ursula even got married – to St. Francis Xavier University’s mascot, a teddy bear.
“But we won’t go into that.”