Growing up in pancake-flat Saskatchewan, Mark McMorris never expected to make an impact on the sporting world, let alone becoming one of snowboarding’s biggest stars. McMorris is feeling the same way about receiving a University of Regina honorary degree.

“Honestly, I never thought I would receive anything like this,” he says.

“Being recognized with an honorary degree from the University of Regina is a huge honour.”

The Saskatchewan snowboarder is one of the most decorated athletes in the discipline’s history, holding three Olympic medals, twenty-two X Games medals and four US Open Championship wins.

Mark and his brother Craig established the  McMorris Foundation in 2012. To date, the foundation has raised over $350,000 and helped to provide over 3,500 Canadian kids with athletic opportunities.
Mark and his brother Craig established the McMorris Foundation in 2012. To date, the foundation has raised over $350,000 and helped to provide over 3,500 Canadian kids with athletic opportunities.

All of the medals are special, McMorris says, but his win earlier this year is significant because it came down to his last run. “All bases loaded, I needed to land, got bumped from first to second, and then I rose to the occasion.”

McMorris has rebounded from several injuries over his career, most recently a broken ankle suffered at Revelstoke, B.C., in February 2023. He was fortunate, he says, that the break did not require surgery. Rehabbing is never a fun process, he notes, but the number one reason he has been able to return after injuries is his passion for snowboarding and competing.

“This is not my first rodeo. I have been through this process before, and the most notable thing is that as you heal physically you heal mentally. You always have to remember that.”

McMorris is also a trailblazer on social media, and he lets his personality shine through, attracting fans and brand partners alike. He was named the most socially engaged Olympian at Sochi 2014 by SportsBusiness Journal and has partnered with many top brands in the snowboarding and lifestyle space over the years.

McMorris strives to inspire others and build his legacy. In 2012 he and his brother Craig, a professional snowboarder and broadcast commentator, launched the McMorris Foundation to help Canadian children in need participate in sports. As a kid, McMorris says, he played every sport under the sun, and he is thankful for his background in other sports because it helped shape his snowboarding career.

McMorris holds three Olympic medals, 22 X Games medals and four US Open Championship wins
McMorris holds three Olympic medals, 22 X Games medals and four US Open Championship wins

“When I started making a living off snowboarding it was a no-brainer to create a foundation and try to give back, and give kids a similar opportunity to what I had growing up.”

The McMorris Foundation has raised over $350,000 and helped to provide over 3,500 Canadian kids with athletic opportunities.

While he continues to rehab his ankle - a short video updating his progress, showing him working out in the gym - is available at his website, markmcmorris.com - he is eyeing upcoming competitions in the X Games, the Natural Selection Tour (which hosts backcountry snowboard competitions in different locations around the world), and the 2026 Winter Olympics.

McMorris catches some big air at Whistler, B.C.
McMorris catches some big air at Whistler, B.C.

Competing has given him an incredible work ethic, McMorris says, and a drive to reach his goals. “I think competition keeps you on your toes, and I’ve been able to succeed when the pressure is on.”

McMorris plans to keep pursuing his love of snowboarding, continue excelling at the highest level of the sport, and have fun while doing it.

McMorris recieved an honorary Doctor of Laws honoris causa (LLD) on June 14.

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So how did UR Press get to where it is today?

Fifty years ago, in 1973, the University of Saskatchewan (Regina Campus) established its original academic press - the Canadian Plains Research Centre (CPRC) Publication Division. Over the course of its history, CPRC focused on publishing research and stories about the Great Plains. The Press also published Prairie Forum, a multidisciplinary journal on topics of relevance to the Canadian Plains region, and, in 2005, released the epic Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan.

Today, the CPRC's successor, University of Regina Press, not only focuses on research and publications in the humanities, keeping to the press' academic roots, but along the way it has published cookbooks, crime non-fiction, sports and recreation titles, and poetry collections.

New directions

Take for instance the Press' Oskana Poetry and Poetics series. The series features both established authors and newcomers to the genre who tackle the deepest and most urgent issues of today. The series also explores the cultural relevance of poetry in the modern age.

"The URP's Oskana Poetry and Poetics Series is an example how the Press has changed," says former director Elsa Johnston. "The work of this poetry collection is recognized internationally. There is a bookstore in the U.S. with a whole section dedicated to the Oskana Series," she says. "Oskana is the Cree word for 'bones' and speaks to the Press' commitment to publish titles of the important issues of our day such as environmental crisis and Indigenous justice."

Former director of University of Regina Press Elsa Johnston. Former director of University of Regina Press Elsa Johnston.

Johnston says the overarching purpose of URP remains to support the research and goals of the University of Regina and to advance knowledge and inspire new scholars.

David McLennan BA'03, a member of the URP editorial team, has worked for URP and CPRC for more than two decades. When he started, he was one of three employees who shared one small office. Now URP has a full staff of nine located in Regina, Winnipeg and Toronto. They travel to academic conferences and international book fairs to discover new authors and network with other publishers. They're buying and selling rights to URP books for translation, for sale in other countries and for film options. And you'll also find URP books on the shelves at Costco and WalMart.

It takes time

"Most people don't realize publishing is such a long game," McLennan explains."Once a book is written, there's two more years of hard work needed to get it from manuscript to published work."

First there is the internal review of the manuscript, which may take roughly 12 weeks. If staff like what they read, they search for relevant scholars to review the submission. That search takes a couple more weeks. Then the external, professional (peer) review is maybe another 12 weeks. The reviewers' comments and suggestions go to the author, who may work again on the manuscript for a few more months, before it goes back to external reviewers for a last look.

Finally, the author may need to do some more fine tuning. Then there's more time needed for indexing, illustrations, cover artwork and finding endorsers to give quotes for the book jacket. The press has two publication seasons per year--spring and fall­­--which could also affect a release date, especially if there are other books ahead of it in the queue. "I explain the process to authors up front, so they know, step-by-step, how things are going to transpire," he says.

David McLennan has worked for UR Press and its predaccessor, CPRC, for more than two decades. David McLennan has worked for UR Press and its predaccessor, CPRC, for more than two decades. Working with the first-time writer

One of the writers to work with URP staff is first-time author Andrea Custer BA'07. Custer, and co-author by Beth Daniels, wrote nēhiyawētān kīkināhk / ​Speaking Cree in the Home, a hands-on guide to help parents and caregivers immerse themselves, their children, and their homes in the language. Books that focus on Indigenous language and its preservation is one of URP's focuses - Custer's passion.

Andrea Custer BA'07 is co-author of Speaking Cree in the Home, published by UR Press. Photo by Holly Bergen Andrea Custer BA'07 is co-author of Speaking Cree in the Home, published by UR Press. Photo by Holly Bergen

The First Nations Language Series' goal is to produce titles in each of the First Nations languages spoken in Canada. They've published nine books so far. The latest volume is in Tsuut'ina, a Dene language spoken by a small handful of people mainly in Alberta. "Through our publishing, we are helping to preserve and revitalize the language," says Johnston. In addition to the print copy, the press is looking into audio. "These types of work require a lot of connections, time, respect and care with relationships, so Indigenous communities are comfortable with the publication." Each book is translated into syllabics, Standard Roman Orthography (SRO), and English.

In her day job, Custer is a lecturer and program coordinator of the Indigenous languages and linguistics program at the First Nations University of Canada's Northern Campus in Prince Albert. In her spare time, she has produced a podcast with Charlotte Ross, Cree and Coffee with the Crazy Crees; has been helping build a Cree language nest program on Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation; is the chair and co-founder of a non-profit organization, Rock Creek Cree Language Council Inc.; and is working on a PhD through the University of Victoria in Indigenous language revitalization. "I'm all about the language. It's not a nine-to-five thing for me--it's every day, all day," she explains.

SPeaking-Cree-in-the-Home-Book-cover

Speaking Cree in the Home serves as a manual on the Cree "y" dialect, one of three dialects spoken in Saskatchewan (there are five spoken in Canada). It teaches the basics of reading Cree and Standard Roman Orthography and how to pronounce vowels; engages readers in language-learning games; and gives examples of common words and phrases that can be worked into daily routines. Throughout, Custer and Daniels share personal experiences of their own language journeys.

When searching for a publisher, Custer and Daniels wanted to ensure the book would be peer reviewed. The University of Regina Press (URP) was a natural choice, given its academic rigour, regional focus and commitment to the revitalization of Indigenous languages.

Working with the seasoned writer

The URP editorial team also works with seasoned writers skilled at communicating with the public, like Dale Eisler BA'70, a former provincial and national journalist. Eisler's fourth book, From Left to Right: Saskatchewan's Political and Economic Transformation. The book has been short-listed for The Hill Times Best Books of 2022 and the 2023 Shaugnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing and won the Scholarly Writing Award at the 2023 Saskatchewan Book Awards.

 

Dale Eisler BA'70 is the author of the UR Press published From Left to Right: Saskatchewan's Political and Economic Transformation. Dale Eisler BA'70 is the author of the UR Press published From Left to Right: Saskatchewan's Political and Economic Transformation.

This is the second book that he's published with the University of Regina; False Expectations: Politics and the Pursuit of the Saskatchewan Myth was published in 2006 by the CPRC.

"The UBC Press was also interested in From Left to Right, but I felt that, given the subject and nature of the book focusing on Saskatchewan, using a local publisher was the best way to go. They have a better appreciation and familiarity with the subject," Eisler says.

Eisler believes it's important for Canada to have regional presses, because "Canada is a regional country with unique interests that reflect the regions. Having the University of Regina Press focusing on issues relevant to Saskatchewan and the prairie region is useful in terms of getting stories into the public arena that we feel are important."

URP bestsellers

Over its history, the press has published almost 800 titles, including eight national bestsellers, and has won more awards than McLennan can remember. "At least a couple of hundred," he says. Their backlist includes Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Indigenous Life by James Daschuk, a seminal work about the colonization of Indigenous people in what is currently known as Canada. Daschuk's book has found its way into classrooms across Canada providing an important early Canadian history lesson.

"James never used the term 'genocide' in the text, but the book was about genocide," notes McLennan. "When James wrote an op-ed for The Globe and Mail, our press encouraged him to use the term in the article, and it's now part of the lexicon in Canada. To publish books that cause people to re-evaluate-correctly-our country's past is hugely satisfying."

A voice for many peoples

Intern Jellyn Ayudan BA'22, who started at the press after graduating with an English degree from the U of R last year, is proud to have worked on the reprint of Our Grandmothers' Lives as Told in Their Own Words by Freda Ahenakew and H.C. Wolfart. The volume is also published in syllabics, SRO, and English. Ayudan painstakingly went through the book to add diacritical marks to the Cree SRO. "Working on a text like this, as a non-Cree speaker, was such an honour and a privilege. I thought about how I would want my language to be presented," she says. "Cree is one of the fastest-growing speaker populations in Canada. I'm thrilled to be part of this industry of people creating texts for Cree learners and speakers."

 

Intern Jellyn Ayudan BA'22, started at the press after graduating with an English degree from the U of R last year, Intern Jellyn Ayudan BA'22, started at the press after graduating with an English degree from the U of R last year,

"Our motto drives our editorial vision--to be a voice for many peoples and help to amplify the voices of people who are often underrepresented," Johnston explains. In addition to publishing books by marginalized people and people from racialized communities and equality-deserving communities, the press contracts freelancers from different backgrounds to work on some of their titles. "It's important for us to ensure appropriate representation in the workforce."

The ultimate satisfaction for authors and URP staff is when a work resonates with its audience. "I met a woman who said she was using Speaking Cree in the Home with her children and mother. That was the purpose of the book-we wanted it in homes to reach people intergenerationally. It makes my heart happy," says Custer.

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Gloria Mehlmann loves the U of R mainly because of the value she places on education. Access to a good education is a theme that runs through Mehlmann's life story. She grew up on the Cowessess First Nation and first attended a day school located on the nearby Kahkewistahaw First Nation, completing her Grade 8 at a day school at Cowessess.

"My parents and oldest brother attended Round Lake Residential School in the Qu'Appelle Valley. Because of the physical and psychological abuses they endured, they refused to allow me and my younger siblings to attend any boarding school," Mehlmann explains.

She attended grades nine and ten at Ardith and Assiniboia High School before moving to Regina. She had hoped to complete high school at Regina's Central Collegiate, but had to attend Balfour Collegiate, a technical school where courses like sewing and home economics, "went against my grain," she says. She left Balfour, choosing to complete her Grade 12 through the province's correspondence school. She says of her choice to pursue teaching as one of the best decisions of her professional life.

Honorary degree recipient Gloria Mehlmann relaxes in her yard in Nanoose Bay, B.C. Honorary degree recipient Gloria Mehlmann relaxes in her yard in Nanoose Bay, B.C.

Mehlmann taught at four schools in the Regina Public Schools system from 1962 to 1983, and was later seconded to serve as the director of Research and Development with the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, now First Nations University of Canada.

As the director of Aboriginal Education for the provincial Department of Education from 1994 to 2004, she oversaw the integration of Indigenous perspectives and content into the K-12 curriculum.

She also served as a member and chair of the Regina Public Library board and was the provincial library trustees association representative to the University of Regina Senate.

Mehlmann has always wanted to write. At 12, she had a poem titled "To Grandma" published in the Winnipeg Free Press. "I had read the poetry of E. Pauline Johnson in school, and since I liked poetry, wrote the little verse," she recalls. "That was major, for me."

Her book, Gifted to Learn, is a memoir of her teaching career that was published in 2008, because, "every day provided a treasure trove of learning opportunities." She then turned to creative writing, publishing a collection of stories titled Adam's Tree, which is based on growing up on Cowessess First Nation and seeing the firsthand impacts of Indian Act policies and residential schooling.

She also read a lot, writers like Doris Lessing, Susanna Moodie, and Alice Munro "who revealed magical things in everyday existence." She still enjoys rereading the works of her Saskatchewan mentors, writers like Dianne Warren, and Saskatchewan poets.

Among her titles, Mehlmann is the author of Gifted to Learn and  Adam's Tree. Among her titles, Mehlmann is the author of Gifted to Learn and Adam's Tree.

In 2005 Mehlmann received the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal in recognition of her contributions to education, libraries, and community development. She describes the award as an incredible honour, as is receiving an honorary degree. "I'm not sure what I will say to the graduates at the ceremony, but it will be about my love of learning, and it will be from my heart."

Mehlmann received an honorary Doctor of Letters on June 15.

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