Summit – 2018 Alumni Achievement Awards
An entirely blue background including a golf bag, plant and ornamental dog painted the same kind of blue

Alumni Achievement Awards

There are more than 100,000 Mount Royal University alumni making a difference around the world. In this sea of genuinely successful folks, we pause to celebrate four outstanding alumni.

Words by Julie Macdonald
Photos by Chao Zhang

 

It’s their dedication to their craft. It’s how they help others achieve success. It’s how they give back to their communities. And it’s how they continue to contribute to their alma mater, long after graduation.

Mount Royal is celebrating four outstanding alumni who have excelled in both their academic and professional lives. They all do different things; there’s an academic, a social entrepreneur, an interior designer and an executive coach. But they all embody what it means to be Mount Royal University alumni and serve as inspiration for everyone around them.

 

The Alumni Achievement Awards are presented in three categories:

  • The Lifetime Distinguished Achievement Award recognizes alumni at the culmination of their careers who have brought honour to their profession and alma mater
  • The Outstanding Alumni Award acknowledges alumni who demonstrate exceptional achievements in their fields
  • The Horizon Award recognizes the outstanding achievements of alumni early in their careers

 

Walter Hossli on a blue backdrop holding a blue painted rake beside a blue painted plant and picket fence.

Walter Hossli

Lifetime Distinguished Achievement Award

Social Services Diploma, 1985

One who likes to make things grow, Walter Hossli is an avid gardener in his free time.

Walter Hossli is one of Calgary’s most accomplished social entrepreneurs. He is a respected advocate for the rights, dignity and creation of business and employment opportunities for Calgarians at the economic margins.

Originally from Switzerland, Hossli switched from his first career in architectural technology and construction after attending Mount Royal to earn a Social Services diploma. He changed his life’s direction to pursue his passion for working with people and helping them reach their true potential.

“Going back to school as a mature student at the age of 30 meant that I was truly interested in every course I signed up for,” Hossli says. “Studying was easy and good marks followed. This gave me the confidence to not undervalue my capacity just because I had grown up in a different country.”

Hossli went on to lead the Arusha Centre in Calgary and become a refugee claimant caseworker back in Switzerland. Then, in 1991, he created MCC Employment Development, now known as Momentum, a community economic development group with the mandate of increasing prosperity for those living on limited means.

More than 25 years and numerous awards later, Momentum now has a staff of 60 and offers 20 programs to 3,000 participants per year.

“Together with a strong team of leaders, we created an organization that offers innovative and empowering programs with real results,” Hossli says. “Most importantly, we built an organization that has changed systems in order to improve the lives of low-income Calgarians.”

Momentum advocates for the more than 140,000 Calgarians living below the poverty line and provides opportunities to develop skills and knowledge so they can move forward.

“Momentum also identifies systems barriers for low-income folks to become more economically productive, and then working to reduce or remove those barriers is a lasting feature of what Momentum does. Our policy advocacy has led to thousands of Albertans being better able to escape poverty for good.”

“It feels especially gratifying to receive the award from MRU — a place of so much learning and growing for me over many years.”

Hossli’s commitment to the community has a massive scope. He has been integral to organizations such as Vibrant Communities Calgary, the Calgary Foundation and the Canadian Community Economic Development Network, to name just a few. He also promotes policy change to facilitate community-owned renewable energy and regularly volunteers his time and knowledge in Central America.

In 2016, after more than two decades as executive director of Momentum, Hossli came back full circle to MRU as the Institute for Community Prosperity’s changemaker-in-residence.

“My favourite part of being a changemaker-in-residence is joining a group of mostly much younger people who are passionate about effecting change in big systems and supporting paradigm shifts. As a human family we are facing unprecedented global challenges. Protecting the status quo is no longer an option.”

Hossli’s relationship with MRU includes mentoring students and institute personnel, guest lecturing and providing guidance and thought leadership around economic development, community-based energy production, climate action and public policy improvement opportunities.

“I deeply value long-term meaningful relationships. This award connects me back to my studies many years ago. It also connects me with the current position of changemaker. It feels especially gratifying to receive the award from MRU — a place of so much learning and growing for me over many years.”

 

Jenn Lofgren swinging a golf club on a blue backdrop while surrounded by blue painted golf balls and a golf bag.

Jenn Lofgren

Outstanding Alumni Award

Business Administration — Human Resources Diploma, 2006

When not coaching others to be their best in business, Jenn Lofgren challenges herself on the links.

As a young female executive coach without prior experience in a senior leadership role, Jenn Lofgren has broken the mould. Many people told her she lacked credibility and was crazy to launch her own company — especially after she had already established a successful career building information technology network infrastructure. But Lofgren was unfulfilled, and while she could have sought advancement opportunities, she didn’t want to follow the same path as her former employers.

“They were all great people deep down, but stressed out and micromanaging because they had never been supported or developed as leaders.”

Two factors led Lofgren to pursue a career change: her dissatisfaction with working for others and recognizing which aspects of the job she enjoyed.

“I loved working with my team and developing their capabilities and business acumen. What if I could find a way to make partnering with business leaders and people development the core of what I do?”

Lofgren enrolled at Mount Royal to obtain a Business Administration — Human Resources diploma. The small class sizes and professors who had connections to the business community combined to create an environment critical to her success. Her experience also helped quell any uncertainty she felt about moving on.

“The co-op program allowed me to get a real sense for the new career I was embarking on to help boost my confidence that I was going in the right direction.”

Fast-forward to today and Lofgren is about to celebrate a decade since founding her own executive leadership coaching and consulting company, Incito Executive and Leadership Development.

“I’m convinced I’m a terrible employee but a good entrepreneur.”

“I’m convinced I’m a terrible employee but a good entrepreneur,” she says, laughing. “I enjoy being able to build relationships on behalf of Incito and our team of coaches. I enjoy working one-on-one or with a leadership team and seeing ideas click for the first time and helping convert those ‘aha’ moments into action.”

One of 54 people in Canada and only three in Calgary to achieve her Master Certified Coach designation from the International Coach Federation, Lofgren has been a member of the invitation-only Forbes Coaches Council since 2016, contributing articles and Q & A segments to Forbes magazine on topics such as leadership, career development and effectiveness, and employee engagement.

Despite being part of such prestigious groups, Lofgren is proudest of the long-term impact she has on her clients.

“I love that I get to be a part of helping people navigate one of the hardest jobs — leadership. Leadership roles can be lonely, ambiguous, uncertain and lacking direction. I get to be a small part of making the path less lonely, helping clients create their own direction, finding ways to get feedback and developing their strengths to serve them most effectively.”

She says the best part about switching careers is the ability to come home every day happy. It has also allowed her to follow causes closer to her heart. Most recently, she was elected to serve on the board of directors of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and is also a member of the board of directors of the Calgary Youth Justice Society.

 

Sarah Ward walking a fake dog painted blue on a blue backdrop. Blue painted records fall around her and she holds a blue painted coffee cup.

Sarah Ward

Outstanding Alumni Award

Bachelor of Applied Interior Design, 2004

Sarah Ward regularly immerses herself in Calgary’s culture with her favourite companion Oliver, who is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. She is also a jazz aficionado.

Sarah Ward has been a designer as far back as she can remember.

“As a child, I was always interested in building environments, whether it was Lego villages or homes for my dolls,” Ward says. “At 13 I was thrilled with the possibility of getting to design my own room when we moved to Calgary, and shortly after that, I recall doing a presentation on interior design for a careers project at school.”

Today, Ward is the brains and creative spirit behind Sarah Ward Interiors, a design company specializing in creating innovative work and living spaces, as well as iconic public gathering places for clients in the retail and restaurant sectors. A small sampling of her work is the look and feel of Two Penny, Home and Away, Proof and Brookline Public Relations.

“I think I understood early on how space could affect different people and define a user’s experience. I was fascinated with exploring that idea.”

With a philosophy that celebrates a process of thoughtful discovery of a space intertwined with meeting a client’s needs, Ward immerses herself in the design process to encompass where Calgary’s story can be both generated and told.

“Understanding how others view and experience the world is crucial to being able to design for the global population and I credit MRU with helping me to understand the world at large.”

Typically, Ward’s favourite project is her most recent one. In this case, it’s Alumni Sandwiches.

“We really proved that our team could create a space that was truly unique on a budget that others didn’t believe possible.”

The Nash in Inglewood was the first project Ward’s firm completed, so she felt she had a lot to prove in its execution. Because of this, it occupies a special spot in her repertoire.

“I think we redefined what restaurant design could mean in Calgary and we produced a space that told the story of its neighbourhood and past lives. It was a huge relief and a very pleasant surprise to hear how much everyone loved it when it opened, and it reinforced that my decision to go out on my own was truly worthwhile.”

Although Ward knew what she wanted to do from a young age, her orientation day confirmed that she belonged at Mount Royal University. She knew, absolutely, that she was in the right place. That feeling continued throughout her time at MRU, as she was equipped with all the fundamental skills she needed for her future career. Since graduating, she has maintained strong ties to the University, returning as president of the Interior Design Alumni Chapter and serving as a studio instructor. She is currently paying it forward by acting as a mentor to MRU students through the Harry G. Schaefer Mentorship Program.

“Mount Royal exposed me to a broad range of people and backgrounds and how to understand different points of view. As a designer, we have to consider a wide variety of variables for each project that we undertake, and that is often well outside of our own lived experiences.

Understanding how others view and experience the world is crucial to being able to design for the global population and I credit MRU with helping me to understand the world at large.”

 

Photo of Geoff Schoenberg on the screen of a blue painted laptop placed on a blue painted pedestal on a blue backdrop.

Geoff Schoenberg

Horizon Award

Bachelor of Applied Business and Entrepreneurship — Sport and Recreation, 2007

Geoff Schoenberg now lives in Melbourne so we spoke with him down under.

Geoff Schoenberg is the first alumnus out of Mount Royal’s sport management program to achieve a PhD in the discipline, which he completed at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. Now based out of the Centre for Sport Research at Deakin University, Schoenberg is one of only 10 research fellows from around the world working with the Australia India Institute at the University of Melbourne.

“Much of the academic work in the sport field is focused on western countries with well-developed sport systems. India’s sport system is still developing. Outside of cricket, a lot of the success of Indian athletes comes in spite of the system rather than because of it,” Schoenberg says.

Since beginning the role in September 2016, Schoenberg has travelled to India several times to deliver workshops on sport governance and meet with government, business and sport leaders who are helping him shape and identify a research agenda that addresses the needs of the Indian sport system.

Schoenberg’s valuable industry experience before starting graduate studies includes assisting community sport organizations and co-ordinating volunteers.

“I’ve been lucky to have been ‘on the ground’ in delivering sport, working with organizations and students, developing and implementing programs and other tangible work. Much of this involved individual interactions and, hopefully, led to positive impacts on the people I’ve worked with.”

As his career advanced, however, he became much more interested in system-level impacts, much like the work he is now executing in India.

“While making a difference in the lives of the athletes, volunteers and students I’ve worked with will always hold a place in my heart, creating and refining systems that can have mass effect is particularly rewarding.”

“I strive to create an engaging and encouraging atmosphere, as my professors did for me.”

Schoenberg has published and presented his research around the world. He also volunteers with community sport organizations, for major events, on academic boards and within personal development organizations.

“Contribution to community has been a guiding value in my personal and professional life,” Schoenberg says.

He has even received an award for Diversity Support at Griffith University.

“As a cisgender, straight, able-bodied, white, educated male I do my best to recognize my privilege with its accompanying benefits and strive to find different ways to act as an ally for under-represented and marginalized communities.”

Even as an alumnus living overseas, Schoenberg strives to stay connected with MRU, whether through formal engagements such as collaborating with MRU’s Professor David Legg, PhD, on the Sports Policy Factors Leading to International Sporting Success project, or in how he carries his Mount Royal education into his own classroom.

“My experience as an MRU student informs my approach in the classroom now that I am teaching in a university setting. I strive to create an engaging and encouraging atmosphere, as my professors did for me.”

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