Coffee With a Co-worker: Jeanette Montufar
Dynamic, charismatic, creative and committed. Jeannette Montufar has a lot going on in her life right now. In addition to her own teaching and research, this professor of transportation engineering is also starting a scholarship fund for underprivileged women and just published a book of poetry.
Her academic work is focused on designing better systems for pedestrians, especially older pedestrians — research she “loves every moment of,” almost as much as working with and mentoring her students, whose passion for what they do inspires her daily, she says. She sees the university as “the cradle of ideas” in society, and feels it is “the best place” one could possibly work. In 2012, she was also honoured with a YMCA Women of Distinction Award in the Leadership and Management category.
Montufar always had a knack for both numbers and language, and she is currently writing a new book, entitled My Longest Walk, which will combine the story of her own life with a chronicle of her fundraising journey for the scholarship fund. That journey will begin with a 500 km walk this summer, a portion of the Camino Frances from Burgos to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
You can tell that bringing out her book, 20 Love Poems and Some Random Thoughts, was an exhilarating experience. Montufar has been writing poetry since she was 14, and also writes short stories. She “loves literature,” she says, and finds poetry a “wonderful way” to express herself and reflect on her experiences. “The book is about different kinds of love,” she says.
“Love as a mother, a friend, a lover. I really believe that our experiences with love — or lack of it — really make us who we are today.”
The Hummingbird Education Fund Montufar is establishing the Hummingbird Education Fund to give underprivileged women in Winnipeg an opportunity for a post-secondary education in engineering, natural sciences, health sciences, medicine or law.
Why did Montufar choose to name the fund after a hummingbird? “A hummingbird symbolizes many things related to hope, endurance, persistence and the capability
to overcome obstacles,” she explains.
“Like the hummingbird, I hope the fund will represent an opportunity for women, an opportunity to obtain a better education and a new tomorrow for those facing tremendous barriers in our community.
“I believe in second chances,” says Montufar, “in giving opportunities. Many things have not come easy for me, but because I have had opportunities in my own life, I want to give back. I see it as a responsibility, really.”
This summer, Montufar, who is also a dedicated runner, will walk a 500 km portion of the Camino Frances in Spain to kick off fundraising for the Hummingbird Fund. The fund is supported by The Winnipeg Foundation. Montefur encourages others to donate funds towards “in order to make an impact” in their community. “Every $200 donated will get me one kilometer closer to my goal of raising $100,000 on this journey,” she says.
For information on how to make your donation, see The Winnipeg Foundation at www.wpgfdn.org and look for the Hummingbird Education Fund or visit the fund online on FaceBook at HummingbirdEducationFund.
What puts a smile on your face? Almost everything puts a smile on my face!
Where did you grow up? Define growing up … I shaped my ideas and opinions in Winnipeg but I was born in Guatemala.
What did you like about your childhood? I most enjoyed the weather.
Childhood hero: My father. He was a very intelligent man.
Something you find essential to do every day: Read non-technical material. I like reading most types of books but one of my favourite authors is Isabel Allende.
You are always thrilled to spend any free time: Chatting with my 12-yr old daughter and learning about her dreams, plans, frustrations, challenges. She is an endless fountain of entertainment!
What is your guiding principle or motto? Make every day count by making someone else’s life better thanks to you.
Dinner with friends: In or out? I prefer to cook at home because it’s more personal and it allows me to treat my guests to meals they really enjoy. I will cook just about anything a friend would ask for when invited over for dinner.
Favourite place: I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel the world. And although I have seen many places and met many people, I always enjoy Costa Rica. They people there are very friendly and warm — and the beaches are fantastic!
A goal: My main goal at this point is to raise $1,000,000 for the Hummingbird Education Fund.
What you appreciate or admire in another person? Compassion and determination.
Underrated: The University of Manitoba
Overrated: Apple pie
Favourite TV show, film, blog or website: Three films: The House of the Spirits, Midnight in Paris, Scent of a Woman
Favourite music: Anything by Leonard Cohen, Billy Joel, Johnny Cash, or Bob Dylan.
What do you like to read? I like most kinds of books. I recently finished The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli for the tenth time. My favourite book of all time is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Everyone should read that book.
Anything else you’d like people to know about Jeannette Montufar? I will change the world — I just have to figure out how and when!
Coffee With a Co-worker is a regularly appearing column that features staff and faculty of the university. This article first appeared in the June 6, 2013 edition of The Bulletin.