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Krista Vandewaeter, contracts coordinator, research services, on a sunny-shady, green day at the Fort Garry campus.

Coffee With A Co-worker: Krista Vandewaeter

July 23, 2014 — 

Before joining Research Services at the U of M, Krista Vandewaeter was employed as a funeral director and embalmer, work that gave her immense personal satisfaction. Among other duties, she prepared the deceased for viewing. “I liked being able to help people at one of the worst times in their lives, to hear them say, ‘Mom or Grandma looks awesome,’” she smiles.

It’s not strange for Vandewaeter to find herself involved in unusual occupations.

Her current pursuit, for instance, is power lifting, which she took up a year and a half ago. A determination to challenge herself paid off: she’ll compete in her fourth power lifting competition at the end of August and hopes to go to Nationals in 2015. So far, she has come away with four provincial records for her weight class after her first meet, first and second place medals in her weight class, and one first place overall win.

“I’ve never really been a conventional person,” she says.


Vandewaeter: “I’ve never really been a conventional person.”


“No one was that surprised when I ended up working at a funeral home. My dad thought it was cool, my mom thought it wasn’t ladylike — but my Baba loved it because it meant she got all the funeral home gossip. She thought it was fabulous!”

Because she has an aunt who’s still in the biz, funeral work continues to be a topic of conversation.

“It makes for great stories at family dinners,” she laughs.

Vandewaeter also enjoys being part of a larger picture, the way “death is a part of life,” as she says. That appeal holds for her current position. As contracts coordinator, what she loves most is contributing “a tiny part to a much bigger picture.” Looking after research contracts for our university researchers, she ensures that policy and procedure requirements are met, and helps researchers to fill in all the blanks, consulting with the university’s legal department to ensure that the contracts are legally sound and in compliance with university policies for the protection of the researchers, their work and their students.

“It’s all in the details,” she says.

And there are myriad details. Typically, she can be dealing with many separate files simultaneously, and all at various stages of completion; luckily enough, she has a good memory. (So much so that in her last job, she was nicknamed “Rainman.”) Due to the volume she’s dealing with on a daily basis, she says a typical day means exchanging a multitude of emails and the phone ringing often, with questions about individual case files. Her instantaneous recall on individual files helps her keep it all organized.

With her natural curiosity, interruptions don’t trouble her — more often than not, they are a welcome component of her work.

“There are just so many interesting projects going on, and I love being able to get a glimpse into them,” she says.

Coming from the Office of Clinical Research at St. Boniface Hospital, she was hoping to get into Research Services at the U of M and she says she feels incredibly blessed to be here.

“Ultimately we [in research services] are here to help the researchers. I empathize with their timelines and respect the work they do. I see the university as a huge window of opportunity for me,” she says.

And should you be looking for her in Frank Kennedy, you might want to scan the room for the small woman with a big laugh, in pink Converses and doing power lifts that draw a few sidelong glances from the other patrons.

 — Mariianne Mays Wiebe


 Q + A with Krista Vandewaeter

Coffee or Tea? and how do you take it? Coffee, black. I try to stick to one a day in the morning, but it is extra large.

One thing not too many people may know about you: I’m a Star Wars aficionado. I’m waiting with baited breath for Episode VII to come out.  I have high hopes for J.J. Abrams’ directorial abilities.

What puts a smile on your face? Sunshine, blue skies, cold barley beverages, my boyfriend, shoes, purses, pedicures, picking up heavy things and putting them back down again.  Not necessarily in that order.

Dinner with friends: Out or home? Both. I love cooking, and using my friends as my personal guinea pigs for new recipes. I also equally enjoy a meal where I didn’t have to lift a finger to make it appear on my plate! As for what and/or where, that all depends on the mood and group of friends.

Place you’d like to visit and why, or favourite place you have visited: I’d like to pretend I have a deep and thoughtful answer planned out, but all I’ve got is Vegas.

Something essential or enjoyable every day: Laughing is mandatory – it keeps you relatively sane!

You are always thrilled to spend any free time doing what? I don’t have a lot of free time these days with training, so I tend to stick to anything that makes me happy and is relaxing. Lately it’s going for walks, or doing a cross-stitch of Christian Louboutin shoes.

Something you do better than anyone else (or most people) you know: Consume protein.

Guiding principle or motto: Believe in yourself.

A goal: Push past my current deadlift slump, and qualify for the 2015 Nationals

Where did you grow up? North end of Winnipeg.

What do you appreciate or admire in another person? Selflessness.              

Underrated: Stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Overrated: Sushi.

Something eye-opening: Competing, and being a front-runner. Not even as a kid did I play sports, or do anything really competitive. It’s pretty wild to experience it for the first time in my 30s, and be a contender.  It consistently gives me a bar to set higher and higher for myself, every time I hit the platform.

Recent book enjoyed: I’m currently addicted to the Tudor Series books by Philippa Gregory.

Favourite TV show, film, blog or website: TLC is my guilty pleasure.

Anything else you’d like people to know about Krista Vandewaeter? Stay tuned!


Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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