Cook, Loewen receive U of M Leadership Awards of Excellence
Karen Cook [BEd/97, MBA/09] understands the importance of relationship-building.
For example, her first year as Project Manager, Community Engagement at the U of M’s Bannatyne campus in 2012 was spent primarily meeting with non-profit community organizations and residents close to campus. Cook also attended area Pow Wows, school events and community meetings to get a sense of the types of programming and support that would be needed.
“A lot of these non-profits are run by Indigenous leaders. But there’s also a large newcomer population,” she says.
“I think whenever you try and interact with those groups ― and not just those groups, but some that are different than yourself ― I think that a really, really strong foundation needs to be developed before you can even start asking about working together.”
Over the past six years, Cook and her team have successfully implemented many community-oriented programs, such as the Summer Weekend Inner-City Supervised Hoops (SWISH) initiative, which provides recreational opportunities for youth. They also travelled north to deliver three-day biomedical youth camps in communities such as Opaskwayak Cree Nation and Moose Lake.
“I’m quite passionate about working with community. I think it’s important for the university and for students to understand diverse populations and not just their own,” Cook says.
“I can feel really comfortable at Moose Lake at somebody’s house talking about the camp that we want to run there next year. And I also feel comfortable talking to the dean and saying, ‘I think this is important.’”
Carla Loewen [BEd/01, BA/03, MEd/16] has also seen the value of community firsthand, through her work with the Neechiwaken Indigenous Peer Mentor and Qualico Bridge to Success programs, both of which provide support to Indigenous students on campus. She was also recently named as the alumni representative on the Board of Governors.
“When I started at the U of M, it was coming out of a period of not really knowing what I wanted to do,” she says. “I just remember being a student and loved being on campus. Since 2005, I’ve really embraced that.
“My journey has always been [focused on what I could do] to make a difference in students’ lives. Being able to grow from a student advisor, to a program planner, to somebody who’s in leadership roles, it’s a great career.”
Cook and Loewen were both humbled to receive leadership awards, and were quick to thank their respective nominators, Dr. Brian Postl and Dr. Justin Rasmussen.
“I think it’s great to be acknowledged within the team that I work with,” Loewen says.
“If anything, what I appreciate the most is the nomination by Dr. Rasmussen, and for putting so much work and effort into that. I love my job, so [this award] is just an extension of that in a visible way.”