Meet the Dean of Rehabilitation Sciences
On June 1, 2016, Dr. Reg Urbanowski assumed the role of Dean of the College of Rehabilitation Sciences in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. He recently shared some of his background and thoughts as he embarks on his first academic year at the helm of the College.
Where are you from and what’s your educational background?
I’m from a small town in northern Alberta and grew up in Edmonton. I did my undergraduate and master’s degree in occupational therapy at the University of Alberta. I completed my doctoral work at West Virginia University.
What inspired you to pursue the occupational therapy profession?
I knew I wanted to do something in health. When I was in high school, I got a job as an orderly assistant and worked in various health settings in Edmonton and Quebec. While I was doing that, it became clear that what I wanted to do was help people get back to living again after surviving a debilitating illness or injury. Occupational therapy is all about helping people live a meaningful life.
What do you like about university life in general and the University of Manitoba in particular?
I really enjoy the pursuit of ideas and I love to work in a place where not everybody thinks the same – a place where there is a debate and excitement about the discovery of new knowledge. What drew me to the University of Manitoba and the College of Rehabilitation Sciences was that this was a place that is driven to discovery and the sharing of that new knowledge with students. There is a palpable excitement here.
When you talk to the researchers, instructors, staff and students in the College, you can feel the commitment to discovery and learning, and that’s where you want to be. I want to help shape the discovery and learning that people do here.
What is your vision for the College of Rehabilitation Sciences?
The College of Rehabilitation Sciences is a new college. My vision for it is still developing and I hope to have a document outlining that in the very near future. So while I can’t directly answer your question now, what I can tell you is that this vision will be based on being a research-intensive College, a College that is responsive to the community’s needs and a College that stretches itself out to subscribe to best practices in learning and teaching.
Who are your mentors?
I’ve had a lot of good mentors along the way. There’s times you sit beside someone and you can feel the wisdom come across. I have been fortunate to have had a great many mentors who I have learned a great deal from over the years. Some were personal mentors and coaches, while some were more professional mentors, like one of my early professors, Benita Fifield, from whom I learned many of the “soft skills” in talking to people about sensitive topics, such as sex and sexuality. I would also say that my master’s dissertation supervisor, and later colleague, Dr. Jim Vargo, was a mentor while I began my voyage in scholarly work. I especially remember that he would tell me: “Touch a scientist – touch a child,” which I took to mean that the inquisitiveness that we have as children is the foundation of a good researcher – words I still believe in today.
Can you tell us about some leisure or recreational activities you like to engage in outside of work?
I enjoy writing poetry. I tell people that I’m an award-winning poet because in Grade 6 I won a poetry contest and I won a tie clip.
Do you have a favourite book?
The most dog-eared book is my Norton Anthology of Poetry that I’ve had since my early university days. I pick it up to read to this day. It is not only filled with poems, but with a history of thoughts and feelings of the writers.
Do you have other pursuits or interests?
My volunteer work is, and has been for many years, an integral part of who I am. At the present time, I am a UN Online volunteer, helping various organizations around the world prepare strategic plans and proposals on a wide variety of topics. I have a long history of board work and am looking forward to volunteering in that capacity in Winnipeg in the future.
What would you consider to be your motto or guiding principle?
My favourite Maya Angelou quote: “When we cast our bread upon the waters, we can presume that someone downstream whose face we will never know will benefit from our action, as we who are downstream from another will profit that grantor’s gift.”
People who work in post-secondary education live that saying every day. Whether you are a faculty member teaching, working in the registrar’s office, or in facilities management, what you do every day will impact students who are coming here for an experience and learning opportunity that will affect them, and the people around them, for years to come.