Sept. 30, 2019

Schumacher 2019: Five alumni reflect on the last 50 years of UCalgary Nursing

The 2019 Marguerite Schumacher Memorial Alumni Lecture was an evening spent reflecting on our past but looking to the future of exciting innovations and advances in nursing

Nurses have always used their education, creativity and experience to develop solutions to improve the care of their patients. You can call them ‘entreprenurses’ as they’re uniquely qualified as health-care innovators and change agents.

On Sept. 28, in honour of the Faculty of Nursing’s 50th anniversary as a nursing school, five alumni speakers, one from each decade, addressed the crowd for the Marguerite Schumacher Memorial Alumni Lecture titled From Nurse to EntrepreNurse: Personal reflections from 50 years of UCalgary Nursing. More than 90 people were in attendance at The Ranchmen's Club.

UCalgary President Ed McCauley brought his welcoming remarks, noting, “This is a special event for our campus family because it celebrates the important legacy of the Faculty of Nursing.

“With all the nursing graduates in the nursing community, you’ve built on 50 years of excellence and expanded our impact. We have a lot to celebrate.” 

  • Photo above: From left, speakers Shannon Spenceley, Suzanna Crawford, Dianne Dyer, Derek Luk, and Pam Nordstrom. Faculty of Nursing photo

Each speaker shared their personal stories about opportunities created through their education, by their workplaces and experiences and their own personal drive to help transform our health system. They brought personal perspectives on the continued evolution of the nursing profession and the opportunities this transformation creates in areas like social enterprise, community-based research and experiential learning.

Dianne Dyer, BN’76, MN’93, past president of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA), shared her memories of the early days in the Faculty of Nursing and images of the early nursing uniforms. “At the time, we didn’t have fancy simulation labs,” she said. “We even practised a lot of our skills on each other.”

Pam Nordstrom, BN’83, who is now vice-president, academic affairs at Ambrose University, began her nursing career in neonatal intensive care and neonatal transport. She quipped, “Eighties nurses were entreprenurses before entreprenurses were even a thing.”

As the '90s graduate, Shannon Spenceley, MN’93, another former CARNA president, spoke about how nursing practice is all about seeing problems as pathways. “Entrepreneurship is a mindset,” she said, adding that “if there’s something an entreprenurse is, it’s someone who’s non-compliant.” She described her education at UCalgary Nursing as her launchpad; she’s now assistant dean, nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge.

Derek Luk, BN’07, delved into the topics of failure and focus around starting his company, Mimentra, which offers mindfulness programs in the workplace and community. He stressed the importance of trying and failing and persistence: “You have no idea what you’re capable of until you try.”

The final speaker of the night was Suzanna Crawford, BSc’11, BN’13, who co-founded ENABLE, a social enterprise matching people with disabilities to support workers.

“ENABLE was borne out of equal parts passion and equal parts frustration,” she says. Crawford shared how her experiences as an RN with Psychiatric Emergency Services at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and working with people with disabilities in the community as a support worker showed her the gap for families affected by disability, inspiring her to start her business.

This was the sixth year for the Faculty of Nursing’s annual memorial alumni lecture named after Marguerite Schumacher, the first dean of the nursing faculty at the University of Calgary (1974–1979).

Newly appointed alumni executive co-presidents Karla Sanchez, BN’17, BSc’13, and Zeeyaan Somani, BN’18, were MCs for the evening.

For the full photo album from the evening, check out the Facebook album.