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Making time for giving back

Christine Johns, exemplary volunteer, sets a high bar
March 25, 2014
Christine Johns volunteers as board chair of the University Child Care Centre Society as well as a variety of other positions in the community.

Christine Johns volunteers as board chair of the University Child Care Centre Society in addition to a variety of other volunteer positions in the community. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Christine Johns beams as she watches her kids going down a slide at the park. The grand opening of the new playground is proof that all the grant writing and hard work has finally paid off. She and a team of community volunteers have turned a deserted inner-city park into a bright and vibrant destination for families in the neighbourhood.

This is nothing new for Johns who has volunteered for most of her life – starting in childhood. As an undergraduate student at the University of Calgary, she was involved with the Students’ Union as a faculty representative and was artistic director for the university’s student-run theatre company. She also volunteered with a number of clubs and organizations. When she returned to the University of Calgary as a PhD student, she became involved again as a faculty representative, then as vice-president (external) and finally as a two-term president of the Graduate Students’ Association.

“My involvement as a student leader during my undergraduate and graduate degrees fostered my interest in and my commitment to volunteering and community involvement,” says Johns. “I have carried this experience with me and hope to pass it along to my children.”

Christine Johns is an active member of the university community. She is a University of Calgary alumna and currently works as director, academic strategies within the Office of the Provost. Johns volunteers as board chair of the University Child Care Centre Society and as a mentor with the Emerging Leaders Program in addition to a variety of other volunteer positions in the community.

Most recently, Johns was appointed as an ambassador for Role Mothers, an initiative through Market Mall, which encourages women to give back to their communities, while also teaching their children the importance of giving and volunteering. Through Role Mothers, Calgary families can connect with local charity groups in their community and inspire others to do the same.

“Giving back to the community is important,” Johns says. “We all have a responsibility to contribute and small efforts can make a big difference in creating an engaging and dynamic community. To live or work in a place like that, it is important to do your part and become involved.”

The University of Calgary strongly supports volunteerism. Working together and assisting communities is a key component of the university’s Eyes High strategy.

“The Centre for Community-Engaged Learning creates various opportunities for students to be involved in the community from one-day projects, to longer term immersion programs all over the world,” says Erin Kaipainen, the Centre's manager for leadership and student engagement. “We recognize that students who are involved in service-learning or volunteering during their studies are more likely to continue their community involvement following graduation - they also tend to report more satisfying university experiences.”

Together, students, faculty and staff can all make a difference in supporting and sustaining our communities. Johns is an excellent example of someone who takes the time to give back. 

“Everyone is busy, but it helps if you think of volunteering as part of your daily life, not an extra that has to be fit in,” she says. “For those interested in starting volunteering, I recommend starting close to home or work and with activities that you are already involved in. Just take it to the next level.”

How you can get involved at the University of Calgary: