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UCalgary has strong presence at 2016 Top 40 Under 40

Meet tomorrow’s leaders, today
October 31, 2016
Nuvyn Peters, Rahim Sajan, and Kurt Kinnear

Nuvyn Peters, Rahim Sajan, and Kurt Kinnear.

Clockwise from upper left: Gabriel Fabreau, Melanee Thomas, Megan Kerluke and Jessie LI. 

For 18 years, Avenue Calgary magazine has celebrated a lineup of outstanding up-and-comers — young leaders who exemplify the talent and civic spirit that help drive our local economy. This year’s class of Top 40 Under 40 is no exception.

All the honorees are ambitious and talented professionals who represent a wide variety of industries in the for-profit, nonprofit and government sectors. As individuals, they are the definition of overachievers — each already making a significant, positive impact on Calgary as a result of their professional involvement and community contributions. Read on to meet this year’s crop of disrupters, innovators, rebels and artists — and prepare to be inspired by today’s seven award-winners with UCalgary connections. Profiles will appear in a two-part series in UToday, running Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

  • Rahim Sajan, 39, BSc’01, BEd’03, currently serves on UCalgary’s Senate. Current job? Teacher at Discovering Choices High School; curator of TEDx Calgary. What do you miss about student life? The ridiculous amounts of time I had to explore things that I found interesting. If you went back to school, what would you take? I would want to undertake multiple explorations, with no particular end goal. Marine Science — there is a whole mysterious ocean out there waiting to be explored! I accidentally ran across an engineering textbook at the U of C bookstore on how to build a submersible — I would like to learn that! I would also study design and history, I am finding design and the way historians think particularly useful in my work. I would also want to delve into philosophy as a practical matter, people seem to be existentially starving. Biggest regret? Not living on campus. I think as a commuter student, the two hours I spent on the bus could have been better utilized had I lived on campus. Any advice for new students? Time — it’s the most precious thing you have. Be careful not to squander it on guaranteed outcomes ... push yourself to venture into the unknown, where the result is uncertain. There has never been a richer time to develop your "explorer’s instinct" than when you are in school. A significant memory from UCalgary? Training at an elite level at the Olympic Oval as part of the BOA Sprint Group under Stuart McMillan, now a renowned coach who works with Canada’s fastest man and some of the world’s fastest athletes. I learned so much about high performance, discipline and my own physical limits from that man. A guilty pleasure? Teriyaki beef from Edo in Mac Hall! Biggest heroes? His Highness the Aga Khan. For his integrity, life of service and continuing work to improve the lives of millions of people around the world. Biggest weakness? The inability to say no. 
  • Nuvyn Peters, 37, raised in Saskatchewan, studied in Switzerland, worked in areas of public policy and advocacy in Washington, D.C. Current job: Vice-president of Development and Alumni Engagement at UCalgary; leading a $1.3-billion fundraising campaign known as Energize: The Campaign for Eyes High. A significant memory from UCalgary? Moving to Calgary and learning how to pronounce Cal-gree … not Cal-guh-rey or Cal-gairy. I still have to remind myself: two syllables: Cal-gree. A guilty pleasure? Binge-watching Netflix. Frankly, with a full-time job and three kids under the age of 7, SILENCE is my guilty pleasure. A funny work memory? In my previous job, I often travelled from D.C. to N.Y.C. After a rather frantic morning trying to get ready for a trip and battle rush hour traffic to get on the train, I let out a sigh of relief when I finally took my seat on Amtrak. But then I looked down — and that’s when I saw the slippers on my feet! Worst job? When I was 16, I tried my hand at telemarketing where I had to call people and try to sell them a ticket to a hypnotic comedy show. It was awful. I did it for two weeks and didn’t sell one single ticket! To what do you attribute your current success? I’m very determined and ambitious, which has helped me professionally … although not so much on the home front when I’m scrambling to get three kids fed, cleaned up and in bed by 8 p.m.! At my job, I work hard and keep my attention focused on what I’m doing now. A lot of people are planning for their next job — even when they’re in their current role — but I’ve always focused on doing the best job that I can, giving it my all. Right here. Right now.
  • Gabriel Fabreau, 36, BSc’03, MD’08. Current job? Clinical assistant professor at the Cumming School of Medicine, as well as works at the Peter Lougheed and Foothills Medical Centre. UCalgary connection? I have spent almost the entirety of my adult life (13.5 years) connected to the university, from playing on the Dinos football team (1998-2003) to meeting my wife who was also a Dino (women’s soccer) and a national champion. I’m really proud that my U of C training prepared me well for the time I spent at Harvard, which is very competitive and where expectations are so high, they’re insane. At first, I was really intimidated and had terrible imposter syndrome that I was underqualified, coming from a young public Canadian university. Only later did I realize that I was well prepared and could actually hang and compete there. Biggest regret? Not winning a Vanier Cup when I played for the Dinos, and, that despite having great teams over the past 20 years, we still haven’t brought one home. Last year was especially crushing, losing to UBC after having a perfect season. A motto to live by? Every time I am told that we can’t do something, or not to pursue a new opportunity or every time I get the idea to chase some exciting new possibility — I always remind myself: Why not me? Why not now? Why not here? What is a significant memory from UCalgary? Meeting my wife in physiotherapy. We now have three little girls that make us very happy. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t gone to the U of C.
  • Jessie Li, 29, BComm’09. Current job? Vice-president and co-founder of Promoting Artists/ Redefining Kulture (PARK). Both Li and PARK president Kara Chomistek, 29, BSc (Eng)’10, are UCalgary alumnae and are sharing a Top 40 award for their ground-breaking work in Calgary’s fashion scene by promoting events, forums and mentorships (to some 650 designers and artists). Li’s significant memory from UCalgary? The inaugural PARKSALE was held for the first three years on campus, in the green space between ICT and the engineering buildings. I never dreamed that a fun idea that we had as students would turn into my future career. My second most significant memory was meeting Kara Chomistek at the Student Dance Club — we became friends, then later business partners and co-founders of PARK. Any advice for new students? Get involved with student life or student clubs — the people that I met at university are my lifelong friends. If you went back to school, what would you take? I would still go to business school but I would take a few more entrepreneurship classes and I wish I had gone on a student exchange. What do you miss about student life? For a very long time after graduating, I found myself missing the opportunity to meet interesting and like-minded individuals whether it was in class, at the library while studying, in the common areas or at student events.
  • Kurt Kinnear, 35, final year of a master’s degree in leadership. Current job? Director, UCalgary’s Active Living and Outdoor Centre (biggest university outdoor centre in North America that processed some 40,000 registrations last year in more than 75 different sports and activities). Any advice for new students? Take hard jobs while in school and learn from them. Worst job? Best lessons in life. Biggest heroes? Madeline Kinnear (wife), Margaret Kinnear (mom). A funny memory from UCalgary? The day a key team in Active Living worked together and somehow actually made me think they won the lottery ... scary, then hilarious.
  • Megan Kerluke, 36, BFA’02. Current job: Head of public engagement, Esker Foundation (a contemporary art gallery in Calgary). If you went back to school what would you take? I would study fine arts and try not to be in such a rush to graduate. Any advice for new students? Study what you enjoy and make it part of your daily life. 
  • Melanee Thomas, 35, MA’06. Current job? Assistant professor, UCalgary’s Department of Political Science. Thomas’ research focuses on gender inequality in politics, with a goal of discovering why women are less confident in their political abilities than men. If you went back to school, what would you take? Everything! I’d probably start with kinesiology, though. Every time I staff our booth for the Open House, I’m always distracted by the great work kinesiology students have to showcase. Any advice for students? Students often ask me what’s the best strategy for writing great papers that their professors will like, and I always tell them to work on something they’re genuinely interested in. When a student’s really into their project, the work they produce is typically their best. Outside of that ... go to class. Read. Explore. University is one of the safest places to fail; take advantage of that and learn all you can. A guilty pleasure? Full-fat dairy. Research says it’s pretty good for us, though. 

Those attending the Top 40 Under 40 awards on Nov. 1 might get the chance to meet the seven winners we profiled today. However, those who aren’t going to the event can read about the rest tomorrow. They include:

  • Fabiola MacIntyre, 36, BSc (Eng)’03
  • Dr. Derek Roberts, 36, PhD'15
  • Kristen Lien, 33, BA’06, MEDes’08
  • Dirk Chisholm, 21, fourth-year kinesiology student at UCalgary
  • Breanne Sich, BComm’15
  • Melanee Thomas, 35, MA’06
  • Dr. Tony Truong, 37, BSc’96, MD’02
  • Catherine Lebel, 34, assistant professor, Department of Radiology
  • Grand Gordon, BKin’01
  • Megan Kerluke, 36, BFA’02
  • Jim Szautner, 38, MEd’14
  • Lindsey Kindrat, 39, BSc’01
  • Adam Jones, 33, BSc’07
  • Adam Melynk, 36, BA’04
  • Connor Gottfried, 39, BSc(Eng)'04