April 1, 2017

Jenna Slobozian | Why work doesn’t feel like work

When Jenna Slobozian talks about her work with the Cumming School of Medicine’s research team, you can see the passion on her face and hear it in her voice.

When Jenna Slobozian talks about her work with the Cumming School of Medicine’s research team, you can see the passion on her face and hear it in her voice.

“I love this work so much, that it doesn’t feel like work,” she says enthusiastically. “Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m very obsessed with my work. It’s because for me, it isn’t work!”

Jenna has been with UCalgary for four years. She started with the Vice-President (Research) Office as a research grants officer responsible for all foundation and non-profit grant funding. Jenna then shifted her focus to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and was promoted to the role of senior research grants officer. Last July, she joined the Cumming School of Medicine as the research facilitator.

“I’ve always been fascinated by health research, but gave up on the idea that I could be the person who actually does the research a long time ago,” she chuckled. “At the beginning of my career, I didn’t even know positions like the one I have now existed.”

Jenna completed her undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology at the University of Lethbridge in 2007. Her first positions, with the Canadian Cancer Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, helped her discover more about the role she could play within the research community.

“The Canadian Cancer Society hired me to do health promotion. I started meeting with a lot of researchers, and quickly realized that working with them was the one thing in this world I wanted to do more of,” said Jenna. “In those positions, I was always so excited to work with UCalgary. I was thrilled when an opportunity for me to work for the university came up.”

When it comes to UCalgary and the people who work here, Jenna had always heard and experienced such great things.

“The university has done an incredible job at making me passionate about the impact my work is having,” Jenna gushes as she explains how UCalgary has lived up to her expectations. “I appreciate how easy it is to make the connection between hard work and why we’re doing it. It makes me feel like my work is important.”

All of Jenna’s hard work certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed. She is the recent recipient of a 2017 U Make a Difference Award. Jenna was recognized at UCalgary’s 2017 Recognition Awards event held on Thursday, May 25, 2017.

“I’m so honoured to receive this award; it’s validation that my hard work is paying off,” said Jenna. “It’s also great for my husband to see. It helps him understand why I sometimes have to work so late.” 

When Jenna isn’t at the office, she enjoys spending quality time with her husband and soon to be five-year-old daughter, Aurelia. “We live in Cochrane, so spending time outdoors is mandatory. Camping is something we do a lot of.”

“When I’m not here, I’m spending all of my time with family,” says Jenna. “My daughter is my whole world. She’s a little firecracker! She’s opinionated, vivacious, energetic, outrageous, and hilarious – she’s all of that with big plans. She claims she wants to be a nurse, a doctor and a veterinarian when she grows up.”

It sounds like Aurelia takes after her mom. What a wonderful thing!

Tidbits from Jenna

Favourite place to be: At the family farm. “I grew up on a farm in central Alberta. I lost my dad at a young age, and my siblings and I helped my mom with the farm. We spend a lot of weekends there with family, and it means a lot.”

Favourite colour: “Red. Always red – it’s the greatest colour.”

Favourite flavour of ice cream: Bubblegum. “I don’t actually like the bubblegum – it’s frozen, it hurts my teeth, and it disintegrates in your mouth after about two seconds. I also don’t really like ice cream cones, so I always get it in a bowl. That helps because I can easily pick around the bubblegum and then throw it out.”

Current read: The Daily Show (the book). “I have to read every night before bed. I think I picked it up from my mom; I remember her always doing the same.”

Pets: A golden retriever cross named Ayla.

Passionate about: Research and the Blue Jays! “I’m the biggest Blue Jays fan ever. My dad was a huge fan, and I can remember sitting on his lap watching the games. I rarely miss a game, and frequently travel to Toronto.”

On the Cumming School’s 50th anniversary celebration: “Fifty years is actually a really short period of time. When we talk about research, medicine, success…we usually talk about those things in much lengthier chunks of time. When I hear ‘50,’ it kind of shocks me a little bit every time. As far as we’ve come, all of the successes…it blows me away to think about how much has happened in such a short timeframe.”

What the Cumming School of Medicine should do in the next 50 years: Take time to recognize how far we’ve come. “A lot of people should be clapping themselves on the back. When we look at who we’re comparing ourselves to, we ask a lot of our faculty. For our faculty, this isn’t a nine-to-five job that they shut off when they leave. It’s who they are as people. I see their passion, how hard they work. We need to take pause and recognize that.”