April 1, 2017

Leda Stawnychko | Taking a colleague for coffee promotes campus-wide research collaborations

Leda Stawnychko has a knack for bringing people together.

Leda Stawnychko has a knack for bringing people together.  After moving to Canada from Mexico in 1997, she began working at UCalgary, and has been inspiring colleagues and students to forge new connections ever since.

As Director of Operations and Strategic Initiatives in the Department of Community Health Sciences (CHS) at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), Leda initiated the “Take a colleague for coffee” program, where faculty and staff are encouraged to get to know their colleagues by inviting them for a cup of coffee.  The hope is that these relationships may result in campus-wide research collaborations. 

Leda launched the program by inviting a colleague from her department, Gavin McCormack, PhD, to join her and Suzanne Goopy, PhD, from the Faculty of Nursing, for coffee.  She knew about their mutual interest in walkability and healthy neighbourhoods and thought that they should meet.  Coffee resulted in a partnership that led to a successful research grant application, as well as formal research collaborations in two additional grants.

With a personal motto of “YES, I can!”, and supported by several strong UCalgary mentors, Leda has risen in her career, received her BA and MEd, and is currently working on her PhD in the area of Leadership, all at UCalgary.  Her drive to succeed and to push toward new ways of working and collaborating has fostered dynamic and positive working environments wherever she has been.

Although her latest “hobby” is reading for her PhD program, she also enjoys discovering locations that are off the beaten path when traveling.  “I’m in discovery mode,” she says.  “This year I went to northern India, last year, to eastern China.  Puerto Rico surprised me.  The culture is so warm.  It’s the human connection and the people that I remember.  My all-time favourite country, though, is Italy for the people, the flair, the lifestyle, and the fashion.  There’s something about being in Italy that’s just extraordinary.”

In her spare time, Leda volunteers for several organizations, including the Canadian Women’s Immigrant Agency (CIWA).  Leda says, “Thinking about volunteering, I didn’t always know exactly what I wanted to do, but I was interested in inspiring girls and women.” 

Leda meets her mentee, Abigail, very early every Thursday morning, and says it has been stimulating to see her transformation over the last three or four months.  Abigail says, “I want to express my deepest gratitude for believing in me.  You have been an excellent friend, teacher, mentor and a great inspiration, especially during difficult times when I needed words of encouragement.  I really look forward to the day I can do the same for someone else”. 

Leda hopes her drive can help shape other women’s careers, particularly in educational paths here at the CSM and at UCalgary.  She is already leading by example by sharing her positive attitude with those around her.

Tidbits from Leda: 

What does it mean to you that we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary?

I see it as the perfect age...maybe in the same way I view myself.  UCalgary has come far enough to figure out who we are as an institution, but we are still young, energetic, and vibrant.  There is SO MUCH ahead of us, and that in itself is exhilarating!    

Where do you see the Cumming School of Medicine in the next 50 years?

I see our collaborations solidifying, particularly with donors.  The older we get, the more friends we make...naturally!   And those collaborations are going to take us places. 

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you?

If you are reading this, you must be, like I am, in the company of greatness!  Good for you, and I for making the choices that brought us here!  And one more thing - I want the readership to know that Community Health Sciences is THE BEST Department in the CSM!