Top 40 Under 40: Part 3

For 20 years, outstanding young civic-minded visionaries have been celebrated in the annual Top 40 Under 40. And, once again, it wasn’t only entrepreneurs and business leaders who were toasted at the Nov. 8 gala hosted by Avenue Calgary.

Although the Top 40 is often recognized as a who’s who of corporate Calgary, among this year’s honourees were many researchers, doctors, aid workers and charity founders with UCalgary connections. In fact, 21 of this year’s recipients have ties to the University of Calgary. We spoke to 20 of them in this four-part series.

Read on to meet this year’s crop of ambitious, talented professionals — who were eager to reminisce about their times on campus as well as share advice and wisdom. In Part Three we catch up with: Corinne Ofstie, BA’05, BSW’12; Jason Kingsley; Matt Toohey, BA’05; Jerilyn Dressler, MSW’15; and Dr. Amy Metcalfe, PhD’12.

Corinne Ofstie, BA’05, BSW’12

Corinne Ofstie, 35, BA’05, BSW’12, still remembers arriving on campus as a lonely 17-year-old hailing from a small town in Alberta. As the strategic initiatives co-ordinator for the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS), Ofstie hesitates to take credit for any of AASAS’s initiatives, whether it’s helping secure $8.1 million in new funding for sexual assault services in Alberta or being part of the team that spearheaded #IBelieveYou, which began as an annual AASAS campaign.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? Participate in a social justice rally, protest or initiative you believe in.

A guilty pleasure? Reality TV, of course! That, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Biggest regret? I wish that I had minored in sociology.

What do you miss about student life? I miss the time and space I had just to explore, learn and discuss areas of interest. In my career, I am constantly learning, but the pace and the need to prioritize my activities and learnings is distinct from when I was a student.

What is one of the top lessons you learned at UCalgary? All of my Sociology of Gender class. It had a profound impact on my learning [and] career trajectory and it set me on the path to where I am today.

Any advice for new students? Get involved in campus life, connect with others on campus and seek opportunities to practice leadership. I joined a U of C Sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, in my first year and it has enriched my life immeasurably with friendships 17 years strong. In my social work degree, the leadership positions I undertook with the Social Work Students Association were what really helped me get a job as the co-ordinator of the Calgary Domestic Violence Collective.

Jason Kingsley

The man behind one of Canada’s fastest growing Pride festivals in Canada is Jason Kingsley, 35, a current UCalgary student who is enrolled in a master’s program at the Werklund School of Education. We’re not quite sure how he’s managing to dance between school, a full-time job at Bow Valley College, numerous side hustles, volunteer commitments and a marriage, but there you have it!

Any advice for other students? Lean into your discomfort and challenge your own perceptions.

Biggest heroes? Individuals who have taken a stand against the marginalization and oppression of others. They have often done so at risk to their own personal safety, and have all too often been erased or left out of the history of our communities.

A guilty pleasure? Eating Nutella right out of the jar. Incredibly unhealthy, but even more incredibly delicious!

What do you wish you knew more about? Culinary arts. I have a passion for food, and like to consider myself a self-proclaimed foodie. While not terrible in the kitchen, I definitely wish I was more skilled.

What are you currently reading? I am currently reading Human Communication as Narration: Toward a Philosophy of Reason, Value, and Action by Walter Fisher, which is related to my work and education (but not required). For fun, I am starting my make my way through Dune by Frank Herbert.

What is the luckiest thing that has happened to you? Being in the right place at the right time which is how I met my loving husband. Then a few years later being in the right place at the right time again to meet our “furbaby,” Tux, our German shepherd-border collie-cross puppy. 

Matt Toohey, BA’05

Matt Toohey, 36, BA’05, snagged a Top 40 spot for his passion for renewable energy that has helped TransAlta, where he’s a senior advisor, remain a sustainability leader, without compromising profits.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? For us lucky to be living in Canada, where we have an epic quality of life, I would say volunteer in a developing country or at least spend time travelling in places that take us out of our comfort zones.

What is one of the top lessons you learned at UCalgary? Unfortunately, I was one is those students who did everything at the last minute. I’m now much more organized, but the ability to work fast and under pressure serves me well. TransAlta operates at a fast pace.

Any advice for new students? Don’t take too much advice from others and don’t stress the journey. You’ve already been given a great opportunity; embrace that.

What do you miss about student life? Cheap beer... seriously, though, I love the campus environment because the focus is on learning and challenging what we think we know, while having fun. A campus has its own energy that you can feel and choose to embrace as much as suits you.

Biggest heroes? My family and friends. They are my biggest supporters and are always there me through thick and thin. There is also a reason why they call it a better half, I have an amazing better half.

What are you currently reading? Why Buddhism is True. Supports a growing fascination and practice with mindfulness and mediation. 

Jerilyn Dressler, MSW’15

Executive Director of the Distress Centre, Jerilyn Dressler, 38, MSW’15, played a key role recently in expanding the crisis support service to include text messages and online chats, as well as partnering with UCalgary to extend more services to students. Dressler also helped develop Canada’s first national suicide-prevention service.

She has this advice for students: Complete post-secondary before having a family, if at all possible! It’s not easy to complete a group project via Skype when there is a toddler screaming in the background. That being said, I became more structured and disciplined after becoming a mom, which helped me become a stronger student and leader.

Biggest heroes? Brené Brown, and my mom for role-modelling how to study and work hard while raising a family.

Worst job? They all taught me something, but working in a group home with youth was probably the most challenging.

To what do you attribute your current success? Mentorship from social workers and leaders with much more experience than I, and a sometimes counterintuitive need to persevere.

Any favourite professors? Laura Wells for her punchy, memorable pieces of advice, and Ellen Perrault for encouraging me to pursue a leadership rather than a clinical specialization.

Dr. Amy Metcalfe, PhD’12

Dr. Amy Metcalfe, 37, PhD’12, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at UCalgary, maintains that one of the key lessons she learned while being a student was the benefits of collaboration with people from diverse backgrounds.

Any advice for new students? Be open to trying new things and take the time to venture out of your comfort zone.

If you went back to school, what would you take? I would pursue the same area of study [epidemiology]. My training in epidemiology has given me the skill set to ask and answer clinically relevant questions that hopefully will change the way that health care is provided for pregnant women. Importantly, the focus on methodology has given me the flexibility to work with people with very different content areas of interest to create meaningful collaborations.

What are you currently reading? I’m presently reading Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto. I’m in a book club with a diverse reading list which compels me to read many different types of books (some that I never would have picked up on my own).

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? Visit a foreign country. I’ve been fortunate to travel around the world and the opportunity to see new places and experience different cultures has helped me better appreciate how the world works.

What do you wish you knew more about? Food science. I love to cook and am fascinated by how food changes when heated or cooled or combined with other ingredients. I’d like to learn more about the science behind that and how I can better leverage those scientific properties into my own cooking.

Explore more

Top 40 Under 40: Part 1

In Part One, you’ll meet: Vivek Shraya; Allison Onyett, BA’09; Dr. Kirsten Fiest, BSc’08, PhD’14; Dr. Kimberly Williams, MD’14; and Dr. Rita Watterson, MD’13.
Read Part 1 »

Top 40 Under 40: Part 2

In Part Two we interview:  Dr. Tolulope Sajobi; Derek Luk, BN’07; Christina Hassan; Kye Kocher, BA’11; and Dr. Prism Schneider, MD’08, PhD’08.
Read Part 2 »

Top 40 Under 40: Part 4

In Part Four, we chat with: Dr. Won Hyung (Andrew) Ryu; Tara Weber, MBA’17; Megan Zimmerman, BComm’04; Jil Macdonald, BSc’08; and Amanda Rae Storteboom, BA’09.
Read Part 4 »

Out Now: Fall/Winter 2018

From intercultural classrooms and study abroad programs to career paths and life in Qatar — our international issue is here. 
Read the magazine »