Back during the dynasty days of the Edmonton Oilers, Dr. Craig Kuziemsky was a high schooler slinging popcorn to hungry fans in the Northlands Coliseum. The now associate vice-president of research at MacEwan University remembers his first job well and says the lessons he learned from that experience continue to guide him to this day.
“You tended to see the same people coming to games. You got to know the regular customers and they would keep coming back to you,” he says. “It really taught me the value of building relationships. Whether you’re in academia or retail, success is all about building relationships with people.”
There is much less popcorn and far fewer cheering sports fans in the Office of Research Services, but Craig is already making connections at MacEwan and is ready to be a champion for the excellent research, scholarly and creative activity happening across campus.
Q. What makes research at MacEwan unique?
MacEwan has a strong history of engaging with the community. We have a unique position as a downtown university, bridging the communities around us. We can make a difference right outside our own doors.
Q. What does your role as associate vice-president of research involve?
There are two main roles. First, I oversee the Office of Research Services. We work internally to help facilitate and create a better environment for our faculty and students to do research — developing and interpreting research policy and protocols, creating funding opportunities, helping write research proposals and ethics applications, and promoting the research they do.
The second component of my role is external — to find opportunities for research outside of MacEwan. So that’s engaging with our community locally, nationally and internationally and trying to find funding opportunities for research with profits, not-for-profits, government agencies and community organizations. My role is really about being a facilitator and an integrator.
Q. What are your goals for this role?
Overall, I want to develop a dynamic research environment that supports our faculty, staff and students and knocks down the walls between faculties to better promote and engage in interdisciplinary research. If you think about it, most of the key societal problems — political, social, economic, health and the environment, things we really struggle with because they’re too complex to be solved by an individual discipline — require interdisciplinary perspectives. Trying to build some of those connections that may not currently exist will enable us to better position ourselves to tackle some of these complex societal issues.
I also think we can do a better job of celebrating the research success we have at MacEwan. In the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve spoken to a lot of people, looked at the research and scholarly activity happening at MacEwan, and realized that we don’t do enough to promote the excellence of the work happening here. Maybe our motto needs to be “less modesty, more celebration,” because we’re very modest.
Q. Tell me about a moment that changed your education or career trajectory.
Had you asked me 25 years ago if I would be sitting in this office, the answer would have been no. I have two undergraduate degrees from the University of Alberta. The first was in medical laboratory science and the second in commerce. While I was a commerce student, I was in an organizational behaviour class and my professor had us write our own bio. When I wrote about my lab science background and how I was interested in the management aspects of health care, she said I should talk to Dr. Francis Lau, then a professor at the U of A, because that was exactly what he does. I wrote him an email to introduce myself and he invited me to come by and talk.
After that conversation, I became his research assistant and a year-and-a-half later, when he left for the University of Victoria, he recruited me as his PhD student. That formed the basis of my doctorate, which then led me to the University of Ottawa, and gave me the experience and research background for this position. It was a very keen professor who took an interest in what I wrote. I think that shows how we can really shape students’ lives in a lot of ways just by connecting them with somebody else.
Q. What's your best piece of advice for students interested in research?
Solve a problem that matters. I think too often we want to do something that has a lot of bells and whistles or will get more retweets. If you solve a problem that matters, all the other pieces will come together. It's not about being the flashiest or the fanciest. It's about making a difference on an everyday problem.
Q. What would your memoir be in six words or less?
“Sometimes I get it right.”
I used to always tell my grad students that you have to develop a thick skin. When you apply for funding, you're inevitably going to get turned down more often than you're going to get it. When you submit for publications, you're going to get rejected more times than you'd like. But then sometimes you're going to open an email and read “we are pleased to inform you…” When that happens, I say, “Sometimes we get it right.”
Board of Governors Research Chairs announced
Dr. Shelley Boulianne and Dr. Erin Walton have been chosen to continue to advance the profile of research, scholarly and creative activities at the university.
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.