Meet the Changemakers at UCalgary

The 2018 Arch Award recipients have a common passion for sharing knowledge.

The arched entranceway at the University of Calgary was—and continues to be—an emblem of meaningful change within the UCalgary community. Taking its name from the gate's symbolism, The Arch Awards, part of UCalgary's Alumni Weekend, celebrate the achievements of five remarkable UCalgary alumni. They're visionaries and innovators who've sparked meaningful change in health, community and education—in Calgary and around the world.

Here are some key lessons from this year’s recipients:


Sam Weiss

Sam Weiss, a renowned neuroscientist and leader who is changing the Canadian scientific landscape, is this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement.


This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement recipient has made two major scientific research discoveries that revolutionized our understanding of the human brain, founded the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, and is currently the scientific director of the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

But, believe it or not, Sam Weiss is someone who likes to deviate from a plan.

“If something amazing and interesting comes across your desk, don’t leave it alone,” he advises. “Jump on it. Go hard. You never know what you might expect.”


Dr. Debra Isaac

Dr. Debra Isaac, a cardiology champion who is strengthening the global pulse of heart health, is this year’s recipient of the International Career Achievement Arch Award.


A clinical physician at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, the International Career Achievement recipient also co-founded the Guyana Program to Advance Cardiac Care (GPACC).

It started when Dr. Debra Isaac was asked secure a donation of a cardiac ultrasound machine for a public hospital in Guyana. But she was adamant that adequate training needed to happen first. “Machines do not improve health care if you don’t have the expertise to use them,” she says.

In the past six years, GPACC has trained techs, nurses and physicians, resulting in a drastic improvement in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular health, saving hundreds of lives in the impoverished South American country.


Lisa Dixon-Wells

Lisa Dixon-Wells, an inspired advocate and facilitator of bullying prevention in schools and amateur sports, is this year’s recipient of the Community Commitment Arch Award.

The Community Commitment recipient founded Dare to Care in 1999, which has facilitated anti-bullying workshops in more than 1,200 schools and youth organizations across the country and expanded this past year to amateur sports.

Dare to Care focuses on what Lisa Dixon-Wells calls “bystander training.”

“If we don’t mobilize those who are witnessing bullying but staying silent, if we don’t give them the support and the tools to speak up, nothing is ever going to change,” she says.


Rahim Sajan

Rahim Sajan, a passionate educator and volunteer who creates learning environments for all, is this year’s recipient of the Alumni Service Arch Award.

A dedicated teacher and volunteer, the Alumni Service recipient remains motivated by something a UCalgary professor said: If you have something worth saying, they’ll listen to you.

Rahim Sajan keeps this in mind every time he brings a community together around ideas — no matter the stage, be it the classroom, TEDxCalgary (which he co-founded) or his role on the UCalgary Senate.

“Conversations that have the power to move people — to help feed their imagination so they make wise decisions — these are very much the ideas that tend to intrigue me,” he says.


Rowan Cockett

Rowan Cockett, an innovative problem-solver who focuses on enabling others to succeed, is this year’s recipient of the Early Career Achievement Arch Award.


Creating tools that breakdown barriers to knowledge is what drives this year’s Early Career Achievement recipient.

Rowan Cockett, 29, has started and sold a business, completed his PhD, and created Visible Geology — the most widely-used educational modelling tool in the world — since graduating from UCalgary in 2011.

Of everything he’s accomplished, he’s proudest to know Visible Geology is helping students succeed in understanding their complex studies; it’s this that continues to fuel his career trajectory.

“I think my career is always going to be around technical communications and really taking some of these complex ideas and simplifying and disseminating and communicating effectively,” Cockett says.


UCalgary Alumni will honour the 2018 Arch Award recipients this year as part of the wondrous excitement of Alumni Weekend. Learn more about and join in celebrating the 2018 Arch Award recipients on Sept. 8 from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m.

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