Instructor Shows That Leadership Comes From Within

Joanne Leskow“In today’s fast-paced and competitive job market, it’s essential to keep our tools sharp and our tool kits full,” says Joanne Leskow, senior organizational developer and corporate culture crusader.

Joanne is a popular instructor in the Leadership Development and Organizational Change Management certificate programs. She also helped to develop the curriculum for MRU’s Professional Management Seminar Series of one-day workshops. She has been nominated for a Distinguished Teaching Award this year by one of her students.

Joanne led corporate culture at WestJet for a decade, helping define and identify the corporate culture, connecting that culture with the strategic objectives of the organization.

Joanne’s career started out in broadcast journalism. She then did training for the Edmonton police force. Over the following decade Joanne entered the entrepreneurial world, owning three different companies before joining WestJet in 2003 as Lead, Culture, a post that she held until 2012. She now leads her own organizational development firm.

The one constant in Joanne’s career has been change. She had no choice but to learn about change management and leadership. She speaks from hard-earned experience backed by industry knowledge.

“When you’re in the trenches, you learn intensively,” Joanne says. “It’s been very experiential for me. The learning comes from real-life experiences and that’s how I relate to students in ways they can understand,” she says.

Joanne has seen a big shift in corporate culture over the past few years to emphasize the people side of change. Because change is inevitable, companies are interested in helping people make the transition rather than simply telling them, this is the way it is now. Increased morale boosts productivity and positively impacts the bottom line.

“On the corporate culture side there’s a tremendous amount of interest in formulating strong, healthy cultures to facilitate growth and meet strategic objectives. I’m excited to help organizations and individuals understand what is required to mesh corporate culture with business objectives,” she says.

Joanne is as passionate about her students as she is about her subject area. “I’ve seen folks in classes from across all sectors in all industries. In fact, some of the richest learning comes to those you would not expect to take these classes. Some of the biggest revelations come to people who maybe had not considered a career in change management or leadership, like one student who had been driving a truck all his life but was now moving into a leadership role. In class we showed him that he already had applicable skills and the light bulb went on,” Joanne says.

Joanne’s courses provide an introduction to timely management and leadership concepts and practical tools to advance careers with confidence. She notes that “learners have an opportunity to learn and be inspired with like-minded people in an environment of confidence and excellence.”

Watch a video about Joanne:

Read an article about Joanne’s work with WestJet in Alberta Venture.

— by Karen McCarthy
— photo by Krystal Hurt

PFT Grad Passionate About Helping People


Patrick Bernat is a 2014 graduate of the Personal Fitness Trainer Diploma who is now enrolled in Mount Royal’s new Bachelor of Health and Physical Education program. He is one of the first PFT grads to transition into the degree program. He is working towards becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

Patrick is the recipient of a scholarship from World Health Club in recognition of academic achievement and demonstrated voluntarism in the community.

We spoke with Patrick at the Flames Health Training Camp where he was volunteering as a fitness tester.

Patrick’s motto is, there’s an athlete in everyone. “I am a trainer at NSD Sports and Fitness Club, which trains the hockey population as well as the general public,” he says. He fits his client work around his class schedule.

Born and raised in Calgary, Patrick was always active and loved the outdoors. He was well on his way to earning a soccer scholarship and perhaps playing professionally when he was sidelined by an injury. His plans changed but he held onto his ideals and enrolled in the Personal Fitness Trainer program when it became a diploma in 2012.

“If you are truly passionate about a particular field or topic, you will take the necessary actions to ensure success,” Patrick says.

“I chose the PFT program because I left my retail job and was looking to get an education in athletic training. It just happened that Mount Royal turned their certificate program into a 2-year diploma,” Patrick says. “No other post-secondary institution in the Calgary area offered a similar program.

“I have always led a healthy and active lifestyle and one thing that I took away from my retail days is that I love helping other people. I figured why not combine these two ideas and applied for the program,” he notes.

Patrick says that prospective PFT students do not necessarily have to be super fit or knowledgeable before they take the program.

“I had minimal education about fitness and exercise before entering the PFT program. What it did was strengthen my existing attitude towards fitness and give me the ability to educate, explain and justify concepts with research and data from experts in the field.”

Patrick strongly believes that passion for helping people achieve their health and fitness goals is crucial to being a trainer. “The health and fitness industry does require passionate individuals looking to improve people’s lives for the better. The best thing a student entering the program can do is come in with a desire to learn, an open mind and contagious attitude that is worth catching,” he says. ” I will never forget the amazing instructors and organizing staff that paved the way for success in every class. Their experience and knowledge of the field was invaluable.”

Patrick’s plans for the future are wide open. “The PFT program was simply my entry way into the fitness industry,” Patrick says. “I likely wouldn’t be furthering my education in the Bachelor of Health and Physical Education program if I hadn’t first started the PFT Diploma.”

“There are so many aspects of the industry that I would like to experience and I haven’t actually set my mind on a particular path. Completing a master’s degree is something that I’ve been considering. Teaching is another direction that has crossed my mind. I do not know where this industry will take me, but it goes without saying that wherever it is, the PFT program is largely responsible.”

— by Karen McCarthy
— photo by Krystal Hurt

Breakfast of Champions at MRU

A gathering of Calgary’s business leaders attended the inaugural Business Champions Breakfast at the Roderick Mah Centre for Continuous Learning on Wednesday, January 21.

Keynote speaker Richard Lannon, an instructor and curriculum expert in the Business Analysis program, spoke on The Journey of the Business Champion: Peaks, Valleys and Detours. He shared stories of clients he has worked with over the course of his 27-year career. Richard’s dynamic and engaging style clearly connected with his audience of Calgary business champions.

The Ross Glen Hall in the LEED Gold certified conference facility was set up to showcase its flexibility in hosting a variety of events and meetings through MRU’s Events and Conference Services. The guest speaker highlighted the expertise that can be shared with Corporate Training clients who come to MRU for customized programs and classes for their employees.

Cindy Chambers, Manager of Corporate Training, was pleased with the success of this inaugural event, noting that “there were a number of people that indicated that they want to talk to us about space rentals and/or future corporate training opportunities. We had people that weren’t able to attend today but want to come for a site tour. We had people that were at the event this morning saying that they want to bring some of their colleagues to the next one.”  

— by Karen McCarthy
— photos by Mitsue Kudo & Sue Madsen

PFT Students Help Calgarians Find Their Inner Athlete


Over 500 Calgarians started the new year off right at the Calgary Flames Foundation for Life’s inaugural Flames Health Training Camp at the Saddledome on Saturday, January 10.

A group of 25 Personal Fitness Trainer Diploma (PFT) students and graduates carried out the fitness testing protocols for adults and children. They worked closely with a volunteer group of physicians and MRU nursing students to assess participants’ fitness levels and provide counselling on next steps to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

This outreach event counts toward the PFT students’ practicum hours. “It was very exciting for the students and the graduates of all different years to have an opportunity to meet each other, ask each other questions and work together,” says Elaine Ori, PFT Program Coordinator and steering committee member for the Flames Health Training Camp.

Testing for adults started with the nursing students administering a risk assessment questionnaire, blood pressure reading, waist circumference measurement and body mass index calculation.

This was followed by a step test monitored by the PFT fitness testers to determine how quickly the heart rate would recover from a sub-maximal testing level.

“The risk assessment helped us determine the participants’ associated risk for things like metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease — things that we know are lifestyle-related chronic conditions that can be mitigated by lifestyle changes,” says Elaine. “They then reviewed all of their results with a physician and discussed where they need to make changes.”

This year’s Flames Health Training Camp was a pilot project but it is intended to become an annual event.

“We learned a lot from it,” Elaine says. “We learned how we can address the community a little bit more effectively to get more people involved. And we learned how the different professionals can work as an interdisciplinary team.”

“The biggest surprise was that the adults wanted to be put through their paces a little bit more. So for subsequent events we are going to look at protocols that will involve a bit more rigour,” Elaine notes.

“Even on the day of the event, we got emails from participants who said, you already changed my life,” she says. “You’ve given me that small push I needed to actually make lifestyle changes. The fitness testers, nurses and physicians were outstanding in pointing me in the direction I needed to go.”

The fitness testers also worked with children aged 8 to 12 on a series of tests including push-ups, sit-ups and timed shuttle runs. The children were thrilled when some of the Calgary Flames players came to join them.

“The kids were challenging the players to do push-ups and of course the players were compliant in letting the kids win. It was a lot of fun,” says Elaine.

Check out more photos from the event on Facebook.

Watch the Flames Foundation Health Training Camp video here.

— by Karen McCarthy
— photo by Krystal Hurt

Learn Something New This Year


A lot of New Year’s resolutions focus on self-improvement. Some of them are notoriously difficult to achieve and good intentions quickly fall by the wayside.

One relatively easy-to-keep resolution is to engage in lifelong learning. Taking a class can fit into even the busiest schedule.

There are many reasons to continue your education: to improve your workplace skills, to earn a credential or to prepare for a career change.

Those are common reasons to learn, easily measured by your professional results. But are you aware that numerous studies indicate that lifelong learning improves your:

  • confidence
  • creativity
  • self-esteem
  • adaptability to change
  • brain health
  • long-term cognitive ability
  • interpersonal skills

We would love to promise that it can also help you lose those last 5 pounds, but that’s a whole different New Year’s resolution.

Classes are starting soon — classroom, online, evening, weekend. Start looking for your learning opportunity on the Continuing Education website and happy learning in 2015!

Here are some other Calgary organizations that can help you keep a whole slew of New Year’s Resolutions, via Notable Calgary.

— by Karen McCarthy
— photo by Kevin Yee