Women's Resource Centre awards recognize and honour the outstanding achievements of University of Calgary community members.
Women are honoured each year for their wisdom, resiliency, and compassion in the face of adversity. Award recipients exemplify outstanding leadership in their personal and professional lives and strive to make their communities a better place for all. This year the awards are being announced on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2023.
WRC Distinguished Alumna Award Recipient
Dr. Erin Brennand, MD, is a practicing urogynecologist in Calgary, a clinician-scientist and an associate professor within the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) who completed her post-graduate medical training and obtained a Master of Science in Community Health Sciences at UCalgary in 2020. She has been recognized on local, national, and international scales for her knowledge, expertise, and outstanding academic achievements.
Brennand’s relentless advocacy for women’s health has led her to being appointed as academic and clinical department head, obstetrics and gynecology for the CSM and Calgary zone of Alberta Health Services. She is the first woman to hold this role in Calgary’s history. She has demonstrated commitment to mentorship of undergraduate and graduate students, clinical trainees, and peer faculty members. She attained $4.5M in research funding for women’s health, including numerous tri-council grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Brennand’s work has been highlighted in leading journals in the discipline of obstetrics and gynecology, and this work has informed health-care practices and policies on a national level.
Brennand is also the director and founder of the Sex, Gender, and Women’s Health Research Unit with the O’Brien Institute for Public Health. Through her work in leadership roles within and outside Calgary, she has successfully gained the attention of the leaders in the Cumming School of Medicine and Alberta Health Services to draw awareness to issues which disproportionately affect women in the hopes of creating positive and meaningful change.
Brennand also co-leads the CIHR-funded national training program known as GROWW (Guiding interdisciplinary Research On Women’s and girls’ health and Well-being). This program aims to develop new ways in which research on women’s health is carried out in Canada by breaking down disciplinary and institutional constraints and taking an intersectoral approach. She believes in the value of training programs in the hope that future generations can continue to work towards improvement in the health of women and female-identifying people, so that it does not end with her.
WRC Distinguished Graduate Student Award Recipient
Kulsum Fatima is a PhD candidate at UCalgary’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, in addition to being an architect and a former assistant professor at the Jamia Millia Islamia University in India with 11 years of teaching experience.
Prior to beginning her PhD, the major focus of her work was to find solutions to problems related to unclean water and water shortages within communities in India, specifically in regards to how these issues affect women. From 2016 to 2019, she held the role of thematic lead for water for the national sectoral steering committee for the habitat sector, Technology Information, Forecasting, and Assessment Council at the Department of Science and Technology within the Government of India. During this role she has led the preparation of status report on India’s climate change and habitat initiatives for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. She has brought international attention to concerns surrounding water issues by collaborating with workshops at the University College of London, in addition to organizing a workshop alongside the San Diego State University where delegates from all over the world came to discuss how they address these concerns in their countries in hopes of aiding India.
Fatima has given multiple lectures on women-centric inclusive design including at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, Manipal University in Dubai, UAE, and the University of Kwazulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. In 2018, she co-facilitated two sessions at a workshop dedicated to building more inclusive and equitable cities for women at the Transportation Research Board 97th annual meeting in Washington, DC. In her role as an assistant professor at JMI University in India, she offered her support to various research projects conducted by students which were dedicated to nation-wide female empowerment.
Fatima has remained fierce in her dedication to changing patriarchal beliefs by making a more inclusive society for women in India. In her local community, she has brought awareness to the health risks of consuming unclean water. In more distant communities, she has promoted the education of girls who were tasked with fetching water for their families by working with local NGOs to distribute supplies to these communities in order to make more time for girls to go to school instead of having to walk for water. Her accomplishments have also made more women interested in taking on research opportunities and leadership positions like hers.
Currently, her PhD research looks at establishing a net-zero water approach at the UCalgary campus, while creating more experiential learning opportunities for community engagement that will promote UN SDG6 applications on campus. In her future research, she plans to look at water sustainability in Indigenous communities and how it affects Indigenous women in Canada. Additionally, she runs a group which helps her fellow alumni of JMI University with the resources they need, such as mentorship, guidance, networking opportunities and mental health support while settling into their new life in North America.
WRC Distinguished Undergraduate Student Award Recipient
Nicole Schmidt is currently pursuing a BA in political science and a BA in international relations. To foster her passion of creating more opportunities for women to be involved in politics at the national and international levels, she collaborated with Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations under the Girls Belong Here program where she discussed female representation in Canada’s federal government and at the UN. She completed a civil litigation internship with the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Colombia in Washington, DC where she conducted research on gender equity and racial justice issues. In 2022, she worked with Young Diplomats of Canada, ahead of the Youth 7 and G7 summit in Germany where she advocated for policies beneficial to youth. Schmidt was also elected president of UCalgary’s Model United Nations Team in 2020-2021 and has been the Under Secretary-General for the University of Calgary’s High School Model United Nations conference since 2021.
Schmidt was the first two-term female president of UCalgary’s Students’ Union in history, inspiring more female students to seek political positions. Additionally, her commitment to being a voice for students who may feel unheard has led her to have successes such as postponing tuition increases. Since she herself has a disability, Schmidt has focused much of her work on improving the lives of students on campus. She worked with the Students’ Union VP Academic in 2022 to support the creation of the first scholarship for students with disabilities at UCalgary. Recognizing the importance of students’ mental health, she also secured an endowment for the Students’ Union Mental Health Award so that it can continue to be awarded to students with a passion and commitment to mental health advocacy. She also implemented a “compassionate grading” option for students in 2021.
In 2021, Schmidt participated in the Daughters of Vote program, where she discussed the matter of including more women in politics with Members of Parliament and in turn received the Dr. Rosemary Spears Leadership grant. Additionally, she was a founding academic executive member of the Women in Politics student organization at UCalgary, which aims to encourage more women on campus and in the local area to take part in politics. She spoke recently at various events hosted by the Apathy is Boring non-profit organization about her experiences as a woman in leadership roles, was a founding academic executive member of UCalgary’s Sustainable Development Goals Alliance (SDGA) in 2018 and in her position as director of communications, facilitated a two-day conference for UCalgary students. Nicole was also the project assistant for Sustainable Cities, a Calgary-based program where students partake in an immersive one-week program to learn about social issues such as homelessness while also volunteering in the community.