FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Gayla Rogers
June 9, 2015
Our discussion was wide ranging and fun – she talked about the challenges of working on her Ph.D. in Newcastle on Tyne while her husband and young children were in Calgary – of the place and the intellectual adventure. That was a long time ago but her eyes lit up talking about, though she mentioned the Nov. – Mar. time was grey and gloomy there.
Her working life began working for the City of Calgary – Juvenile Probation in the Bowness office in 1976, followed soon by a return to school at U of C to get her Masters in Social work, which led to a Teaching Assistantship ….. and led to being the first female Dean of Social Work at U of C. OK, there was a lot more to it – but that’s a big climb!
Dr. Gayla Rogers is an accomplished academic, an honoured University of Calgary professor and leader, formerly Dean of the Faculty of Social Work. These days, slowing down a bit, she’s still called Professor and is Senior Advisor to the Provost. We met in her office on campus – she fit me in (thank you) to a hectic day earlier this spring.
I’ll try not to recite her education and academic credentials – they are well articulated on her U of C page . Her education path was straight upward – but locations of Edmonton (U of A) and Vancouver (UBC) and Calgary were intertwining of professional and family (she met her husband at UBC, and followed him to Edmonton where he attended law school.
Let me go back … in the beginning, Gayla Nagler was born in Calgary. Her family, on her mother’s side have been in Calgary since 1905. Her mother, a teacher, met her American dad (he was in the U.S. Coast Guard) in Montreal .. and life/marriage in Calgary. Gayla describes her mom as a bright homemaker/activist who hung out with Martha Cohen and many other women who shook things up in Calgary and ingrained a sense of service and volunteering in her children. Dad worked in family retail businesses. 2nd of three children, Gayla’s older brother died. Married forty-three years to Brian Rogers, a lawyer. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.
Culmination of an academic career at U of C has few honours as high as giving a Lecture Of A Lifetime, which Gayla delivered in 2014.
Her current special project is to make U of C a better ‘best practice’ organization, creating what she describes as a ‘leaderful culture’ which asks ‘how do you lead your life?’, .. lead the way? … affect change?. Seems the project is in very good hands.
What would you credit, or attribute, your success to? “First, the four lessons I talk about in the lecture – be part of solutions, learn from adversity, use all of your parts and don’t ignore the tremendous effect of insecurity. Relationships mostly. Supportive husband and family sacrifices.”
What has held you back? “Coming to a fork in the road – not knowing, did I, or didn’t I.”
What do you want to do? “I’m doing what I want to be doing. I have no regrets. I’m always doing what I’m doing next.”
I asked Gayla how she sees her business “agent of change in academic social work”; how’s business looking, going forward over the next quarter?”
… we have a lot of work to do. It starts with stability – poverty, connecting the kids, people and programs. The future for indigenous people. Radicalization of youth.
And over the next five years?
… I am an optimist. We ARE going to see poverty reduction. Reduction in children in care, reduction in homelessness – a more inclusive city and province for underprivileged people. We have a lot to learn from Scandanavian countries – focusing on outcomes. And gerontology is big – policies and practices in caring for our aging population.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… I put a lot of stake in relationships. Do they want to know something about me beyond the task at hand? Do they care beyond the transaction.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Gayla Rogers and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… it’s about HQ, EQ, SQ – ability to get things done in a way that encourages others without getting bogged down in process. I can (and have) make tough decisions. Ability to get people aligned with a direction.
How would you describe your management style?
… collegial, collaborative, consultative. I don’t know about fun! .. visioning …
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… about growing inequality of people amongst all this wealth and opportunity …
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my brother, my mother have been a huge influence on who I am. I’ve learned so much from students. I’ve learned form adversity.
Work-life balance, do you have it?
… YES, I do now. I work ½ time, engage all the time.
What do you read?
… voraciously. Everything I can on leadership. I inhale fiction – historical fiction. I read Giller, Booker and NY Times lists …
… I’ve done four books.
… I traded in my Smart-Car for a 2013 Subaru Cross Trail – in bright orange!
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