Alumni Service Award winner focused on improving the student experience

It’s surprising to find out Heike Juergens very nearly decided to forgo university altogether, given that her long involvement with the University of Alberta as an alumna will be recognized with a 2017 Alumni Service Award on Monday, Sept. 25.

“I had never intended to even come to university. I didn’t aspire to higher education,” Juergens said. “I was waitressing for a summer and one of my customers said to me, ‘You know, if you only go to university to meet people there, and to be exposed to the ideas there, whatever else you do you’ll be better at it.’ So I came really without a sense of a particular objective—just to get more education and meet people.”

Something about the place evidently agreed with her, because Juergens went on to complete her BA in psychology (1972), her MEd (1979) and her PhD (1987) in counseling psychology at the U of A, while finding time to help international students acclimatize to campus. She then went into private practice as a registered psychologist in Edmonton, a career that spanned three decades and saw her eventually specialize in helping members of the RCMP, the military and medical professions deal with anxiety and trauma related to their work.

Juergens’s connection with her alma mater didn’t end at graduation, however. She started volunteering for the U of A Alumni Association in 1999, serving as its president in 2007, and serving on the University Senate from 2004 to 2006, during which time she co-chaired a task force on student engagement.

“Being co-chair of the student engagement committee was my proudest achievement,” she said.

The student experience is still something Juergens focuses on, giving her time to recruitment, mentorship and Alumni Weekend activities at the university. Her devotion to students carries right through to convocation. Juergens attends every graduation ceremony for education students as a representative of the faculty, ensuring each grad crossing the stage has their achievement acknowledged.

“Education always has somebody on stage for every single student—[former Dean of Education] Fern Snart started that. When I know somebody is graduating, I make sure they have someone on stage for them.”

Juergens says her long affiliation with the university has enabled her to watch it overcome various challenges and evolve into one top institutions of higher learning and research in the world.

“I see a tremendous growth in the international reputation, the calibre of teaching and research, and a real concerted effort to do that,” she said. “I see perennial challenges with funding and some very creative, inspired ways of making ends meet.”

In addition to donating her time to off-campus causes like the Children’s Health Foundation, and the Edmonton’s City of Learners steering committee, Juergens has been an avid volunteer for U School, a Senate initiative to bring children to campus who might not otherwise be considering post-secondary, since it launched in 2010. She says U School and her other student-oriented volunteerism are in part motivated by her own experiences as a young person finding her path in life.

“I guess my volunteering and getting involved with students is a kind of giving back for the support and inspiration I was given while I was here.”

You are invited to see Heike Juergens accept this honour at the Alumni Awards ceremony on Sept. 25 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. Reserve your free ticket: