Woman who grew up in Woking accepting Indigenous Leadership Award

By Justin Dionne
January 11, 2019 - 5:30am Updated: January 11, 2019 - 9:29am

A woman who grew up north of Grande Prairie will be accepting the Alberta Chamber of Resources Indigenous Leadership Award.

Urban Systems Indigenous Community Consultant and Project Engineer Jessica Vandenberghe is being recognized for her work promoting gender diversity and increasing Indigenous membership into the engineering and geoscience professions.

Vandenberghe has an impressive list of accomplishments which include earning two Engineering Degrees from the University of Alberta, a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and Computer Process Control through the Co-op Program, and a Master’s in Chemical and Mining Engineering.

“I did ten years of being a research engineer in the oilsands,” says Vandenberghe. “I also did just under seven years in director positions for APEGA (Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta.)"

Vandenberghe says during the first half of her time with APEGA, she was Director of Outreach and Program Services, and the other half, she was Director of Enforcement and Permits.

As the Director of Outreach and Program Services, Vandenberghe was tasked specifically to help with gender diversity and increasing membership from Indigenous people into the engineering and geoscience professions. She also looked after K – 12 and university outreach programming, and a variety of other things.

“The reason they hired me is since high school I’ve always been a passionate outreach volunteer. I’ve always been community minded. A lot of my passion was also around driving the gender diversity concerns in the engineering professions, and so they hired me to help find solutions for that at APEGA,” says Vandenberghe.

Vandenberghe notes there is still unconscious bias and discrimination in field-driven disciplines like mining or construction, which drives her to make a difference and be a leader and a role model.

“I know that I am a living, breathing example of the capabilities of the indigenous people. I know that there is a lot of capability out there, and I’m working now as an Indigenous Community Consultant and Project Engineer for Urban Systems in order to do what I can to find a new way to allow that capability to flow easier.”

Vandenberghe’s family moved to the Webster region between Sexsmith and Rycroft in 1980 and then moved to Woking in 1990. She stayed there on her family’s farm until she graduated high school in 1995. After high school, she went to the GPRC for her first year of engineering, then moved to Edmonton in 1997 and has called the city home since.

She’ll be accepting the Indigenous Leadership Award award at the ACR’s awards banquet in Edmonton on February 1, 2019.

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