By Nancy Killen, submitted 2019.
Uncertain of the path for her future, Jenny Ofrim began her studies at Augustana, allured by the opportunity to dabble in biology, literature and psychology within the first years of her degree. Alongside her studies, she quickly became involved with the Augustana Choir, the jazz vocal ensemble, Encore and the Cross-Country Running team. Having grown up in Camrose, she was aware of the small campus and felt it would be a positive place for developing relationships with staff and faculty while staying close to home. The fact that she happened to attend Augustana at the same time as her mother, who was pursuing the same degree, became an important part of her Augustana years. Sharing classes, notes, pens and cinnamon buns shaped her student experience and nourished a richer relationship with her mother.
Graduating in 2002 with a BA in Psychology, with a minor in Women’s Studies, her journey was just beginning. Jenny continued her studies, completing the Masters of Social Work (Clinical) at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University in 2006. By 2011, she had become the fourth person in Canada to be accredited in the Social Return on Investment Model of Evaluation: “an evaluation methodology that translates social and health outcomes into financial values.” She has since participated in additional training in the fields of trauma and brain development, leading to a sense of wonder about how this fascinating science can benefit people’s health.
Jenny began building her career in Calgary by spending more than ten years in the sexual abuse/assault sector as a clinical therapist on the Calgary Sexual Assault Response Team, eventually moving into program development and management. In collaboration with the Calgary Police and Crown, she was key in developing a program to support survivors of sexual violence through the criminal justice system. The necessity for this program was revealed to Jenny through her various associations with medical health, mental health and Children’s Services systems. Though all of these services were necessary and well-intentioned for survivors, Jenny noted that these services did not allow survivors to feel that the services were working together to achieve a common goal. Jenny envisioned delivering a fully integrated service that would see all service providers privy to the others’ methods, so that mutual communications and integration could become fluid. She began to note “the influence that evidence, in the form of both numerical and story-based data, carried to inspire change to systems at all levels” and this discovery led to her exploration into program evaluation. Eventually, Jenny became the Program Evaluator at the Calgary and Area Child Advocacy Centre, formerly the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre.
Presently, Jenny is deeply invested in the community of Camrose. Now a behavioural health consultant with the Camrose Primary Care Network, Jenny works with people aged 11-24 by supporting their mental health. She enjoys devoting her time to consulting as witnessing youth and their families grow personally and together reminds her of their resilience and adaptive nature. Jenny still considers herself as being one part of a collaborative whole and finds that “working alongside other service providers to devise innovative and creative ways to enhance the quality of lives and relationships extremely rewarding.” Jenny also operates a consulting business that provides evaluation and program development services to non-profit organizations in the health and social sectors. Perhaps her extensive dedication to working within her community is what has drawn her to volunteer for Augustana’s Alumni Student Support and Engagement Team (ASSET).
ASSET begins recruiting its alumni volunteers each spring. These volunteers, after sufficient training, pursue the goal of positively impacting the mental health and well-being of UAlberta students by providing information on available support services and by facilitating student mental health check-ins throughout the academic year. Benefits of becoming a part of ASSET are many and Jenny Ofrim is an incredible addition to the program both because of her background and her passion for serving her community in collaborative ways.