Shooting for the stars, and helping others get there

From launching satellites to teaching a dance troupe, Callie Lissinna is leading the way to make this world a better place

Brenda Reynolds - 29 May 2019

(Edmonton) Watching her team's satellite launched into space from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Downloading data from the spacecraft for an entire year while it orbited the Earth. Creating a company that focuses on observing the planet's ecosystems. Instilling the value of teamwork in her dancers.

The list of Callie Lissinna's accomplishments is as long as it is impressive. But there is a common thread woven throughout her story: the power of leadership and team building. And for her contributions on campus and beyond, Lissinna is one of five engineering students being awarded the Faculty of Engineering's inaugural William Muir Edwards Citizenship Award.

For Lissinna, working with the University of Alberta AlbertaSat team has had an incredible impact on her life.

"I've learned from AlbertaSat what it means to be a good leader. People in AlbertaSat taught me a lot about how you need to treat others, and how you need to take care of yourself in order to best serve your teammates to keep the project functioning at maximum efficiency," she said. Reflecting on her own actions and interacting with team members has also taught her how to improve her leadership skills.

"If you can't self-reflect and evaluate your own performance leading the group, you'll be in a state of stagnation."

Working in AlbertaSat has allowed Lissinna to model herself after the fantastic role models she has met.

"You need to treat everybody else with respect. I've learned a lot about how you need to treat others and reflect on yourself in order to be most effective at leading a team, and motivating other people."

Celebrating successes as a team is important to Lissinna, but owning failures is crucial for a leader.

"If something goes wrong in your team, you need to take ownership for that as the leader. Even if you had nothing to do with the mistake, it shows you see yourself as being responsible for everything that happens in the group."

Lissinna's leadership skills shine through when it comes to advocating for gender parity in engineering. Not only was she instrumental in increasing the number of female technical leaders in AlbertaSat, but her outreach work as a mentor to young women in the Female Engineering Mentorship (FEM) Program will also help to advance the number of women in the profession.

Having women more represented in engineering is important to Lissinna.

"Everybody brings their own experiences. If you are excluding, consciously or unconsciously, a group of people from your work environment, you're missing out on a huge chunk of experiences that you could learn from and benefit from in your project."

For Lissinna, helping people is one of the reasons she sought engineering as a career.

This philosophy contributed to the creation of Wyvern, a company she co-founded with engineering AlbertaSat alumni. Wyvern's goal is to build satellites that use unique Earth observation imagery to detect changes on the ground.

"One way you can use cutting-edge technology to make the world a better place is to help us understand change that's happening to ecosystems around the world using satellite data. By processing that data, companies can extract meaning from it about what's happening in our ecosystems."

Lissinna's love for engineering and space exploration is clear. But she shines when talking about her passion for dance, and the life lessons it's given her.

"The most important lesson that I've learned from dance is that receptivity to feedback and passion for the work you're doing."

As a dance instructor, Lissinna is committed to teaching her students these lessons along with the value of teamwork and working toward a goal.

"I make an effort to instill it in my dancers that they're in it together. And if they uplift one another and help each other out in class and in competitions, they'll all go a lot further collectively."

Working together, being a leader, helping others-this guides everything she does in life. For Lissinna, there is no better way.

"It seems like William Muir Edwards was always able to keep the big picture in mind: what issues in the world are really important, and the importance of improving the lives of the people around him. He set an example of how inpiduals should play their own part in tackling large scale problems," she said.

"Showing students that their work will be recognized and that financial barriers can be alleviated is very motivating. This award will enable me to maintain the balance in my life that's necessary to keep the big picture in mind, and to have the time to play my part in addressing issues that I see as important while I'm still a student."

The William Muir Edwards Citizenship Awards are made possible by the generosity of the David Morris Family Foundation and will be presented June 4.