Jory Smallenberg: Outstanding Leader in the UBC Community and Beyond 2017 Winner


Jory Smallenberg, winner of the 2017 Outstanding Leader in the UBC Community and Beyond, speaking at Canada’s first National Character Conference.

Hometown: Abbotsford, British Columbia
Program of Study: Honours Sociology, French Minor
UBC Affiliations and Awards: Two-time recipient of the Premier Undergraduate and Wesbrook Scholarship (Sherwood Lett Memorial Award, Martha C. Piper Award in Global Citizenship), Rhodes Scholarship finalist 2016, Governor General’s Silver Medal, AMS Refugee Relief at UBC (co-founder and President External), University Christian Ministries (core group leader), Golden Key International Honours Society (service director), BC Schools of Character Network (co-chair)
Where can we connect with you? LinkedIn: Jory Smallenberg; Instagram: jorysmallenberg

How did you choose your academic program? I came to UBC as a first-generation university student with no previous knowledge of academia or program options, aside from what I had known in high school. During my first year, my goal was to expose myself to as many interdisciplinary courses as possible, with the hope of gaining a greater understanding of what was available. I have always been interested in the natural sciences, math, music, fine arts, writing, and, of course, the social sciences. I thought about studying Honours English and History, but switched to Honours Sociology and French in my third year.

To be very honest, I could have chosen any of the programs in my list above, each of which would have led to a different outcome and skill set. I chose Sociology because I was persuaded to invest time into a field that deals with pertinent issues in our global society. French, on the other hand, considers language proficiency, writing skills, and culture in 84 states internationally, which reflects my long-term dream of being a voice in international politics.

What are some of the most meaningful experiences you’ve had at UBC?

This could be an essay in itself! Here are some moments that come to mind:

  1. Working with a team of students to privately sponsor a family of Syrian refugees
  2. Having dinner at President Santa Ono’s house! I never thought I would meet him!
  3. Standing on the fountain when it was frozen over this winter to enjoy the winter scenery; it really is about the little things.
  4. Travelling to Calgary with a delegation of UBC students, where I met the Right Honourable Kim Campbell!
  5. Classes with Dr. Mandy Catron (English), Dr. Amin Ghaziani (Sociology), Dr. Anne Simpson (French), Dr. Silvia Bartolic (Sociology), Dr. Catherine Rawn (Psychology), and Dr. Rima Wilkes (Sociology).
  6. Finishing my preliminary interview for the Rhodes scholarship and finding that seven students from UBC’s University Christian Ministries prayed for me during the whole hour! Wow!
  7. All of the opportunities that I either missed, failed at, or did not end up choosing: these represent the power of possibility and what UBC has to offer its students.

George Plant, Jory, Mary Lett Plant, and Jory’s mother at the Professor Santa Ono’s home in 2017.

How do you find a balance between involvement and academics?
Those who know me well would laugh at this question. In community involvement and in academics, there is always one more task that can be done. This could be anything from spending another hour finding people to donate to our refugee family, or taking this same hour to proofread an important essay before its due. During my fourth year, I learned the ultimate importance of doing one thing at a time, beginning with tasks that bring the most joy. One of my favourite activities to find balance during my degree was simply laying on the floor with acrylic paints and a blank canvas, or having friends over for dinner. For me, it’s all about the people that fill my life within involvement and academics, and beyond them.

Jory on the air of CITR radio, talking about refugee policy.

You recently received a 2017 Outstanding Leader award. What makes a great Arts student leader?
Simply, my answer would be perseverance. There is nothing easy about leadership, because leadership involves sacrifice, challenging social norms, pushing personal barriers, and sometimes, for the benefit of the group, compromising one’s own needs to some degree. I am not saying that leaders should overlook rest, if anything they should prioritize it! However, a great Arts student leader is someone who is willing to truly dedicate themselves to one or multiple causes over a long period of time, which occurs most successfully when those causes or activities are close to the heart of the leader.

What are the top three things that every UBC Arts student should do before they graduate?

  1. Find time to publish! It can be hard to find the time to consider undergraduate or peer-reviewed publication opportunities amidst a never ending treadmill of deadlines and exams. Especially in the Faculty of Arts, students write countless papers which take hundreds of hours in total over at least four years! In hindsight, I would have considered how I could modify these writing assignments to fit the criteria for journal articles, as this would bridge the gap between course work and professional development.. My first publication just arrived at my front door and it felt great!
  2. Make friends with your professors. Professors are awesome. Each of them was once a student and many understand where you’re at: deadlines, writing assignments, and the stress of academia do not disappear in the professional world! In my experience, friendships with professors have extended well beyond my degree and have come to life through invitations to some of the most meaningful experiences  of my undergraduate career, including travel and scholarship opportunities.
  3. If you don’t love something, don’t do it! Even for your resume! It’s not worth it!

What’s next for you?
This summer, I am flying to the Middle East with an international humanitarian organization – we will be spending time with Syrian refugees, and I will also be meeting the young adults that AMS Refugee Relief at UBC is privately sponsoring. We have raised $20,000 of the $40,000 necessary to privately sponsor this group: casual plug if anyone wants to donate on our website! After this, I am going to the U.K. to visit Oxford with friends, and then to France as an independent traveller.

This fall, I’m pursuing my Master of Arts with support from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. As much as I have specific dreams and goals, life never unfolds quite as we expect. For example, coming to UBC in my first year, there is no part of me that thought I would be answering a Q&A for a leadership award. I’m excited for the many surprises to come!

Girl power at UBC’s Red Cross “Humanitarians in Training” Conference.

One-second selfie with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In Halifax with Canada’s 10 3M National Student Fellows.


With students at BCSOC provincial youth forum.

With Elizabeth May on the day of the First Council Meeting of Electoral Reform.

Dancing at UBC’s UCM grad banquet!


Honoured to study in the Faculty of Arts.