By AJNews Staff
(Calgary) – Lifelong learning is a hallowed Jewish tradition because it expands our knowledge, roots us, and builds bonds. It makes our lives richer and our communities stronger.
The recent graduates of Spertus Institute’s acclaimed graduate programs embody this tradition, including Alberta resident Diana Kalef, Calgary Jewish Federation Director of Development.
Diana recently received her Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies, part of an accelerated cohort specifically for Jewish communal executives. This 18-month-long part-time degree program draws students from organizations across North America. Together, they learn to leverage opportunity, inspire excellence in staff and trustees, and lead through times of change.
Diana joins thousands of other Spertus alumni who advance Jewish organizations and communities around the world with Spertus-acquired knowledge and skills. About the creative capacity-building program, she said, “I learned exciting new leadership and management concepts – and gained an inspirational new support system.”
The journey was not linear for Diana and she is very appreciative of the support she’s had from her family and the Calgary Jewish community.
“I had the opportunity to apply for this Master’s program years ago,” she explained, “but my boys were young and their cross-country ski training was taking up a lot of time with driving etc. A few years ago, thinking of being an empty nester, I looked at the program again. After almost 20 years of Jewish communal work, I thought it was time to add some tools to my kit and dive deeper into learning more about management, leadership and best practices from professors who have a deep understanding of the workings of Jewish community and beyond.”
Although the COVID pandemic curtailed the in-person component of the program, the virtual sessions were invaluable and made the in-person session all the more precious.
“I couldn’t have imagined that I would end up in a cohort of 8 phenomenal women,” said Diana. “We had to study virtually for all but one session because of COVID, but when we did get together, it was as if we were long-lost friends. Sharing best practices and learning together not only from renowned professors, but from each other, has made me a better professional.”
Diana continued, “I’m so thankful for the support of Adam Silver and Calgary Jewish Federation for giving me the space I needed to study and work on my Capstone project which I hope to integrate into the work we do to ensure a secure, vibrant Jewish Calgary.”
“My mother, Sandy Kalef, has always been my inspiration,” added Diana. “She was a lifelong learner and earned 3 degrees after she became a mother of 3. She passed away over 7 years ago – but she was with me every step of the way.”
The graduation ceremony was held at Spertus Institute in downtown Chicago.
“It is wonderful to gather together for this special occasion, with guests joining us in person and tuning in from around the world,” said Spertus President and CEO Dr. Dean P. Bell as he opened the event. “Graduation provides an opportunity to celebrate graduates’ academic and professional achievements – and also to recognize the proud colleagues, fans, friends, and loved ones who supported them along the way.”
Representing the graduates, student speaker Sarah Cohn of Hillel International said, “Each of us has experienced rich learning, rooted in Jewish wisdom and tradition. While the last few years have been difficult ones, we know we can lean on our traditions and one another. My Spertus experience far exceeded my expectations, offering me exceptional learning and a community of like-minded colleagues who are leveraging their education to light the way for others.”